Wednesday, May 25, 2011

PROM 2011

Beautiful Prom 2011
Prom 1978 Nice dress. I appear to be carrying a mini bridal bouquet. Nice blue tux, Greg.

Perhaps you haven't been to a prom since the BeeGees had a top-ten hit. Or maybe you are so old you wore something called a Gunne Sax to your prom (which is almost as ugly as a real gunny sack by the way). Or maybe you are a bit younger-- a member of the Footloose generation and your kids are not yet going to proms. At any rate, I am here to tell you what a prom looks like these days, at least from a mom's perspective

As Grace is dating a Senior, she went to the Senior Prom last weekend and here's how things look these days, at least in our little corner of the world. Some of this is the same across the country I'm sure.

How he asks: It is no longer acceptable to sit next to a girl on the radiators (that's where we hung out at my high school) and say , "So, has anyone asked you to prom yet?" and then if the girl says "no" to say, "Want to go to prom with me?"

No no no my friend. Those days are over. Now, one must ask a girl to prom in a very creative and fun way. Skywriting is good. Texting is bad. An ad on a billboard is good. Calling on the phone? No way. Even sane girls (like my own) will insist a boy jump through this hoop. When her nice boyfriend Billy said, "So how do you want me to ask you to prom" (a ridiculously moot point as she had already bought the dress and isn't asking that question asking to prom?) she said, "You have to come up with something."

Yes, this is weird and kind of appalling to those of us who grew up in a simpler and more egalitarian age. But there it is. And that is why Billy was in our back yard on Easter morning laying out plastic eggs to spell something. He paused to consult the graph paper in his hand and Jeff looking out the window said, "What the hell? Doesn't the kid know how to spell prom?" Turns out Billy does know how to spell prom but having the heart of an engineer he had plotted the word out on graph paper to make sure he had enough eggs. Awwww. And in the golden egg he had written on a scrap of paper, "Will you go to prom with me?" so sweet. Of course she said yes.

The Dress: Well you know of course the girl must hunt for the perfect dress. That much has not changed. And you must have a dress that is unique--that has also not changed--and I was reminded of the subterfuge I was once a part of involving a dress shop that would not sell the same dress to girls from the same school and my going to buy a dress for a friend under an assumed name and I was not proud of that memory and I apologize to Karen Anderson. But anyhoo, today the girls have a more sophisticated technological way to deal with this problem. They set up a Facebook site called, "Don't steal my dress, slut" and they each post their dresses on there so no one will wear the same dress. Now it turns out that in this case, the term "slut" is an affectionate one. I guess this is like black people using the "n" word--because much to my surprise this is a kind and gentle site in which the other girls say things like, "Oh, that will look so good on you!" and "I was going to get that but since you already have it I will buy a different one!" Don't believe everything you read about mean girls.

The dresses are still long. Some are quite umm, sophisticated. Some look like something Edyta from Dancing with the Stars might wear. No one wears lace collars and sleeves that cover every square inch of skin like we did. Thankfully.

The Tux: You will be shocked, shocked to learn boys no longer wear colored tuxes with ruffles that have been "tipped" to match their date's dress. About the wildest thing you'll see is a white tux. Thankfully.

The Venue: They still have proms at cheezy hotel ballrooms with mediocre food. This much has not changed.

The Groups: This is different. You NEVER go with just your date to prom. You must organize a large and unruly group of friends and acquaintances, many of whom do not like each other or hold grudges against each other. There will be angry texts and maybe even tears and lots of drama. And the girls are worse. In this way, you can actually find yourself rejected by a group even when you have managed to procure a date and asked her in a clever way. Whew! It's tough to be a guy these days. When Grace told me about some of the current drama I suggested she just go to the prom with Billy. She looked at me as if I had suggested that I go to the prom with her. So you see, the group is a must.

Limos and drivers and buses oh my: Because you are traveling in a pack of 20 or so kids, you can no longer go to the prom in you date's Pinto with the faux wood panels nor can you borrow his dad's Ford Fairlane. No silly, this will not do. You need a large vehicle that you and 18 of your closest friends will fit in. The kid in charge will wait til the last minute to book the vehicle and you will end up paying an exorbitant amount of money for a round-trip to the prom in a limo that looks like it has not been cleaned since the weekend before when it was used for a bachelor party that resembled The Hangover. If you are really lucky, you will get a surly, resentful limo driver who is not happy to be carting suburban children around town and he will take you to a dark part of the city and demand more money if you ever want to get home. This is called "a life lesson" and will make a great story for years to come. As a parent, you don't really mind any of this if it means you are not stuck driving the after after after prom party shift.

After Prom Activities: Prom never ends when it is over. It really lasts a whole weekend and there are trips to Great America or the Dells (Wisconsin's family version of Las Vegas) and jaunts to someone's lakehouse. A good friend who has an older daughter warned me about this. Her advice was to decide well in advance how much of this you can stomach and lay down the rules before all the planning begins. Which I did. No overnight trips I said, you are not even a senior. Then when your kid comes to you with a well-thought out plan and complex schedule involving responsible chaperones you can cave and let her go anyway. Which I did.

So there you have it. Prom 2011 is not a whole lot different from Prom 1978 as I see it. You still have a lot of young people dressing up like grownups for one night and lurching around on the dance floor to a DJ. Moms still ooh and ahh over their babies all dressed up for the night and take way too many pictures of their babies squiniting into the sun.

And prom is still a night you never forget.


  1. I wouldn't have survived any of this at that age (or now, come to that) but luckily I grew up in a boring country in Europe where no one ever thought of this.
    And how does one come up with a different dress for every single girl?

  2. i Love how he asked your daughter to prom! that is wonderful. :) i went to prom here in chicago in 1980 and we did go with a group and we spent all weekend together, including renting a boat on lake michigan after the prom (NOT a good idea! ha!) and then heading to a friend's house for breakfast in the morning and up to great america the rest of the day. dan (now my husband) wore a tophat and tails and i wore my grandmother's mink stole over my azure blue dress. we were quite the duo. no one had my same dress, which i think i bought on devon. you could get a sari to wear to prom on devon now!

  3. I wore a Gunne Sax dress, like you did Judy, and I thought it was beautiful (no accounting for the taste of our younger selves). That is until I got to the dance and saw all the girls with the spaghetti strap dresses. Luckily my date, who also wore the ruffled-shirt tux, looked just like all the other guys. He had on a brown tux with the edge of the ruffles tinted brown (to match my dress of course), but that was far better than my Junior Prom date who wore a sky blue tux. Picture that one. We laugh and cringe at our photos now, but we were all so very stylish on that night. Having gone to an all-girls Catholic high school every dance was basically a Turn-About. Some girls didn't bother to get a date, but I did and have never regretted it. However much we may wince at our pictures now and our kids laugh at them, it's one of those events that marks a special moment in our lives when we really start leaving childhood and entering adulthood. I hope that my boys will go to their proms and have a fun (and safe) time.