At the invitation of a friend of mine, I traveled to South Carolina to attend a debutante ball, a grand tradition in which young women are presented in society. Because I had only recently learned about this tradition, I jumped at the chance to experience this unique coming-of-age celebration.
Donning a floor-length gown and opera-length, white gloves, I stood at the front of the crowd and marveled at the cherub-like debutantes entering the ballroom. With their anachronistic white dresses, bouquet of red roses, delicately placed hands, and pleasant smiles, the debutantes were escorted by their fathers to the center of the floor to perform a grand curtsy under the chandelier.
Although the presentation was perfectly executed and the party was fun, I had a difficult time wrapping my head around the rationale behind this antiquated event in today’s society. I also couldn’t imagine how these young women were coping with the varied messages the ball conveyed as well as the impossible expectations that were set upon them. I found myself questioning the entire event – Why does this tradition continue today? What purpose does it serve? Is there a more meaningful way to spend an evening? Is there a better way to showcase the strengths and talents of young women?