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Gentlemen’s Academy


Somehow, I have become the mom sitting by the mirrors outside the men’s dressing room, while the sons try on jackets, pants, shirts, and vests to wear to Homecoming. More importantly, these guys have become tall enough, broad enough, and particular enough to wear clothes that require a tape measure for specificity and fit.

(We now shop fairly exclusively at Men’s Wearhouse, which Tyler keeps calling the Men’s Furniture Warehouse, and it reminds me of when he said things like Lasterday and Rainbrella, and I refuse to correct him.)

Our home has been Gentlemen’s Academy in the last few weeks. There have been lessons in tying ties, ordering corsages, putting on a sport coat (when to button, when to unbutton, and which buttons you should never button), carrying a kerchief, budgeting the money, respecting the dad, honoring the mom, and cherishing the girl.

But my favorite lessons were the dance lessons.  Our dining room was the dance floor, and I was the one and only girl.

Because, can I just say something?  There was a time – for every single one of the men in this house – when they only had eyes for me. I was the keeper of the goldfish crackers and the snuggle blanket and the bedtime songs. I was the one in the carpool lane every morning and afternoon. It was my hand they reached for, my fingernails that scratched their backs. I was the one they looked to from the stage and the football field, after the curtain call and the touchdown.  There was a time when I was everything to them.

So, yes, I don’t mind saying that it was nice when each of them asked me to dance.


Peter said,

“Gentlemen, here’s what I want you to know.
She is the picture, and you are the frame.
It is your job to make her look beautiful.
Your presence should always points to her, and to make sure she feels seen.”

“When she’s on the dance floor with you, let her feel like she’s done nothing wrong.
If she steps on your toes, you apologize for being under her feet.”

“No, sir, none of that laziness with your arms.
You’ve never seen a frame that’s drooping at the sides, have you?  No, you have not.
Stand tall and support this beauty of yours.”

“Put one hand on her back with your fingertips on her spine.
Put your middle finger on one vertebrae.  That’s right.
Now, you use that fingertip to lead her. That’s all it takes.
She’ll feel where you’re taking her, and she’ll follow you on her own.”

“Now, imagine some jackwagon comes up and is dancing too close.
He and his date are bumping up against you two, getting too close to your girl.
But you see a safer place to dance, right?  Over there by the piano, right?
So you keep moving to the beat of the music, that’s right, stay loose with your feet, not too stiff.
Now use that finger on the vertebrae to guide her to a safer place.
There you go.  Just like that.”

And somehow, with Peter coaching from the sidelines, a magical thing happened.

Right before me, in my very own dining room, dancing with my boy felt like dancing with a man.

They are so tall.  Their shoulders, my goodness.

There was a moment with each one of them, a shift in confidence and courage and leadership. There was a moment when I realized he was leading me.

And before we left the house, Peter said,

“When we get to the park for the pictures, there might be lots of other young women getting their pictures taken. Guys, there might be a lot to look at.  Listen to me: you weave your way through the crowd, and you keep your eyes on her.  She’s the one you came to see. And what do you say when you see her?  That’s right: Tell her she’s beautiful.”

“Above all else, men, put down your damn phone.
Let her see you put it away.  Let her see you choose her over anything else.
I know you want the pictures for the Instabooks and the FaceChats for the YouTubes.
But let someone else take the photos.  Let them take a picture of the moment you’re living.
Don’t miss the chance to look into the eyes of the woman in front of you.
She’s a painting, not a magazine.  Don’t miss your chance.”

Somehow, to my heart’s greatest delight, I’ve become the mom staying up late, reading a book in the chair by the front window, watching for the headlights and waiting for the boy to come home, to tell me about his night with the girl.

Tricia Lott Williford

Comments are closed

  1. The only advice from my Father in Prom Night was “stand tall, walk like a man, and don’t wreck my car”.

  2. What a touching scene you painted with this right of passage. The “boys” are so lucky to have you both to guide them along, and those girls will remember their grace forever. Well done!

  3. Beautiful

  4. When is Peter opening this Academy for the rest of the young male world? He is amazing!

  5. This brought tears to my eyes, my first born son just got married on Friday 9-17. We had to practice our mother son dance in the living room, and it was a moment I will cherish forever. They grow up so fast!

  6. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

  7. I love this! I only have daughters, but they both have only sons. I have told them they will be well-loved. Just forwarded this to them. It’s such a good read for mommas of boys.
    And Peter is spot on with his advice to put away the phone!

  8. Stunningly beautiful. So much to love here, friend. Reminiscing on these days in my own life, and savoring those memories. Also–“lasterday”? “Rainbrella”? genius!

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