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Debs Season 2023 is finally here...

As Debs Season approaches, Tara Maher reflects on one the biggest nights of our lives and the trials and tribulations that come with it…

The Debs. Need I say no more?

The Debs, or Grads, depending on what part of the country you're from, is an Irish institution. It is a tradition that goes back decades. It is a night many look back on and say, 'Oh god.' The Debs doesn't need an introduction; however, some argue it needs an intervention.

For one night, it can be an expensive affair. Ticket, corsage, haircut, outfit - and that's just the boys! Spray Tans, makeup, jewellery, eyebrows, eyelashes, and so on are also added to most girls' to-do lists.

The Debs is seen as an occasion to mark the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. We say goodbye to our teenage years, asking to be excused from class to the toilet notes home because we didn't do our homework. Simultaneously, we look forward to the adventures that post-school life will bring, whether it will be college, apprenticeships, or year-outs.

It is the day we look forward to from the second we cross the gates into Secondary School.

Every year, we all turn into Anna Wintour and give our expert opinion on each debutante's fashion choices. When August rolls around, it's like a natural instinct to reach for the local paper and share our expert fashion opinion on the chosen dresses. "That's gorgeous" or "Who let her out in that?" are a few of the statements that leave our mouths each year.

I remember being in 6th year and the talk at lunchtime being consumed by conservations about what colour you wanted your dress to be, what way you wanted to style your hair - would it be nicer up or down? And most importantly - who would be your date? We all had our criteria of what traits the perfect date would possess. The common consensus around the lunch table was that whoever the lucky boy would be, he had to be tall, look good in pictures, and be outgoing – so it wouldn't be awkward when he came to the house. Everyone also had their own individual boxes that their date had to tick. Must be a Cork minor. Tick. Must be from another school, so he has to ask me to his Grads in return. Tick. There was also that one boy who asked his secret crush in the hope that he would finally get out of the friend zone. Some people asked their date nearly a year in advance while others would send out 'Any chance you want to come to my debs, no worries if not" the week before.

Picking out your dress was another dramatic affair. What colour would we wear? "Not white anyway; I'm saving that for my wedding day," I remember hearing in class one day. Off the shoulder? No, I'm too broad! Lace? It can look a bit old-fashioned! A slit up the side? Not too high, though; my Dad would have a heart attack! I remember being added to a group chat on Facebook Messenger for all the girls to send in pictures of their dresses so none of us would end up wearing the same one. Because that really would have been a disaster.

The days leading up to the big night are always busy. Some will repaint the walls so they don't appear shabby in the pictures, the whole house is cleaned from top to bottom, the grass is cute, and there is just enough food in the fridge to keep the village fed for a week. You are just putting in your dangly silver earrings as part of your finishing touches, and suddenly, a thought dawns upon you. What if he never ordered you a corsage ….

The Debs is meant to be a night to remember, but if we're being totally honest, it's a night most of us can't! We've all made memories; whether good or bad, but you can't help but look back and laugh at them.

Sam* asked a girl to his debs at the beginning of sixth year. A few weeks before the night, she texted him saying she couldn't make it anymore but never gave a reason. He asked a different girl but was in for the shock of his life when he arrived at the hotel on the night to see her there with an other boy from his year!

Taylor* remembers how the couple who were voted "Most likely to get Married' had been going out since fourth year. Everyone thought they were all loved up, but it came out the next morning that they'd broken up half an hour later because they thought "things were getting too serious."

Claire* was 'on the sly' with a boy two years older. "He was in college; I was weak for myself," she said. Claire was quite shocked when his younger brother, who was in her year, asked her to his debs. "I couldn't say no. The house was so awkward beforehand; that night, he tried to kiss me, and I rejected him but couldn't tell him it was because I was kissing his older brother!".

*names have been changed

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