Michelle Apps never got to make her debut at a ball like most of her friends.
Her family couldn’t afford it at the time, and she just didn’t have the financial support to buy the dress, the shoes, get her hair done or arrive in a fancy car.
“When I was a little girl I always used to talk about being a deb because I decided I would never get married,” she jokes, adding that she celebrated her 33rd wedding anniversary to Terry Apps on 25 November, 2021.
It hasn’t been the easiest time for the Apps family in recent years. Michelle cares for Terry, who was injured in a bushfire about eight years ago.
“It’s been a total life change for us,” says the 52-year-old mother of two and grandmother of six.
“I had a bit of a wild time when I was young. I was pretty much brought up by my grandparents. My dad worked away so becoming a deb really wasn’t a priority.
“I don’t know why, but I’ve always wanted to be a princess.”
More than 30 years on, Michelle will now get her chance to be a deb.
Plans are well underway by the Yass Valley SPIN Foundation (Support for People in Need Foundation) to stage a debutante ball for over-40s.
Yass Valley SPIN Foundation works with the Rotary Club of Yass to raise money for people with medical needs. In the past two years alone, it has raised $100,000.
SPIN Foundation president and ball organiser Barry O’Mara says the event is designed for people such as Michelle who missed out on what many young women see as a rite of passage: their arrival in society.
The last deb ball was held in Yass in 1995 and was, ironically, attended by Michelle’s daughter. More recently, a Bushrangers Ball was held, where most of the town was held to ransom, ensuring a good sum was raised for the SPIN Foundation.
“We used to do a lot of balls,” says Barry. “They were always good for raising money so we thought why not do a mature-age deb ball for all those who missed out.”
The over-40s ball will be the real deal. Debs will don their best frocks, be invited to learn or re-learn the Pride of Erin waltz, and be presented to someone important.
If local social media chatter is any guide, it seems the Yass deb ball, scheduled for 2022, will be as successful as those which have come before it.
When Barry posted the idea on Facebook, he received a flood of responses applauding the idea. Although some lamented whether they could find a partner willing to learn the dances, or lose enough weight to fit into their original dress.
Michelle has little doubt it will be a great night.
“I will be on such a high being able to dress up as a princess and have a great night,” she says. “But it will be emotional because my dad won’t be there.”
But Michelle is pretty sure her husband will be.
“When I heard about the ball, I asked him if he’d partner me,” she says. “He just smiled and walked away.
“But if we do it, we’ll do it right. Although I won’t be wearing high heels – I can’t because I have a steel rod in my spine.
“But I can already picture the dress. It will be a light silver colour. I won’t be wearing white – always the bride, never the deb.
“I’ve just always wanted to say that I was a deb. I don’t think it matters how old you are.
“I told my girlfriends that we’d have to go shopping for a deb gown and they went ‘OMG’ and burst out laughing.”
The Yass Deb Ball for over-40s will be held in mid-2022 at Yass Soldiers’ Memorial Hall. The number of debs and their partners will be capped at about 20 because of limited space in the hall.
Potential debs are invited to contact Barry O’Mara on 0417 232 186 to register their interest.