I attended my coming out party in 1999.

No, I'm not gay. Rather, in Southern Pennsylvania we still do that whole debutante thing.

The modern-day prom held at the end of high school was originally started so that middle class girls could also participate in this ritual.

The figure of the debutante originated in Europe during the 1700's, when young women were introduced to court gentlemen, ladies, and the monarch. The purpose of this was the coming of age-- transformation of a girl to woman, letting others know that the woman was now eligible for marriage.

This sociological phenomenon is mostly based on biology and the instinct to find the 'best' possible mate to carry on one's genes. It's found mostly in advanced, higly stratified societies such as the ones found in Europe or Asia, where both men and women have status to confer on the other upon marriage.

Though now, it's just a huge money bath.

Tradition says that a girl should be escorted by two men-- one civilian and one military (usually a cadet from a military preparatory school). It's hard enough to get guys to come to these things as it is-- so nobody really does this anymore.

There are two types of debutante parties, both traditionally a dinner ball. Earlier, such as in the 50's to 70's, it was appropriate to throw a small luncheon or tea, but with the advent of 80's excess, the dinner ball became another vehicle for conspicuous consumption. The mass coming out is often an event to show off to other families, and it takes some of the pressure off of the debutante. The most presitigous is the International Ball, held each year in New York and Vienna, which allows the girl to come out not only in American society but European society as well. The other is the private debut favored by snobs in Boston and Philadelphia, who view public parties in poor taste.

The public parties are usually done for benefit of a charitable organization or part of an 'Assembly' like in Philadelphia, and can cost thousands of dollars a plate-- private parties can run much, much, higher.

However, nobody really cares anymore.