In modern times, it has become fashionable for a young woman, upon reaching the age of eighteen, to signify her membership in adult society by announcing that she refuses to make a debut. This innovation has many advantages over the old debutante system, including being a lot cheaper.
The reason for this surprising acceptance on the part of Miss Manners, whose usual custom is to fight fiercely for the preservation of outmoded rituals, is that the surviving debutante tradition often makes a mockery of its original purpose, which was to introduce one's daughter to one's friends. If they happened to have sons with good prospects, so much the better.
In some private dances given by close relatives of debutantes, and in some church or civic groups, where cotillions are organized by members who know one another well, this idea still prevails. Far more often, the cotillion is run by a competitive committee, more or less in business for the purpose, which allows debutantes to bow to an artificial society composed of people their parents don't know and will probably never see again. It is not uncommon to have an ambitious debutante presented to strangers in a strange city by parents who have to add their hotel bill to the already substantial costs.
In such a determinedly organized setting, debutantes are usually required to dredge up two or three "escorts" each. Remember that these are supposed to be innocent young girls making their first appearance in the world among eligible men, and then ask yourself how they are supposed to have acquired several. Standards are necessarily lowered for this dragnet, and the young men begin to understand that they are at a premium. So, for the expense and the trouble of the debut, fond parents are able to attach a permanent date to their daughter's youth, have her scrutinized by strangers, and arrange for her to meet a lot of young men who have come to believe that the world owes them free champagne. That is why Miss Manners will not be offended if you decide to skip this particular tradition.
[Responsibilities of the young people] include acknowledging all other invitations, flowers, presents; dressing properly (which means for the debutante, a white dress appropriate to the occasion and her age); engaging in as many duty dances as ones for pleasure; being hospitable to all guests, regardless of age; discouraging disruptive behavior in themselves and others; and especially for the debutante, remembering that her tea or small dance is but a party, that her parents are the social heads of the family, and that the occasion marks her assumption of the privileges and responsibilities of adult society. The young lady who can do all that should find adulthood to be child's play.