Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A-to-Z Debs

Though the debutante thing is an easily mockable holdover from a bygone era, I confess, I still  greatly enjoy this annual Living section deb-a-thon. (I suspect those of you from more with-the-times parts of the country are thinking, Really? This still happens? Indeed it does.) Justifiable or otherwise, we do tend to stick to our old ways down here, and though I would never subject my own daughters to such shenanigans (not that we have the option; we happily occupy non-debbing social swaths), the armchair sociologist in me finds the whole thing fascinating. (Side note: The gals were excited to see their swim coach — third row, first column —  in the listing. The inside of this section has a deb-by-deb presentation, each with a punny title and a few grafs of formulaic exposition, and June cut out the relevant blurb to prove to her doubting friend that her coach really was in the paper.)


  1. I didn't know that "debs" still existed. INteresting!

  2. This tomboy liberal left coaster is entirely delighted to find out it still goes on. There's something terribly romantic about it all.

    1. I think of it is as complex mix of charming and ridiculous (and occasionally grotesque, fathers spending a 100k-plus for indefensibly excessive spectacles). Marking a young person's transition to "adulthood" is a fine thing — and isn't specific to the old South: there are of course all sorts of flavors of coming-of-age ceremonies amongst all sorts of folks all around the world. The presenting-a-young-woman-as-ready-for-marriage no longer jives with our curent notions on such things, but the local deb culture is at least not completely stuck in the past: debutantes once came from a very specific slice of society — white and very wealthy. The lines have since blurred and the deb page is no longer so radically homogenous, though it's still a wildly non-representative micro-slice of the city's populace. So yeah: charming, ridiculous, complicated. With so many things around here, it's simply impossible to slice out the "good" from the "bad". It's all just too intertwined. Isolation, stratification of classes and races, poverty, our messy and often ugly history, our stubborn provinciality — they bring us many of our woes, but they're also the soil from which a profoundly rich and fertile culture has sprung. We make our efforts, hold our opinions, try to nudge things in the right direction, but in truth, this city is a lumbering beast and is mostly going to go on being what it's going to be. And the deb page is going to keep showing up in the Living section year after year.