I tried looking up the history of prom this week. There were articles from Bustle, Time, and the all-time lazy favorite, Wikipedia.
I was genuinely curious about why these things have been going on for so long, why there is still pressure on teenagers for them, and what the patriarchy had to do with it (a constant question, honestly).
It was sort of what I expected. Back in the day (the technical term), there were grand balls for ladies where they’d be brought out officially into public, essentially a time that would declare that this woman was now available to charm into marrying. Since balls didn’t stick around forever, and public schools were The Thing, to me it made sense that they continued to use the same sort of idea, but for everyone to play pretend that they were adults because, hey, you dress up nice, maybe have a fancy dinner, have a nice car…
But the proms, from what I’ve read, went from simply wearing your Sunday Best to rather extravagant extremes. While Tamu and I paid small amounts to look great, and may have had those around us create their own dresses/tuxes, the typical high schools that my friends went to? Some people were spending $500 on a dress!
And that’s where I ask the question: Is a prom so important to spend such a fortune?
I can see it from both points. This is a day for most teenagers that is a passage of going into adulthood. It should be enjoyed, celebrated, and, quite frankly, can be quite the ego boost when you’ve bought your clothes and are surrounded by the fancy attire. Although Tamu and I didn’t have Prom King/Queen, that’s probably fun, too. Everyone voting democratically for a monarchy. Plus, tradition. It’s been going on for so many years, it’s a notable event in every single novel/movie/television show that depicts high school students. And it’s a popular enough tradition that it’s basically world-wide.
However, it is also…just one night that, while I personally remember it being fun, it wasn’t the highlight of my youth. It isn’t in the top ten moments of my life. And I cannot imagine spending so much money on something before starting college–nothing like starting out in debt to more debt (although, maybe people would argue that’s just America. *bah-dum-dum tishhhh*). I guess my main point here would be that if I hadn’t gone to prom, I don’t think my life would have changed significantly.
And yet… I guess I’m still in favor of prom when it comes down to it. I have seen some really amazing things come out of this tradition, mostly as it becomes less traditional. For instance, prom is also considered a time to show off yourself with your couple. While this can be too much pressure for those of us without a partner, many LGBTQ teenagers are going with their partners.
In the end, the importance of prom is what you make it, I suppose. Tamu and I had a great time with friends, dancing and laughing. I have heard stories of terrible proms and fantastic proms. I know people who married the person they went to prom with. If you didn’t go, it probably didn’t change your life for the worse. And if you did? You’ve got a memory long faded that will emerge once again at your 10/20/30 year reunion, complete with photos you’d probably well forget anyway.
What about your prom? Let us know if you had a Pretty in Pink situation, or if you forewent the event to watching a film instead.