Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Reluctant Tour Guide

Our tour guide stepped onto the bus and announced, "I have a special surprise for you." "While you were touring the soft-shell crab facility, I got us permission to attend tonight's debutante ball!"

It was a tour for tour operators, a whole tour bus full of tour types getting the low-down on the southern Louisiana tour circuit. Our host was from Houma, located about 40 miles southwest of New Orleans, but the debutante ball would be in this nearby town of Terrebonne.

This swampy area is an incredible maze of bayous that eventually empty into the Gulf of Mexico. Almost every street ends at a slough or swamp where one can encounter swamp tours, fishing outfits, and shrimp factories a-la Bubba Gump.

Keeping to an exhausting schedule of touristy things, among them, visiting a toothless alligator hunter living in a shanty along the bayou, we attended the ball. I have to admit I was at first intrigued to see this event that is generally closed to the public, but at the same time I felt it might just be a boring exhibition of ostentatious privilege.

For some reason tourists have an insatiable curiosity of the rich and here is one more example. The event was originally intended to present young women from families of means to high society. It marks the time when these women are of an age appropriate for marriage. Nowadays it is more of a traditional way to have a party, like a bar-mitzvah coming-of-age celebration.

It is a ritual of grand proportions as the "debs" are escorted into a grand hall by their fathers. They make several tours around the hall on the arms of young male escorts, then are formally introduced to society one-by-one at which time they curtsy and are lined up for the receiving line.

After being greeted by the invited guests - guests are formally invited, but have to buy a ticket since it is a fundraiser for charity - everybody is seated for a formal dinner with live dinner music. Dinner is followed by music and dancing.
Our group sat up in a mezzanine for viewing the presentation, then left before the receiving line and dinner.

I have to admit it was kind of fun to see the gowns and dressed-up ball room, but beyond that I think one must be upper crust to fully appreciate the spectacle.

I enjoyed our visit to the soft-shell crab farm better!

1 comment:

  1. I used to turn up my rather bulbous feminist nose at this sort of thing - not that I've ever actually been invited to one. Then I remembered that I've been invited to, gone and enjoyed myself at Bar Mitvahs, Catholic Confermations and Quinceneras. Still, the whole parade of fresh meat thing.............