OPINION: School balls have had their day.
Parents around New Zealand, relax and rejoice.
Just a few more years and the whole drama will be dumped, or, at least, substantially reworked.
My analysis is based on little more than domestic observations, and a leap of faith, that teenagers' words are sometimes prophetic.
It has not happened, yet, unfortunately.
It will not happen this month. But it will happen.
Earlier this term I was delighted when my teenage daughter announced she was not remotely interested in putting her name into the ballot to be allocated tickets to her school ball.
It was part of a long, convincing and well-reasoned speech.
First, there was the expense.
It was ridiculous, she said, what some girls' parents were planning to spend on dresses and accessories and hairdos and makeup, just for one night.
This insight into the reality of our family's modest income was appreciated.
And it was just a swept-up version of junior dances, she continued, and they were rubbish.
The thing was, the girls spent ages getting excited and getting dressed up, which was fun, but then the whole event turned out to be an anti-climax.
Girls stood on one side of the hall, and half the evening was gone before the bolder boys launched awkward social assaults upon them, and they were generally too short, and behaved like geeks not worthy of the efforts that had been made on the self-beautification front.
She was quite adamant.
Next year, being her final year at high school, there was probably no socially acceptable way she could get out of not going to the ball.
But this year, they could cope without her.
It occurred to me that her attitude might be borne out of a lifetime of dancing and dance productions.
Perhaps she was totally over the dress-up part of the package.
After so many years of ballet buns, costumes and stage makeup, the concept of getting dolled-up had completely lost its novelty value.
And as for the dancing – I'm not sure her skills were required at the junior dances, and I don't think being able to do ballet, jazz and tap is relevant to today's school balls either.
Whatever, as they say.
I was impressed and relieved.
I would be saved the expense, and the organisation, the strategy planning and the anxiety about what would or would not happen before or after the ball.
But it was too soon.
She had not been not alone in her initial assessment.
The pool of ball tickets was under-subscribed.
The plea went out through the school notices for more girls to attend.
Somehow, a group of friends decided it was the right thing to do, to change their minds.
The daughter came home with a comprehensive plan about where to find the most affordable dresses and shoes, people who would do hair and makeup for almost nothing, who she would be getting ready with, whose place they would be leaving from, and which friend she would stay with afterwards.
It all sounded plausible and, to my continuing bewilderment, devoid of boys.
And so I capitulated to this new plan, raided the piggy-bank, and sent her off bargain-hunting.
She came home with change.
That's my girl.
I'm sure someone, somewhere, with a superior attitude and resources, will recognise that some corners have been cut on the luxury front.
But to my eyes, even before the hair and makeup are completed, she looks a million bucks.
I hope she has a lovely time, but, based on her earlier conviction, it seems unlikely.
That hesitant beginning, coupled with the fact that the school had more tickets than enthusiastic starters, feeds my belief that we could be watching a tradition die.
School balls, or, more often, their associated before-and-after functions, have attracted a vast amount of bad press in recent years.
Of course, we do not hear much about the balls that ran perfectly smoothly, that everyone arrived at sober, that everyone survived and got home again with nothing worse than a broken shoe heel or a trodden-on toe.
We hear about the ones where students turn up high or otherwise pre-loaded, where the loos are trashed, where noise control closes down the after-ball match, where fights break out, cars crash and, even in the most prestigious schools, where kids die.
Parents are swamped with advice about how to ensure their teens stay safe.
We know about checking out venues, connecting with each other, reminding our offspring how we expect them to behave.
But, ultimately, we have to put some faith in our young people, which nearly all of them respect, to some extent – but, still, for most parents, it's a huge worry.
I'm especially stressed about this occasion as the school ball coincides with a weekend I am working.
This means I will be largely unavailable to cope with distress calls.
And she is expected to perform in a dance concert the following day.
The thought should keep her grounded and focused on how life goes on, after the ball.
- © Fairfax NZ News