Zionsville Times Sentinel

Commentary

September 17, 2008

The importance of social graces

It arrived in an elegant white envelope addressed to my son, Joe,12. Inside was an invitation to “Mrs. Belt’s Cotillion Season,” a series of nine meetings, including parties, at which my son would be instructed in many of the social graces I’m convinced will serve him well in his teen years and beyond.

At the sessions, Joe will learn to make introductions, go through a receiving line, offer and serve refreshments to a young lady, pull out a chair for her, let her in line ahead of him and make polite dinner-table conversation. He’ll be instructed in correct table settings and the use of proper utensils. He’ll learn to tie a “real” tie and the steps to the waltz, swing and other dances. In addition, he’s advised to attend the sessions in a “dark suit or sports coat, conservative tie, dark socks and polished dress shoes.”

Reading this invitation, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Joe just thought he’d died.

I began thinking about the “Cotillion business” and what it says about modern society, especially when I saw an ad for Rebecca’s Cotillion, which will have an “information coffee” for parents from 7p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, at the Ritz Charles in Carmel (www.rebeccascotillion.com).

Why is this instruction popular? Why don’t parents teach etiquette and manners to their children the way — so we are told -— parents did in times past? I put these questions to Barbara Belt and Rebecca Krueger-Malenkos.

“For one thing,” Belt began, “parents are so busy these days. Many children are part of families in which both parents work. Often, fathers travel for business. I believe every parent appreciates any help they can get to reinforce good behavior and create good habits.”

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