ME, SENIOR PROM EVENING
(It strikes me that I look haughty here,
but it was nerves, all nerves)
In spring, a young girl's fancy turns to thoughts of prom. And in spring, a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of how to pay for prom.
At least that's the way it is for teens today. We've all heard about the high cost of prom these days - the elaborate themed decorating kit more suited to a Broadway musical, the expensive dress and salon hairdo for the girls and the rental of tuxes for the guys. One must hire a stretch limo, reserve a photographer for formal photos (!) and go to a fancy restaurant before the dance. And after the dance it's time to head to the all-night after prom party.
Here are some stats from just one website: Tickets can be anywhere from $50-80, tux rental $150, dress at least $250, flowers $40, limo rental $400, total $920. Hey, they forgot the dinner! You're talking $1,000 before you can say "May I cut in?"
Prom is short for promenade, or what we used to call the Grand March. (Do they still call it that?) It's a prelude to a dance. A dance. That's all it is, gals - and guys. Just a dance, not a wedding, not a coronation.
My thoughts turn to prom today because it's Bismarck High School's prom tonight. I knew that because of a news story I saw last evening. Apparently BHS is cutting back on the cost of the prom by holding the dance "in only one gym". Only one gym? We only ever had one gym, which always smelled of old gym socks and sweaty bodies. The cost for a BHS prom ticket? A "low" $35.00 (for a single or a couple, I'm not sure.) The ticket price includes two spectator seats. Cripes, in our day the prom was free and the town bum could come in off the street, plop down on a bleacher seat and watch the Grand March.
For my junior prom, I was invited by a fellow junior, a red-headed Irishman named Tim Fay. On prom day, I washed and set my own hair. Like all the girls, I wore a long dress (maybe $30?). Short dresses were NOT an option. My dress was sleeveless with a straight-line skirt. It was pale yellow with a lace overlay and featured a deeper yellow bow at the waist with long ribbons trailing down the front. I wore "bone" colored gloves and shoes.
Tim, like all the guys, wore a suit. Like all the guys, he drove his dad's car. He wasn't a farm kid, so he didn't have to worry about showing up in a truck. Unlike the other girls, who got roses or carnations, I got orchids. I still remember their beautiful color, sort of a creamy beige with purple at the throats. I was the only girl who had a wrist corsage too.
This corsage is very like the ones I got for prom.
We raised money for the prom by holding car washes and other fund raisers. The day before prom, the girls decorated the gym with color-coordinated crepe paper, cut-out lettering and balloons. We always chose some dreamy theme like Tropical Paradise or Under the Moonlight. Even then, proms were about getting asked out by the cutest boy in class, or the excruciating fear of not being asked at all, and ultimately having the most romantic evening ever.
Back in my day, not having a date for the prom could scar a girl for life. A friend of a friend of mine still holds an annual BFFL (Big Fat F------ Loser) Party for anyone who never went to prom.
This $1,186 Castle in the Sky theme
was not quite in our budget.
Columbus High School proms were pretty sedate, with forgettable bands hired from Minot, the typical mix of slow and fast dances, dance cards to fill out in pencil, and punch - not spiked! After the prom, the girls changed into more casual clothes while our dates waited, and then we went out for a late supper at The Portal Corner supper club, which stood in for swanky in our area. (Specialties: steak, fried shrimp and fried chicken.) After supper, we all went home. Well, I went home anyway.
The next year, very little had changed, except that a small group of senior girls determined that everyone - EVERY SENIOR at least - had to go to the prom, so they went into overdrive to matchmake. Tim had moved 100 miles away, but I was
pressured into strongly urged to invite him. A good sport, he accepted. Thank goodness gas was cheap then.
I wore the SAME dress and the SAME shoes to senior prom, with maybe a different pair of gloves. Spare no expense was not my family's motto! I was again the only girl who got an orchid wrist corsage. (I bless Joan, his mom, to this day.) This time we went to the Border Triangle Club, which was located exactly one block from my house in our tiny town of Larson. However, my family rarely ate there, so it was a treat for me. And afterward I went home, removed my second orchid corsage ever, and stuck it in the fridge so it would last for days.
Tim lives in Bismarck now and I have run into him several times in Wal Mart or K Mart, and he's usually accompanied by one of his four red-headed sons as we yak about this and that.
Attitudes toward prom have changed in the last 40 years. Some kids try to see how inexpensive they can make their prom experience. Some kids - gals and guys - go stag or as a group. When it was time for Kristen's prom, she went to an anti-prom party, probably wearing her usual jeans thrift shop T-shirt. That was fine by me.
These days, my only opportunity to see prom goers is when my sister and I are out and about on a Saturday afternoon and the kids are emerging from limos for an early dinner at a nice restaurant. How beautiful they are, all dressed and tuxed, moussed and sprayed, made up and splashed with cologne. I won't be going out today so I won't see them but I do hope the rain holds off so it doesn't spoil their special day.
And for anyone not going to prom, or never went to prom, you are not, I repeat, not a BFFL.