Whenever we reminisce our growing up days, flip phones, MSN, and Game Boys come to mind. Our coming of age was marked with tapered pants, folded skirts, and questionable hairstyles (long fringe and weird shades of blonde). We had all sorts of ways to entertaining ourselves and trying to be more ‘adult’ than we really were. One of the ways is through class chalets.
It’s funny how chalets were such an iconic part of our growing up years but we rarely talk about it today. Perhaps it’s the staycation culture or maybe we just outgrew chalets, Regardless, chalets were once a big part in many millennials’ teen life.
Those colonial homes or little abodes at Downtown East were so quintessentially part of the “Singapore teenager” starter pack. It’s where we would all gather and show off how close the class was by wearing class tees; that in hindsight were really ugly. It’s as if we actually liked being in uniform.
After checking in, we’d flock to Escape Theme Park or Wild Wild Wet – always going on the same few rides again and again. In the evening, we would huddle around the BBQ pit and play games. The scouts or girl guides were normally tasked to start the fire and everyone else who volunteers to cook will be happily struggling not to burn the food.
Chalets were the best place for a big group of 40 that wanted nothing more than unadulterated fun; we didn’t had to worry about curfews or how much noise we made in public.
Above all, the biggest reason why chalets became such an integral part of my teenage years is because of what happens in the wee hours of the night.
You want beer?
I had my first beer at 14 years old, with classmates of the same age. Yes, we were absolutely too young.
How then did this group of underage kids get beer? Like how all delinquents get their alcohol or nicotine at chalets: through an ah lian’s older boyfriend.
No one at 14 appreciated the bitter taste of alcohol, but we each downed half a can anyway; probably from peer pressure and the desire to feel more mature than we really were.
In fact, another class was also having their first taste of alcohol next door. They didn’t think anyone would find out since they disposed of the evidence discretely. Unbeknown to the class, one of their classmates went home wasted. When he vomited in his mother’s car, the cat was out of the bag and the principal found out.
It could have been the beer or the first taste of freedom but chalets were always a little wild; they were the unsupervised highlight of our growing up days.
As oppressed students on most days of the week, we relished in being our own bosses for 2D1N. With no one to tell us how to dress, behave, or speak, we were at liberty to experiment with life and do as we pleased. It is where we popped our cherries on many things – first beer, first wasted night, first cigarette. For some, this is also where they first made love.
Even when staycations outshone chalets, the latter somehow remained relevant in our lives.
Chalets Are The Perfect Excuse
When I turned 18 and went to my first club, I left the party at 2am because my parents insisted on picking me up. I wasn’t embarrassed but rather, upset for missing out. From then on, I would tell my parents I was staying over at a chalet if I ever wanted to spend the whole night out. And I’d get their approval – no questions asked.
For some of my friends who are in forbidden relationships because of race, religion, or strict parents, chalets have proven to be the perfect cover for staying out late. Many staycations were only possible because of that excuse too.
Could our teenage years be as exciting and thrilling as it’s supposed to be without chalets? I doubt so. Since they are considered safer and more acceptable than a club, a hotel room, or someone’s home even, chalets were and still is the perfect white lie.
I’m sure teenagers these days have found their own way to dapple in these same vices, but I still can’t help but feel sad that the chalet culture is dying out. It’s almost like seeing a part of my childhood slowly disappearing.
I’m aware that in chalets, sex scandals and drug orgies thrived. But for me, it was simply a place where I had significant moments of prepubescent growth and new adventures. Unlike Tamagotchis and MSN, chalets were more than just a way to connect and have fun. It was where we learnt to define our own moral grounds and really grew up.
(Header image credit: mkvlln voto)