About this time in the summer between 5th and 6th grade I listened every day for the clunk of the mail box lid on our front porch. Mom had sent in an application to Junior Cotillion and I was waiting for a reply. I wasn’t even really sure what cotillion was, I just knew I really wanted to go. Several of my friends had already received a letter and I was sure my chances were growing slimmer by the day.
Finally it came: “We are pleased to inform you Suzette has been accepted to attend Junior Cotillion …” I was thrilled, but still didn’t really know why. Junior Cotillion was for kids in grades 6 through 9 to learn not only basic dance skills, but social graces as well. Awkward is the only word I can think of that explains how the first few 6th grade dances were.
Getting dressed up down to the white gloves was the fun part. Actually going to the hotel ballroom had it’s drawbacks. In sixth grade I was taller than all the boys and had a mouth full of braces. I felt like I had a “Gawky” flashing neon sign around my neck trying to be inconspicuous in a sea of cool people.
As we arrived every other Saturday night, part of the routine was to greet the director and her staff. The objective was to teach us how to handle a receiving line. The director was always dressed in a beautiful low cut flowing gown with sequins, kind of like a beauty pageant contestant. Her hair and makeup were perfect. I got a little nervous when I shook her hand. All the boys thoroughly enjoyed that part of the evening because they were short and she had to bend forward to greet them.
Learning how to drink a Coke through a straw wearing white gloves was my least favorite part. I will say that’s a skill I haven’t had to use in my entire adult life.
I checked online and Junior Cotillion, which was founded in 1948, still carries on today. By the end of my four year stint I appreciated everything I had learned. The best part about the last dance in the 9th grade was my confidence had grown, not because I had mastered all the dances and social skills, but because all the boys were finally taller than me.