The Debs in Qatar

In her weekly column, The Reluctant Emigrant, Denise Hession compares debts days of old, and new in Ireland to prom night in Qatar. 
The Debs in Qatar
The days of asking a boy to your debs face to face, has been replaced by messenger, WhatsApp or Snapchat.

IT’S every girl’s dream and every parent’s nightmare... prom. Call it what you want, I called it the debs, others called it graduation and more called it passing out. The passing out part was what I was afraid of.

Back in my day, the debs was an awkward affair. Firstly you had to ask a boy to go. No on messenger, WhatsApp, or Snapchat, not even a basic text message. You had to walk up to him and, face to face using audible words, ask him to go to the debs with you.

You were mortified, even more so when he said yes, because the rest was going to be the most awkward encounter of your 17 years.

It was the norm for his mother to come to pick you up, he probably wouldn’t be driving and no-one did taxis back then. He’d come to the house, meet the parents, take a photo or two in garden if there was a flowering shrub, and you’d wave goodbye.

Then you’d be mortified again at having to sit in the back of the car with him and his mother, — you felt you deserved every drop of the Bacardi and every one of the 10 purple silk cut you had stashed in your handbag.

The ‘do’ was a three course, turkey and ham type affair in a 2-star hotel, now a home to refugees. The after-party was a ten spot and a naggin around the Lough, classy.

Ah, those were the days, when our glamour was a Rimmel nail polish bought the previous evening in Roches Stores, a shiny satin dress and a more expensive pair of tights than normal, not like the debs of today where it’s all HD eyebrows, fake lashes, smoky eyes, spray tan and gel nails. A make-up artist, a hairdresser, a photographer and a hummer all parked outside the debutant’s house, pre-party Prosecco and then she emerges, looking every bit a runway girl, but coming home absolutely plastered.

My friends had warned me of debs disasters and all you could hope for was that they wouldn’t end up in the Regional getting their stomachs pumped.

So, when it came to my turn to send a girl off to a debs, or prom as it’s called here in Qatar, I knew what to expect... the guard was up.

My first shock came when I realised that romantic Qatar is not dead and gone with O’Leary, it’s very much alive, and stories of elaborate prom-posals started. Flowers, chocolates, balloons... and that was nothing until the search for the dress started. These girls could pull off red carpet sass. Picked up by the girls and driver, our girl went out the door a lady, but god knew what state she would come back in.

The ‘do’ was a buffet meal in a 5-star hotel followed by a DJ, and no alcohol of course, because it was a prom, and because you cannot buy alcohol in Qatar until you’re 21 and have a licence to do so... age isn’t a licence.

The likelihood of syphoning off some of her parent’s precious stash, which has to last them until the Distribution Centre re-opens at the end of June after Ramadan, was slim to none. And because the penalties are so severe for stealing and illegal drinking in Qatar, many decide that it’s just not worth it.

So, it was to be a sober affair… still, I knew how it worked, there was always one, there’d be the after-party, the after-after party, my guard was still up.

It was after midnight and I was settling in on the couch getting ready for the big coup. Keyed up, I had the pot of coffee ready, the lights were dim, ready for action.

At 1.05am. the door opened quietly, and in she walked, stone cold sober, smiling ear to ear. “How was your night love,” I asked, placing the spotlight and taser gun beneath the cushion.

“Oh lovely, the food was great and we danced all night, I shared a driver home with some of the girls... night, mum, thanks for my dress.” Dumbstruck, I muttered, “Night, love.” 

It’s times like this that life isn’t bad at all in Qatar.

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