The lost art of ‘bayle’
The rides home from a glorious night out have this strange and somber mood. As your ears still drum from club music and your eyes adjust to bright street lights, you revel in the exuberant feeling of it all—the energy, the company, the vibe. But, at the same time, you also mull over its fleetingness—the youth, the faces and the memories.
In some future time, when the years have caught up with you, the whole charade of it all will become just another story you tell the grandkids. Future generations will listen wide-eyed and amazed at such strange practices by their forebears, such odd ways of spending the weekend.
There are many things that could define a generation. Some political struggle perhaps, such as the Vietnam War for the hippies. Or artistic creations such as pop art for the xennials. In my opinion, a lot can be said about a generation based on how they would want to be entertained.
I realized this when, one day, I was told stories about the “bayle.” I’ve heard the term being used loosely, but it was only until recently that I was briefed on the specifics of it.
I was told of its importance, how it was deemed the highlight of a town fiesta. It would be held on the same night the town would choose its queen from among beautiful candidates, who were to raise funds for the event as if they were running for public office. I was told about how some people would come to town with bags of cash, counted and earmarked for their particular choice of queen.
On those nights, all candidates would have their respective titles, and the coronations were literally coronations. The girl privileged to become queen would be the most prized girl of the bayle that night.
I was told about how men prepared for the bayle, their dress shirts tucked neatly into their ironed pants, their shoes well-shined and hair glistening with pomade. They would arrive at the venue in packs, usually brought to the place by only one mode of transport.
I was told about how eagerly they would look at the girls from afar as the girls sat on wooden benches, waiting to be picked for a dance. The boys would approach the girls, and couples would sway to slow music, his hands on her hips and hers on his shoulders.
I was told about how girls used their elbows to keep a good distance from a boy they didn’t particularly like, or how they used the powder room as an excuse to skip everything altogether after a whole night of dancing. I was told about the exhilaration of asking a girl for a dance, and the patience to finally find one after a few had rejected your offer.
Our generation grew up on forms of entertainment and socializing entirely different from the bayle. We donned party clothes and paraded to the clubs, where we used to dance to EDM (electronic dance music) underneath hypnotic lighting. My mother, a city folk her entire life, would share stories about the “disco,” on the other hand, while I chuckled through them all.
We met strangers in the dark on those nights, many of whom were just made-up characters. We were characters ourselves, anyway. We wanted to be as reckless and youthful, because Snoop Dogg said we were “wild and young and free.” But pretty soon, the “young, dumb and broke” generation came through, and meeting people became a simple swipe to the right.
The bayle seems such a beautiful, exotic practice. It reflected the grace of an era, its defined gender roles and sense of propriety and decorum. My clubbing generation, on the other hand, is defined by the raucousness and vibrance of clubs, reflecting our disregard for formality, our embrace of gender equality and our dependence on technology to meet someone new.
I am privileged to have grown with these new ways of thinking, but perhaps we are also missing out on a lot of things: how the bayle taught young people to carry a conversation, for instance, or how to make and accept rejections, to look people in the eye and form meaningful interactions.
Nonetheless, regardless of how generations spent their youth, we have memories to take with us as we glide through older years and assume more mature roles. For me, these memories come rushing back whenever someone asks, “Hey, remember that time when we were all dancing to this song called ‘Super Bass’?”
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