Memoir Parenting

On Watching My Millennial Son Not Prepare For Senior Prom

Last Sunday, I asked my 17-year old son about his upcoming Senior Prom. I knew he’d roughed out some vague plans to go with a group of friends, but I didn’t know about any of the particulars. They were planning to go somewhere for dinner. He didn’t know who would be driving. He might be sleeping over at someone’s house. But he might not.

“Are you aware it’s this Saturday?” I asked. “Did you even order a tux?”

He shrugged his shoulders. I’d interrupted his computer game. He’d been winning and was annoyed by my questions.

No, he hadn’t thought of it.

Neither had he thought about shoes.

A half hour later, we were standing in Men’s Warehouse talking to a short Italian stylist who knew his suits. “Tuxedo specials are over,” he said while sifting through a wall of black jackets. “It makes better sense to buy.” Within minutes, Weggie had selected the perfect ensemble, and one hour later, my son was back in front of his computer, a beautiful black suit, shirt and tie now hanging in his closet.

I considered my son’s utter lack of preparation for prom. This is a kid who preps strenuously for academic exams, who is intentional about nearly every decision he makes. What is the deal with his avoidance? Is it a guy thing, this lack of attention to details? What would have happened had I not intervened?

I thought back to my own school formals of the mid 1980s.

TB and me, Junior Prom, 1984

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 figured I’d never see him again, but he magically materialized to take me to prom.

First, let’s 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 that garment. All I knew was that from the neck down, I was Madonna in that dress.

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. There wasn’t much I could do. Part of the night, I wore a hat.

For Senior Ball, I was slightly better prepared.

First, let us establish that JMo looked awesome in his tux.


Now, about my dress.

JMo and me, Senior Prom 1985

Senior year, I toned down my attire and wore a simple dress. But somehow I ended up looking like I’d been dipped first in a vat of French’s mustard and then into a 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, 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 shaved.

I was clean.

I bought a dress and put it on.

(So there was a little extra room up top. What’s your point?)

I didn’t go to a spa for a salt scrub or have anyone professionally style my hair. (Although looking back, I see that would have been a good thing.) I didn’t think about getting a mani/pedi or having my brows arched.

All I’m saying is that I guess my son gets it from me, his lackadaisical attitude about prom. He’ll probably clip his fingernails and clean his ears, shave and comb his hair. But that’s about it.

I wonder if he’s is nervous about the social stuff, all the expectations associated with prom.

Because truthfully, I do remember suffering a wee bit of mental anguish at both dances. Even though I wasn’t dating either guy, I wanted the romance of the evening. I wanted my dates to ask me to dance.

I mean I was scared, but I still wanted to be asked.

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 adults 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, prom is still an awkward place, a threshold between adolescence and adulthood where no one really knows what to do, so we hold onto each other and spin in circles for a little while.

And so we did.

And hopefully, he will too.

What did you wear to prom? Did you think you were hot? Were you? Are all boys lame planners?



4 thoughts on “On Watching My Millennial Son Not Prepare For Senior Prom

  1. My younger granddaughter, a graduating senior, is going to her first prom, we hope. When she was younger she went to Morp, a formal dance for younger students–yes, prom spelled backwards. She, her brother, and friends of theirs all went together. When my granddaughter was old enough to go to prom, she hedged, back and forth, deciding not to go. Same dance this year. I told her that Grandpa and I would cover the cost–dress, skies, hair, nails, dinner, prom tickets. I would take her shopping. Our time was very short. She sent a picture of a dress. And still she wasn’t sure she wanted to go… Prom is Saturday night. Everything is planned and purchased–stunning royal blue dress, NO SPARKLY STUFF! She hates sequins, glitter, etc.. I actually found the dress, extra small, bought it on a hunch that it might be THE DRESS. Turned out to be THE ONE, after hours of seeing nothing but glitter and sequins wherever we looked… Shopped for shoes–silver, glittery ankle-breakers and flip-flops that she could dance in. Today, she starts getting ready for tomorrow night. Will she or won’t she go…? I’ll know when the pictures start making it to FB and IG.

    Her younger brother??? He assumed that he and his junior girlfriend would go but formally asked her, a couple of months after she had purchased her glittery blue gown. And he did get a tux…

    So I’m hoping for a lot of pictures to start coming across my feed, maybe even tonight as nails are getting done.

    PS. I loved Gunne Sac dresses–had two of them…from Barbara Moss Dress Shop!

  2. Renee, your senior prom picture is FABULOUS. You went through all your worries for nothing. You were probably the prettiest girl at the prom.

    When I was in high school and college – and even when I’ve been single as an adult – calling a girl/woman and asking for a date always scared me to death. None of them ever actually bit my head off, but the fear was there. Somehow I managed to get a date with Roxy for something during the spring semester of my senior year, and I just kept dating her. I liked her, but I think I kept dating her so I wouldn’t have to deal with my fears about asking someone out. We went to the prom together and had a good time. I wore a rented tux and couldn’t wait to get home and get out of it.

    I tried to scan my picture from my senior annual, but it was too blurry to put here. Oh, well, I wasn’t as pretty as you anyway, Renee.

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