I was out walking my dog the other day and came upon a neighbor maniacally mowing his grass, hurriedly power walking back and forth across his front yard. “Hey, how’s it going?” I asked, rather worried about his mental sanity. “Ok,” he sighed. “I just got in from chaperoning my daughter’s After-Prom party. I’msohoppeduponcoffee … I can’t sleep.” Ah, so that explained his fervent mowing.
“What the hell happened to Prom, by the way?” he asked, all dazed and disheveled. “I was dressed up as a clown last night. A clown, for chrissakes. This After-Prom party was more stage-managed than the Oscars. All to keep these kids from drinking. And you know what they’re all doing today? Drinking. In a cabin somewhere … I don’t know why we all don’t just rent them a hotel room, fill the bathtub up with cans of 3.2 beer and let them have at it. You know, like we all did.”
Honestly, he’s right. In the past, I don’t know, 25 years or so, proms have become state affairs. They feel like weddings, complete with a group honeymoon. I hate to sound like an old geezer with the “back in my day” comments … but back in my day, you found some poor slob with a pulse to go to prom with you, bought or borrowed a good Kiana dress, had your mom help you with your hair so you looked kinda fancy, shot some awkward photos in your front yard, and then went to the damned prom. No huge group photos with an incredible, landscaped background. No dresses that cost more than a mortgage payment. No salon visits for updo’s and mani-pedi and spray tans. Yes, we grabbed some crappy beer to drink. But mind you, most of us were of legal drinking age (18 at the time) and the rest of us were weeks away. And the beer was lower in alcohol, for 18 to 21-year olds. So, we got a weak little buzz and went to a party room way out in the suburbs, ate some average food and had some fun. Our parents were barely involved. Honestly, I think my dad lifted his eyes for a minute from reading the Wall Street Journal to say, “Oh, um, bye, sweetheart! Have fun! And your curfew is still 11 o’clock, by the way.”
The After-Prom planning starts at the beginning of Senior year. A good friend of mine was so excited when she learned her daughter was voted President of Senior Class … until she realized that meant that she and her husband were now in charge of After-Prom. There are decorations committees, elaborate staged productions, huge donations of products, prizes, and on and on and on. I don’t mean to be a kill joy, but I’ve got news for you. I don’t really think these kids remember it all that much. I was on an After-Prom committee that painstakingly deliberated over which type of fleece blanket to put in the goody bag each kid got to take home at the end of the night. You know where that blanket is now? In the dog’s crate, full of chew holes. She didn’t want to take it to college. That kind of summarizes it all in a nutshell. It’s all. Too. Much.
And what is with the falderal involved with asking a girl or guy to prom? Promposals? Goodness gracious, what pressure! It’s no longer enough to muster up the courage to ask … you have to orchestrate it, stage it, choreograph it, for the love of God. As if our high schoolers aren’t under enough pressure with all the bloody AP courses and expectations to be hyper-involved in a hundred different extra curriculars, creating tech start-ups by their junior year and being on some godforsaken fast track to a high voltage career by the time they graduate eighth grade … now they need to devise some extraordinary performance art prom date request? Ok, some are sweet. My daughter’s high school friend was on our flight home from Florida when he talked the flight attendant into making an announcement over the speaker to ask her to prom. The whole plane applauded. It was cute, I’ve got to say. And props to him for calling an audible on the spot. But I’ve heard some doozies that are more elaborate than an actual engagement proposal, involving balloons, or a box of pastries with “I DONUT want to go to Prom with anyone but you.” My own engagement was fine, but by no means as orchestrated as a Promposal. My husband brought me in his boat out on Lake Erie in a three to five-foot swells, bent a knee and whipped out the ring. Getting more and more nauseous, I was like, “Ok, yeah, sure. Let’s go in now. I’m gonna hurl.” When we showed up at my parents’ house to announce our engagement later that night, we interrupted my dad’s viewing of the lunar eclipse from his front porch and my mom’s viewing of Nick at Night reruns in the TV room. They were thrilled, of course. Poured a drink to toast, hugs and kisses all around for about an hour, Then, “Ok, ba-bye. Gotta go to bed.”
Now, I know these After-Proms extravaganzas were designed out of loving concern for our kids’ safety. There were too many drunk driving incidents and tragedies back in the day. But the cold, hard reality is that in spite of the After-Prom planning and expense and coffee-soaked all-nighters, these kids are drinking anyway. They’re just doing it the day afterthe After-Prom, when they are already sleep deprived from us making them stay up all night in a high school gymnasium decorated to be a Casino or New Orleans street or Paris or whatever. And guess what? They’re not drinking legal 3.2 beer. They’re drinking vodka, gin, whiskey.
What is the matter with us parents? It’s not the kids’ fault. We created this monster. We are the ones that push, or at the very least enable them to be in all those travel sports teams in middle school, AP classes right from the starting gate, and Prom as wedding events. As my own Millennial kids often remind me when we roll our eyes at them, “Mom, we didn’t give ourselvesthose participation trophies growing up. You all did.” Touché´.
I guess the good news about all this organized, temporary Prom sobriety is that it has ingrained in our teenagers and young adults the knowledge to always have a DD, a designated driver. That really didn’t happen back in the day. Perhaps the bleary-eyed mornings after being up all night dressed as a clown, handing out balloons and candy are worth it. All I can say is, thank God for Uber.