Saturday, April 11, 2015

Prom 2015: Oh, How Times Have Changed!

During this time of year, high school students are all excited about the big dress-up event -- PROM! My school's prom is this weekend, and my students have talked about nothing else for the past few weeks.

My brother and my future
college roommate at her prom
 in 1973. Check out his shoes.
Prom has changed tremendously since I was in high school, but what hasn't? At my school back in 1976, the girls bought or made a dress, the guys rented a tux, the junior class decorated the gym and everyone actually attended the dance and actually danced.We had pictures taken of us in our formal attire, standing in front of a Greek column or some other decoration. 

Me and my date before my senior prom. My
grandmother made my dress. It was
much prettier in my vision than in real life.

For the most part, we all felt so awkward, like we were playing adult dress-up. Most of the girls knew how to play the dress-up role, but the boys were different. I remember most of them just looking at their dates and their eyes were asking, "Am I doing this right?"

Today, you can forget having the prom at the gym. Now they have a venue, somewhere big and dark, that costs a bunch to rent. That cost filters down to the price of tickets -- $55-85 per couple. And that's just the beginning of the money spent to go.

Another new thing about prom is being the most creative in simply asking someone to go. It's no longer the simple "Would you go to prom with me?" but instead it's the "prom-posal" and guys will go to all lengths to be creative in their asking. 

Some interesting prom-posals at my school this year involved Post-It Notes printed with the young man's request covering the girl's car, a boy wearing a horse mask coming into class to ask a very embarrassed girl, and a sail on the boy's boat with EMILY PROM? written in duct tape. He sailed by the girl as she was lying on the beach. My female students said the latter was the best invite this year. 

Prom-posal of the year at the high school where I teach

Random group of prom-goers in front of their limobus
Renting a limo or limobus is a must for most of these young prom-goers and the bigger the ride, the better. However, the bigger the ride, the bigger the cost. I have a group of students who are taking a limobus that holds twenty people and it costs $100 per person to go. What the heck? That's $2,000 for the night which shocked me at first. Then I thought about having to drive those twenty teenagers around for several hours while listening to their music and their screaming voices. I quickly decided $2,000 isn't enough money for me to do it. Therefore, limo driver is not a job I will pursue in retirement.

The inside of a limobus

 Other costs for prom can include

  • spray tan = $20
  • dinner = $50
  • flowers = $35
  • pictures = $50
  • hair/makeup/eyebrow wax/nails = $125
  • dress/shoes = $50-$500
  • tux rental = $100
There are other costs that can factor in like entertainment after prom and other food and drink.

All together, in 2014 the average prom cost the couple in the South about $926, with parents paying over half. 

Now if people want to spend that much money to play dress-up and go out with friends for the last time before they graduate, I'm all for it. But in my experience as a two-time prom attender, the actual event is anti-climactic to the preparation -- sort of like my colonoscopy. 

I always built up prom in my mind so that it was going to be a magical night. I fantasized about it for weeks and made it into a fun but romantic event. However, nothing turned out that way. It reminds me of The Great Gatsby and how Jay Gatsby built up Daisy and all the riches surrounding her in his mind but then everything fell flat in the end. All of that dressing-up that Jay did changed nothing.

When my students left my classroom yesterday, I spoke the words I use every Friday -- Stay Safe, Sober and Seat-belted -- to them but also put in some more cautionary words.  I hope that all of the young people going to prom have a wonderful time and the night turns out to be as magical as they imagined. I'm sure I'll hear about it on Monday.

Me at the prom during my sophomore year of high school. I did have a date, a nice young man named Joey Griswold, and we had our picture taken together but I couldn't find one.