I’ve nothing against formality, but I’m more comfortable hanging with the boys in some honky-tonk bar throwing down shots of Jose Cuervo. So when Kaitzer said that we were to attend the Bal Blanc de Noel, (The White Ball of Christmas) my first thought was, how the heck do I get out of this?
The Bal Blanc de Noel is the culmination of the Les Fleurettes (little flower) debutante program sponsored by the La Cañada Thursday Club, a social, cultural and philanthropic women’s club founded in 1912. Under their tutelage, the debutantes are schooled in courtesy, etiquette, social and community service, and cultural enrichment.
In the Marines I had been through SERE training (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape), so I was willing to do anything not to go. However, I decided to use a tactic that only a woman would be prone to understand. “Kaitzer, I have nothing to wear, and furthermore, I look too fat in a tux!”
Well, that didn’t work.
Of course Kaitzer had the foresight to rid my black suit of the spaghetti stains and advised me against wearing my red Santa Claus tie or the one with the ‘hoochie-coochie’ Hawaiian dancers. I really love that one!
There was no way out.
The debutante ball, a quintessentially European event, was initially intended as an opportunity for young girls to be presented at court where they might find a future husband of comparable social standing and pedigree. However, today’s debutantes have midterms, not marriage on their minds.
Debutante is derived from the French word “debuter,” which means “to lead off.” I’m hardly an expert in the feminine mystique but I surmise that the presentation of a debutante depicts a transitional beginning as a young lady assumes her role as a woman in society.
Since Kaitzer was the liaison for the debutantes, she spent most of the evening managing the logistics. Subsequently, I had considerable time to observe the unfolding pageantry.
I began to see much more than Misses Chan, Johnson, McCollum, Morrison, Pittson, and Rowe dressed in elegant white ball gowns and wearing formal white gloves. The image of Misses Walker, Yamamoto, Samantha and Sara Wickersham and Estrella and Elizabeth YiDonoy waltzing across the ballroom with their fathers was incidental to the deep-seated symbolism of what was ensuing.
These beautiful and bright debutantes carry stellar resumes of achievement, clearly showing potential eminence as scholars and professionals who will duly make their mark not only in society but also in education, art, business, music, medicine, history and law.
Change in our social morays occurs. However, there are still traditions of femininity that are deep-seated in the psyche of humanity. The underlying importance of family, home, marriage and community are championed by women and tied to the traditional notions of femininity.
We cling to these notions because we need to hold on to something that seems natural, universal and what we often hold on to is the traditional notion of what a woman should be.
Life is made possible only by due performance of our function in the rituals of society. Civility, graciousness, service and etiquette create a tight weave that connects us to the best part of us. When you look closely at life and try to understand its subliminal nuances you begin to see the deep-seated symbolism of ritual. The Bal Blanc de Noel can only be our best hope for our continuance.
As the debutantes glided across the ballroom floor, they solidified their place in society. With effortless fluidity, these beautiful young women extended the Old World courtesy of a bow as acquiescence to the mystique of femininity burgeoning within. I wonder if they knew that the continuance of courtesy, etiquette, graciousness, service and family lies with them, and that civilization itself is dependent upon the traditional notion of what a woman should be.
JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a professor of education at Glendale Community College and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at email@example.com.