One day, a well mannered mother may find, in her mailbox, an invitation. An ecru envelope, addressed in an elegant looping script to her 10 year-old son. From inside, an equally lovely invitation emerges. An invitation to dancing school.
Some mothers may consider the arrival of this invitation cause for celebration. At last! A place and occasion to learn nearly obsolete social skills like offering an arm, good posture, and escorting a partner. Other mothers may consider it worthwhile to have her children go to dancing school if only to be included in this social ritual, and to enable her children to laugh congenially about the cotillion years later in life. A less well mannered mother may even send her child for perceived improvement of her own social status, as suggested in a recent New York Times article.
But this modern mother might feel ambivalent. She glances through the window and sees her son playing soccer in the yard. He lunges for the ball, falls and emerges covered in clinging leaves. He’s shouting, disheveled, and dirty. Send THIS child to cotillion? He can barely remember to put socks on when he gets dressed in the morning. He doesn't even speak to girls. He still can't get enough bathroom humor. But perhaps that’s exactly the point.
So, she sighs, imagining how big the bribe will have to be, how much negotiation and cajoling will be required. She supposes it will be worth it, but will not make the mistake of thinking a few classes in fox-trot and "standing as a sign of respect" will instill in him a deep sense of common human courtesy. How to put others as ease, to be gracious, and even truly kind will have to come from her, his mother, but it can’t hurt to have him learn a little bit of protocol, and the rumba to boot.
*image from the New York Times, "A Dancing School for Little Adults"