High Tea in Arkansas

The informant is from Arkansas.

In Arkansas, there are three times when you have a high tea party in your life: When you graduate high school, when you get married, and when you have a baby. At these “High Tea” Party, everyone dresses up in formalwear. White gloves, long dresses – think of proper England and what “High Tea” must be like there. It’s like that in Arkansas – it’s as big as a debutante ball. When you get married everyone normally chips in for an extremely nice – usually sterling silver – tea set. So you don’t register for a wedding or anything, you just get a really nice tea set.

I asked the informant if she went through all three parties (she was holding her child) and she said that she stopped after the wedding because she had moved to California with her husband. Even though they received the Tea Set for her wedding, and she went through high tea twice, I found it interesting that the informant decided not to associate herself with this Arkansas tradition. She said it was too gimmicky and that in California it probably would have been bizarre to have a high tea. I asked her if when she told her mother, her mother was upset. She said that she was a little disappointed but that she understood because in California they probably do not have high teas. The informant changed the Arkansas identity she was associated with when she moved to California and became a mother. Perhaps High Tea to the informant symbolized youth and Arkansas – two things she might have wanted to get away from.