Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mortification in White Gloves

Well, Baby Belle 1 received her first invitation to junior cotillion last weekend and I don't really know what to do.

On one hand, as a Southern Belle mother of two itty bitty belles, I have a duty to see to it that my progeny are raised right.  I have to admit that I didn't always pay the best attention during my own classes, so a professional is most likely needed to fill in the almost certain gaps in my memory.  I also remember my old cotillion instructor saying in her sing-song voice, "From now on, when you attend a social gathering, you will always be able to tell who has cotillion training and who has not!"

Well, I did have occasion to find fault with the aforementioned statement during many of the college parties I attended in my misspent youth, but she wasn't completely off the reservation.

I don't want my baby belles to suffer any criticism if I can help it, but it just seems little young to get started on serious deportment training.  I'm still doing the constant reminders of ma'am, sir, thank you and please in addition to dealing with temper tantrums.  (Temper tantrums--oh my God there is so much drama going on in my house!)  What exactly are the goals of these baby cotillions?

Of course, if I'm honest with myself, my predominately unpleasant memories of my own cotillions are throwing the biggest kink in the works.  I took cotillion every year of junior high school.  Junior high school as a whole ranks right up there with root canals and studying for the Bar Exam as the most miserable experiences of my life.

Puberty.  Braces.  Crippling shyness.  Boys that think nothing of tearing you down verbally while the girls watch and giggle from within their cosy little cliques.  Acid washed denim.  Bon Jovi.  Bill Cosby sweaters.  [shudder]

We reported to the Country Club ballroom where chairs were arranged in a large oval around the room.  The girls fidgeted in their Sunday best while the boys squirmed in their coats and ties.  We learned the Fox Trot, the Waltz, the Cha Cha Cha and a bunch of other crap that I can't remember.  We applauded politely at the end of each song.  Boys learned to button their jackets when they stood up and to unbutton them when they sat down.  Girls learned to sit with their ankles crossed with their hands folded in their lap.

We learned a new dance every week.  The instructor would perform a demonstration with a very unwilling pupil.  After that, the real fun began*. (*Please read with as much dripping sarcasm as you possibly can.)  The girls stayed at their chairs while the boys circulated the room one mortifying dance at a time. 

I can at least tell you that I quickly learned and appreciated the reason for white gloves:  Cold, clammy and sweaty palms were all over the place.  Every time the boys switched partners, the embarrassment would start all over again.  Eye contact was studiously avoided and as much distance as was physically possible was maintained at all times. 

Maybe it's the mothering instinct that makes me want to step in and spare my baby belles all of that misery, but they are different from their mother and I need to remember that.

Baby Belle 1 is a total social butterfly.  The young 'un thrives at parties.  When she was about 17 months old, she closed down a wedding reception.  Most folks went on home to go to bed, but she was till dancing on the floor in the ballroom.  Where I get a cold dread at the notion of a social gathering, she lights up and can't wait to get there.  She used to start crying when her daddy and I told her that it was time to leave a party and go home and I used to worry that someone would think that there was a more sinister reason for her reluctance to return to her house rather than the fact that she still had a lot more party left in her.

Baby Belle 2--well, I'm not quite sure how that one is going to play out.  At the ripe old age of 2 1/2, she is very much her own person.  I can already tell you that she doesn't give a shit about what someone thinks of her.  She can enjoy a party just fine, but if you have a problem with her, you can leave her alone to go about your business or she can kick your ass--the choice is yours and there's no skin off her back either way.

So, I guess the answer to my dilemma is that I should provide the opportunity for my girls to grow and learn and be their own person.  I can only hope that they are better at the Cha Cha Cha than their mother.

(**I would like to take this moment to apologize to all 9364 toes I stepped on back in the day.)

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