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Meredith Leigh Knight Columnist

Published Friday, September 14, 2012

Carpooling to Cotillion

The best conversations happen in the backseat of carpool, especially carpool to Cotillion. I was never in Cotillion, but heaven knows I could have used it, then and now. My husband outweighs me by 100 and some odd pounds, and I still lead on the dance floor, when I’m not stepping on his feet, that is.

Therefore, I decided to do the right thing and enroll my daughter in it so she can learn all the manners that she doesn’t get taught at home, including proper rising. There is a correct way for a lady to get out of a chair, you know.

As homework, each Cotillion participant must get so many signatures saying they’ve practiced different elements of etiquette. One of them was paying compliments. I waited all day for mine. Would she say I was pretty? Sweet? Smart? Finally, it came.

“Mom, did I tell you that the tea you made is very good?”

That was better than expected. In the South, praising one’s sweet tea is the ultimate compliment.

“Now can you sign my book,” she said.

Giveth and taketh away, I thought, as I signed my name in the “Paying compliments” column.

She was still gathering signatures as I drove her and her friends to Cotillion.

“Be sure to watch me proper rise when I get out the car,” she said, “so you can sign off on it.”

I smiled to myself. We drive an Expedition. I couldn’t wait to see her proper rise out of that.

“I forgot my gloves,” said one of the girls hurrying back into the house to get them.

“Good thing you found them,” my daughter said. “I took mine off last time because they were bothering me, and I had to hold a boy’s hand, and it was sweaty.”

“You mean you touched a boy’s hand without a glove?!” asked her friend.

“Yes, ewww, it was gross,” she said.

At this point, I broke the chauffeur’s code and acknowledged I was listening to their conversation.

“Well, I hope you didn’t say anything,” I said, feeling sorry for the poor nervous fellow.

“No, but I made a facial expression to let him know!”

“I hope we don’t have to close dance,” said another friend.

Again, I, being a mom, could not resist.

“Why, because of the sweat?”

“Mom, you know why â ¦. Awkward!”

After a few giggles, the girls debated what kind of punch is served and whether or not they would try any tonight. Soon, we reached our destination.

“Have fun, wear your gloves, and don’t forget to proper rise on the way out,” I said, amidst their laughter.

I drove home in silence, regretting that the drive there had been such a short one. I’m so glad that, despite my busy schedule, I had volunteered to drive carpool that night. Having an opportunity to have a candid talk about boys is very rare. And I must admit that the thought of my little girl growing up made my owns palms a bit sweaty.

(Author’s note: I wrote this column several years ago and held off on publishing for fear of embarrassing my daughter. To be fair – and to instill some good manners – I have since enrolled my son, as he says, “against his will.” This time I’m getting to experience Cotillion from the boy’s point of view. To be fair, I’ll withhold my comments for a few years. A special thank you to Ms. Rosalyn Boyd for her dedication in teaching our children.)

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