As I mentioned before, we still hold onto vestiges of the past - things we feel are proper. One of these is the Debutant Ball. Looking at it from the outside in can be foreign and/or humorous. Even as a devout southerner, I question anyone who takes this very seriously. This is a tradition that I think is important, but only if all the parties involved want to participate.
If you are going to get involved, you need to understand the traditions. There are several hard and fast rules and other "expectations". The trick is learning to follow the rules, understand the expectations, and sit back and watch the show.
Now dressing for the Ball is not easy. Ladies are required to wear a formal gown with elbow length gloves. No where does it say that the gloves have to be leather, but unless one wants to be the fodder for the powder room chit chat, it is best that they are. The Debs have some restrictions that the girls find ridiculous. The dresses have to be white, not candlelight, not off-white, not pearl, but stark white. And, they cannot be strapless. The Board was about to drop this restriction when President Bush's daughter had her unfortunate wardrobe malfunction on the dance floor. After that, it was not even brought up for discussion. Of course, the Debs also wear the elbow length white gloves.
If you are going to be in the receiving line (this includes mothers, Debs, and their sponsors) you may want to consult with others about your choice of gowns. One memorable year, two mothers in the receiving line showed up in the same dress. It was not pretty - but to everyone's credit, the Ball did go on. (And, the sun came up the next morning.)
Then you have the names, as they are announced: Miss Mary Katherine Lesane (aka Mary Kate) is presented by her father, Mr. Butler Pickney Lesane III (aka Buddy), and escorted by Mr. Arthur McCords Middleton IV (aka Chip). Of course Mary Kate and Chip are hardly speaking but Mary Kate's mother's, Missy, was bound and determined (ever since Mary Kate was 6) that Chip was going to be her escort at her Deb ball. After all, he was from the best family. The fact that Chip was in the process of failing out of his second college and had a socially unmentionable drug problem did not matter. Nor did the fact that Mary Kate was madly in love with a young man she had met at Sewanee (the University of the South) from a very old well-to-do family in New Orleans. Missy's friends did not know Mary Kate's new friend's family so the effect would be lost and this was Missy's one night to shine - Mary Kate aside.
And so, the tradition continues and everyone smiles.