A couple of weeks ago, I found myself happily wandering around the beautiful and historic gardens of Vergelegen Wine Estate in Somerset West. As well as admiring the 300-year-old camphor trees and the blossoming camellias, I was also enjoying watching a group of couples laughing and posing along the pathways.With heels, up dos and glittery dresses, tuxedos and shiny shoes, they could only be Grade 12 students on their way to their Matric Farewell.
It made me think of my own Matric dance, and boy, does it seem like a lot has changed since then.The girls I saw that day were arrayed in a multitude of colours in sparkly and shiny fabrics, while we – being 90s kids – stuck mainly to black, white and blue – and in velvet, no less. I am happy to say, though, that my midnight blue velvet halterneck is apparently back in fashion according to a younger colleague – thank goodness fashion moves in cycles!
My mother made my dress – I still remember her complaining about how hard the velvet was to sew – and because of that I got to tailor-make every inch of it. Many of my friends’ mums made their dresses too, or engaged the help of friends who could sew to help them. Nowadays the dresses are still handmade, but more likely by a designer, and at a significantly higher cost.
There also weren’t any limos or vintage cars ferrying us to the dance in my day – other than your outfit, no one cared what you arrived in.
Friends have told me that the amount they now spend on Matric dances – especially for girls – is eye-wateringly high.Apparently one 12th Grader was once heard remarking about her designer dress (which probably cost the same as my very first clapped-out student car), that she wanted it to be perfect – after all, she could get married more than once but she would only ever have one Matric dance!
What hasn’t changed, however, is that feeling of excitement and optimism that the end of high school brings, and that the night of the Matric dance celebrates. I remember being so filled with the wonder of possibilities and so excited about what the future held – secure in the knowledge that it would be amazing.Thank goodness for the optimism of youth, otherwise the world would be a much grumpier place!
It is a pity we lose that optimism and wide-eyed hope as we move through life, and that we are so intent on rushing onto the next thing that we don’t stop to think about all we have at the present moment.
I had a conversation with friends about Matric dances the other day and one said: “I was so young and beautiful and skinny back then but because I thought I was ugly and fat, I didn’t appreciate it.” We all nodded in sympathy – because we had all done it ourselves. Even now I look back at myself five, ten, 15 years ago and wish I had enjoyed being me a little bit more than I did.
The Matric students I saw that day were all young and beautiful and filled with joy and optimism. I hope they stay that way for as long as possible and that life doesn’t knock them around too much. And if it does – because we all know it will – that they will remain grateful to be who they are and to have what they do at that moment.
To quote one of my favouriteTV characters of all time, Ferris Bueller:“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Don’t miss it!