My niece went to Senior Prom with her boyfriend a few weeks ago.
As I stood nearby, snapping photos, I was transported back in time.
To the mid-1980s. To my own school formals.
I went to junior prom with TB, a boy I spent most of middle school trying to get to
fall in love with notice me. Lord knows, we spent many afternoons in detention together as a result of misbehaving in French class. Before he moved to Philadelphia, I realized we were always going to be “just friends,” which was good enough for me. I sort of figured I’d never see him again, but he magically materialized to take me to prom.
First, let’s just establish TB looked awesome in his tux.
Okay, now let’s talk about my dress. Featured in Seventeen Magazine, my dress was a gauzy, white Gunne Sax for Jessica McClintock that covered me from chin to ankle; it had three layers of crinoline and 10,000 buttons up the back. I was hermetically sealed inside my dress. All I knew was that I felt like Madonna in that dress. Seriously, from the neck down, I looked like Madonna.
Shut up, I did.
Sadly, we must address things from the neck up. A few months prior, I’d butchered my long mane and had not yet figured out quite what to do with what was, tragically, a long brush-cut. Or a lady-mullet. In an effort to try to make people not notice my heinous hair, I stuck an over-sized silver safety-pin through the extra hole in my left ear lobe. Because I was that cool.
For senior ball, I was slightly better prepared. First, let us establish that JMo looked awesome in his tux.
Now, about my dress. As it turned out, my poofy dress from the year before was really uncomfortable. The crinkly crinolines had filled the entire backseat; it had been hard to walk, and did I mention that I was decidedly not hot?
Senior year, I decided to tone down my attire and wear a simple yellow dress. Alas, there was no teenaged version of “Say Yes To The Dress” because somehow I ended up looking like I had been dipped first in a vat of French’s mustard and then into a second vat of Hellmann’s mayonnaise. Seriously, I had no business wearing pastel yellow. I know you can’t tell from the pictures, but I looked jaundiced. Luckily, most people were blinded by my like totally radical Sun-In highlights and my tan, both of which I had been cultivating after school for weeks while ignoring my upcoming Trigonometry final.
I didn’t do a lot of primping for either prom.
I mean, I showered.
I was clean.
I bought a dress and put it on.
(So there was a little extra room up top. What’s your point?)
All I’m saying is thank goodness there was no Twitter back in the 1980s, because I would have been all over that and it would have worked me into a frenzy! No, I was blissfully oblivious, so I didn’t stress out about prom in advance at all.
Time spent preparing my hair for junior prom: zero minutes.
For senior ball, I actually had hair, so I did use a little mousse which, thankfully, had been invented earlier that year.
Truthfully, I do remember a wee bit of mental anguish at both dances. Even though I wasn’t dating either guy, I still wanted the romance of the evening. I still wanted my dates to ask me to slow dance.
I mean I was scared, but I still wanted to be asked.
Ask me. No don’t ask me.
Please ask me. Wait, I don’t know what I’m doing.
At senior ball, I sang along with the lead singer as he belted out a new Foreigner tune: “I wanna know what love is. I want you to show me.”
Because, really, I had no idea.
But I so wanted to know.
I imagine some things will never change about formal dances: the grown up feeling of getting dressed up and “going out on the town” without one’s parents; the freaky-deaky feeling a girl gets in her stomach as she sees her prom date pull into the driveway; those awkward posed moments where parents hover, taking zillions of photographs from every possible angle; the worry that a zit could erupt at any moment.
Even though the dresses are better, I still think of prom as an awkward place, a threshold between adolescence and adulthood where no one really knows what to do.
So people just hold onto each other and spin in circles for a little while.
And so we did.
And it was good.
Right up until I learned I failed the Trig final.
What did you wear to prom? Did you think you were hot? Were you? Really?
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