I had fun at prom. There, I said it, okay? I HAD AN AMAZING TIME. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. And while I still have a billion problems with the idea of “prom” itself I’m glad I went.
The weeks leading up to prom, always referred to as Prama, were filled with fights, worries, tears, and much frustration. I serenely watched as my fellow seniors, some of whom were sane at one point, arguably, became crazed Prama fanatics. Over what? Honestly, I couldn’t really justify a dance that encouraged, no, practically enforced overindulgence, solidified social hierarchies, and was so overpowered by heterosexism that it seemed like more of a pre-wedding than a senior send-off. It seemed like everything I’d learned in the last four years became irrelevant yet again as the big p-word on May 16th approached.
And then it happened. I decided to go.
A few weeks before the dance, I asked my best friend to go as my date; I had our teacher open a slide in the middle of our art history lecture to ask her; upon viewing the surprise image a mixture of shock and delight took over her and I felt like I finally made a good decision. Eight periods later, the gossip cycled its way back to me: “Are they dating?” “Is she her girlfriend?” “I always knew they were together.” “They’ll get married…”
Hold the phone. How many of you plan to marry your prom date? How many of you even know anyone who actually plans to marry her prom date? And, if I’m not mistaken, weren’t most of the “couples” at prom just friends who chose to go together but have never actually dated?
Why did anyone care with whom I went to the dance? Why did people to whom I haven’t spoken in seven years suddenly confirm a relationship I had no idea existed? My best friend is like my sister. Absolutely, not even a question. Even my parents began referring to her as my “girlfriend.”
Frankly, I was bit taken aback by all of the tumult. I had done the random-dance-date thing before and it was less than fun. Guess who I spent the entire evening eating brownies with? Yes, the not-girlfriend prom date. It took me a while to adjust to this choice. Over the years, I’ve become more immune to gossip and more satisfied with following my own prerogative, but it still takes an extra boost, an additional confidence to cheer myself on and remember that I am making the best choices.
Prama continued with arguments over payments, reservations, appointments, and parties. Before I knew it, I bought a dress that cost more than the amount of money I had spent months raising for Breast We Cancer, a pair of shoes in which I could barely walk, and overfilled my calendar with times and places to get polished, cut, sprayed, and painted. One part of me felt overwhelmed by guilt, just a month ago I stood on the side of a dirt road giving ham sandwiches to starving Peruvians and the next I was ignoring price tags and booking all the unnecessary extravagances that accompany Prama. Every time I popped a cupcake into my mouth I would think, "size 2 Betsey Johnson, size 2 Betsey Johnson," and then immediately scold myself for thinking in that mindset. But the other part of me was too caught up in the glamor, and honestly, the competition, to notice—if I was going to do this, it was going to be done right.
Almost instantaneously, senior ditch day came and went, and I found myself spending my entire Saturday in and out of florists, salons, and department stores. By the time my nails glimmered a hot pink, my hair had been tightly curled, re-straightened, then formed into stiff waves and pouffed, and three layers of eyeshadow weighed down my lids, I felt exhausted and cynical about the whole event. We took the traditional hour of pre-pictures with fresh smiles and a gigantic variety of groupings: Culties, Chorale, Dual Language, etc… the massive white Hummer limo pulled up.
For a brief second, I remembered my concern for the environment (this monster couldn’t have gotten more than 1mpg), my distress for the Vietnam Vets on Madison and Wacker for whom I bring granola bars to relieve them from their hunger in the cold Chicago winters, and then I heard Juanes blasting from the magical vehicle with an artificial fireplace and color-changing ceiling. All twenty eight of us sang at the top of our lungs and passed the wave up and down the endless rows of seats, ignoring anything and everything from the outside world.
The dance was a blast. It was somewhat relieving to jump up and down psychotically alongside tons of sweaty classmates, ignoring any sense of personal space and ignoring the fact that many of us had made each other’s lives miserable for far too many years. The three hours spent in that tent flew by like a couple of minutes as a fawned over my elegant friends dressed to their best and perhaps even played a few rounds of “Who wore it better?”
After the dance, we climbed back into the limo and trekked out to Michigan Avenue for food. Seeing prom groups from across the city was somewhat of a unifying experience: we were all up for the night of our lives, all ending a chapter in our lives but still partying with our best friends like nothing would ever change. “Happy Prom!” we shouted to girls in shimmery taffeta gowns and boys in sharp tuxedos.
Following various rides in the limo, in which crazy raving to Girl Talk was completely necessary, we arrived at our final destination. Because on Prom, 3:00AM is actually pretty early to start partying in a basement…
I could not have hoped for anything more last weekend. Everything was perfect. Everything was fun. Everything was memorable. (Yes, I will even bring my souvenir frame to college). Regardless of the fact that the money spent in our prom group could have fed an underdeveloped country for the next decade, I can justify Prom as a once-in-a-lifetime, extravagant yet meaningful experience. I will never forget the sleepless night spent with best friends who never stopped having fun. And as a wise pterodactyl once said, “I have a dream…”