Prom Season, Part 2: What the Prom Pressure?!
By Danielle Hrachovec
Here in my central Indiana traditionally fundamentalist community, one thing could be predicted when I told people that I was not going to prom this past Saturday. That one thing was the look of disgust and horror and even sympathy people gave me. The only thing I think I got more was the, “Oh, sweetie, you are too pretty to not be asked to prom!” How, in a society where women are becoming more independent from an early age, can a school dance maintain its Eisenhower-era gender expectations?
First off, why is the first thing that people assumed was that I was not asked out to the dance? Should I really have wanted to, I could have scrounged myself up a date. I know that’s unorthodox, but if a girl wants to go to a dance with a boy, SHE COULD JUST ASK THE BOY HERSELF (or idk, goodness knows, go sans homme). You may be thinking, well isn’t that why we have Sadie Hawkins dances? Sadie Hawkins dances have existed out of that premise, but maybe we need to stop labeling those as the only acceptable times for girls to ask out boys because this whole desperate “beg fest” is really starting to get annoying.
One teenager in Pennsylvania (which is actually not in the Midwest, proving that this isn’t a purely regional issue) was actually denied admission to her school’s prom because she didn’t have a date. Just because her date was, pardon my French, a last-minute ditching asshole, she couldn’t go at all unless another boy perchance asked her out. And while some schools welcome LGBT same-sex couples, others, such as Itawamba County Board Education in Fulton Mississippi in 2010, are inflexible about allowing same-sex couples go to the big dance, and actually cancelled prom just at the thought of it. In both of these cases, high schools are teaching the wrong lesson, that not only do you need a date, it must be of the opposite sex, regardless of your own orientation.
Prom is not about being you and having fun, it is one hundred percent about conformity to society’s comfort level. Schools are adding fuel to a fire of frenzied taffeta-adorned young women who will stop at nothing to attract male arm candy with which they can take pictures and make mistakes.
Secondly, why is prom such a big deal in our culture that not having a date is the only acceptable excuse to skip? As in my case, I had a potential date, but going to prom with him simply wasn’t going to fit into my schedule. Let me explain. Saturday, May 5, I had the SATs in the morning, and I am taking my AP Literature and AP US History exams this week. Call me crazy, but I would rather be able to worry about getting enough sleep (and heaven knows- STUDY!) so that I can do well on my future-forming test scores than worry about what shoes will best match a gaudy gown that I know I’m just going to wear once to get my grind on. Shouldn’t a young girl’s academics always come before a social outing that just gives her an excuse to dress up? Disclaimer: I get really bad test anxiety and never perform as well as I could unless I have fully prepared. Not all students need all of that work, and I recognize that. This is more so my rant on why I do not like peoples’ reaction to my missing prom. This is NOT me saying everyone who goes to prom is a bad student.
According to some sources, academics and other activities should not be before prom on the list of priorities, and men should always be involved. Magazines, like Seventeen and special prom magazines, remind girls year-round that this is the most important day of their high school careers. Question: what about graduation? What about scholarship recognition night? What about banquets acknowledging their accomplishments? Shouldn’t those be the highlights of high school? Must we really resort to a $60 ticket that allows us to dance awkwardly for four hours, after spending an average of $250 to $400 on a dress, make-up, nails, hair, tanning, soul cleansing, etc, and then go to an after party that will make us regret the entire night (not that the majority of teens do this, but the stigma’s there)? Let me ask you, is that really the most important day of high school? What has been accomplished? What has been done? How is anyone a better person for having gone to prom?
Maybe I just don’t get it because I’m a junior in high school who has never been to prom. Maybe there is this inherent mystique that makes putting on a ball gown and getting sweaty a better option than studying and taking school seriously. Maybe being asked out to prom in a romantic way really is the coolest thing since sliced bread. However, any mystique there may be is not going to replace a college admissions letter. Any natural charm is not going to be greater than the feeling of success when the College Board sends high test scores. And for that reason alone, I am more than cool with being home alone in my pajamas with my Chai latte and an open textbook while my friends are with their beaus in beautiful gowns with gorgeous corsages. I mean, whatevs.