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with a ceilidh which they attended in the equivalent of their 'Sunday best' but now the ceilidh is no more and has been replaced by the American import  the 'school prom'.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.

32 comments:

Woodsy42 said...

And also- should an 11 year old girl be encouraged to wear a short dress, heels and make up?
Wrong signals?

Woman on a Raft said...

I could not agree more. The primary school is not a place for this kind of showing-off.

tris said...

Many things.... Weddings that cost tens of thousands of pounds, Christmas that completely breaks poor people pressured to buy cards and presents for everyone they have met in the last year, hallowe'en, Easter, where more and more money is being spent and "proms" are business's way of screwing money out of people who haven't got it but feel pressurised.

It's the same with clothes, which to be fair the rich have always talked about in "Labels", but the idea has now spread to both female and male fashion for the poor. Often not much better quality garments than those found in Primark, are sold with massive mark-ups (because they are made in the same sweat shops as the cheaper ones). And to extract every last centime, they have even managed to persuade people that it is cool to wear your underpants with the "Label" showing,and that it's uncool not to wear Calvin Klein or Pierre Cardin.

It's all about big business making unseemly amounts of money.

And I couldn't agree more with Woodsy42. Wrong wrong wrong signal (not to mention looking ridiculous).

JRB said...

You shouldn’t be surprised.

We are the 51st state after all.

Aren’t we?

Brian said...

We were allowed to bring in a board game on the last day in Junior School.
I recall a crisp and marge sandwich do ( it was a don't) organised on the last day of the Upper Sixth summer term in order to prevent the discharge of fire extinguishers etc, but as A and S Level exams had finished a week earlier, most preferred to enjoy the wonderfully new sense of freedom by not attending a school event.
As for the adoption of American customs, how many of these are now British traditions? In the interests of fairness I tried to find good American things but they were all either ideas that came from abroad (American didn't invent democracy or human rights) or were awful - American peanut chocolate bars, yuck!

Demetrius said...

Utterly barmy and for that matter creepy. Is it the parents or is it the staff? When I were a lad and left Elementary School it was the teachers who were celebrating.

Macheath said...

Along with proms, we have imported a 'cheerleader' culture in which a clique of good-looking girls dominate their peers - often with the collusion of their mothers and (I am sorry to say) some of their female teachers.

Hamish said...

This site seems to have been taken over by a bunch of auld wifies of both sexes.
The young lassie was happy, so why be such nay-sayers?

Pavlov's Cat said...

another heinous Septic import along with the horrendous imported 'Trick or Treat' Halloween

Brian said...

I hope those ghastly child beauty pageants don't come here.

Goodnight Vienna said...

I thought I was about to read a non-contentious post but then had to re-read it - eleven years old?

Sorry, but this is just wrong - no matter the tears of the relatives or the feelings of the little girl.

Hamish: All young girls love to be princess-for-a-day but that doesn't mean it should be encouraged via the school system. And wasn't the American age of the Proms much later than eleven anyway?

RMcGeddon said...

There were 3 stretched limos full of screaming brats going around in circles the other day in Arbroath.
All very odd.
I tried to imagine asking my mum for money for the limo because I was leaving for the 'big school'.
No problem she would have said. And here's a ten bob note for drinks ;)

subrosa said...

Woodsy, I should have said the dress was a midi, sparkly type. Very evening-wear style.

subrosa said...

I can't understand why this has been adopted WoaR. So many go on about children in poverty then encourage parents to spend a large amount on one evening out.

subrosa said...

The poor lassie did look kind of uncomfortable Tris, but part of that may have been the fact she couldn't handle her high heels.

subrosa said...

Of course JRB. Silly me. How could I forget.

subrosa said...

I don't remember any do when leaving primary or secondary Brian.I do remember, as you do, that after the highers we were allowed a day or two off. Possibly that was as good as an expensive party.

subrosa said...

You're right Demetrius. There's something odd looking at an eleven year old lassie trying to look like a 30 year old woman.

I should think so too! Bet they were all pleased to be rid of us.

subrosa said...

Ah Macheath, I'd forgotten about the cheerleading business. Haven't witnessed it yet myself but then I don't have much contact with school events these days.

subrosa said...

Auch Hamish, the point is - would she have been just as happy with a disco without the extravagance?

subrosa said...

"Trick or Treat' Pavlov's Cat - we never had that when I was young and it's quickly caught hold hasn't it.

subrosa said...

Jings Brian, the very thought. Give it a decade or so ...

subrosa said...

The original Prom was when leaving secondary I think GV but now it seems the wee ones also have one.

subrosa said...

Stretch limos in Arbroath RM? Sure it wasn't the FM and some friends paying a visit?

You wish eh? If she was anything like mine you would have had a clip round the ear for even asking.

RMcGeddon said...

I did see a small demo from the local Limp Dems who wanted a couple of seats SR ;)
Prob would have got more than a thick ear for asking for money for my limo trip.

Observer said...

It is a ridiculous American import & I am pleased to say that my daughter & her friends declined to attend their Prom when they left school on the basis that they were not Americans.

This really is up to parents & older children to say no. It's a great pity it has spread to 11 yr olds.

Hamish - 11 yr old lassies really don't want to be dressing up as women & why should parents be put under such financial pressure to make sure they are included. Kids can be exceptionally cruel & I feel for the children whose parents cannot afford this nonsense as they will be called all sorts of names.

There's nothing killoy about this as there is precious little joy involved.

subrosa said...

A libdem demo RM? I thought a demo involved more than 2 folk. :)

subrosa said...

Good for your daughter and friends Observer.

As Macheath says some teachers are also encouraging this and that should also be stopped.

I think the education Minister should get involved in this because it involves pastoral care surely.

Jo G said...

"It is a ridiculous American import & I am pleased to say that my daughter & her friends declined to attend their Prom when they left school on the basis that they were not Americans."

She sounds like your daughter Observer. ; )

I find the expense of the final year prom bad - and ridiculous - enough but to learn children in primary schools are at it now too is worrying. Then again I heard the other day of "graduation parties" for children leaving nursery to start school! Really, it gets dafter and dafter.

I think too (to Observer) that a lot of parents are the ones making things worse. The competition to spend the most money, buy the most expensive frock, hire the biggest limo is participated in by parents. What on earth are they thinking of?

On a different type of celebration but on the same theme you'll find religious occasions have gone the same road. It used to be when RC children made their First Communion they got a prayer book and a tea back at the school after the church service. These days parents hire a room in a local pub and put on a do! And the only acceptable gift to the children is money and they will gladly keep each other informed about how much they collected on the day.

subrosa said...

I didn't know about the RC children's First Communion becoming like a Prom Jo. How sad.

Dramfineday said...

Sadly I saw an advert in my works intranet from a mum wishing to offload a prom dress - some-one else was going in the same dress. Cost of the dress £300!

subrosa said...

That doesn't surprise me Dram, the price I mean. Doesn't really show her daughter the value of money though does it?

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