Friday, 29 June 2012
When The "Sunday Best" Isn't Good Enough
Yesterday I was browsing in a local shoe shop - or to be more accurate the only shoe shop within a 20 mile radius.
Suddenly I heard gasps of 'wow' followed by lots of lovely compliments which were all addressed to a young girl who had just come through the door. Out of the corner of my eye I had noticed her because she was wearing a short, extremely sparkly dress and seemed heavily made up for late in an afternoon and the shop wasn't busy.
The girl left to calls of "Have a wonderful time," from the staff and tottered across the road to a waiting taxi which swept her off to an unknown destination.
Suddenly one of the staff burst into tears and rushed into the back shop.
The woman who was helping me explained her colleague was the aunt of the girl. The lassie was 11 years old and was off to her school prom. She'd come into the shop to show her aunt and the other staff her outfit before she set off. The girl's mother was a single parent and had lost her job last year when the company she worked for had closed owing to the recession.
In recent months the mother had been under tremendous pressure to ensure her daughter attended this event in a style which was quite alien to her. In years gone by children celebrated the end of their primary education with a ceilidh which they attended in the equivalent of their 'Sunday best' but now the ceilidh is no more and has been replaced by the American import the 'school prom'. The 'Sunday best' wasn't good enough anymore and an elaborate party dress, full makeup and high heels were now standard. Gone are the sandwiches and lemonade in the school hall where other pupils, assisted by a few professionals, provided music and song. Eleven year olds now have a sit-down meal in a hotel followed by a dance in the ballroom.
The complete evening was a costly business and in order to help her sister with the expense, the girl's aunt and her colleagues had provided her choice of high heels and a small bag to match.
The story left me wondering - not about the generosity of others - but the speed with which we've adopted the whole American Prom style so completely. There are no stretch limos around here so fortunately that saves parents some expense, but I was led to believe that some children wouldn't be attending because their parents couldn't afford the complete package. One mother had said she couldn't justify buying a dress which would only be worn once because, not only would it be too small in six months, but there was no possibility of her daughter wearing an evening dress again in the near future.
Surely the idea of having a party for primary school - and secondary school - leavers was to include everyone and not to alienate those who come from financially poorer backgrounds? I thought, as a society, we were aiming for inclusion not exclusion.
I'd like to see a return to the old ceilidh where children turned up in their Sunday best. Call it a dinner dance if need be and have it in a hotel by all means, but let's rid ourselves of the extravagance involved, before more young people are excluded from the festivities.