Hundreds of dollars spent on a single night. A messy attempt to organize a herd of hormonal adolescents. Drama that could damage friendships for a lifetime. It caused one of my friends so much stress that she considered harming herself. It made another friend screenshot several posts in a Facebook group, just so I could see a cat fight unfold. Girls at each others’ necks, hunting for dates no matter what it takes. Some call it a good time.
I call it prom.
Let’s lessen the melodrama for a paragraph or two. Even though I didn’t go to prom, I know several people who did who had a fabulous time. Spending time with friends can be worth the financial strain, the idea of dressing up and going out for a night does sound rewarding with the right people, and it’s a cherished high school tradition. The point of this post isn’t that you shouldn’t go to prom. It isn’t that you won’t have fun if you go to prom. It’s that, in the end, it’s your choice if you want to go to prom – and you shouldn’t attend just because you feel forced to.
I overheard a conversation a couple of weeks ago in which a girl literally called a male friend “wimpy” and “not manly” because he didn’t ask any of his female friends to prom yet. As a feminist I find this offensive, as well as the notion that the male must always advance upon the female. Doesn’t that reinforce gender roles and stereotypes by stating that a man’s value is based on his ability to propose or accost, while women must wait submissively to be solicited? If we consider women equal to men in terms of mental strength, societal expectations, and opportunity (which they should be) why are we castigating men for taking on the traditional “female” role and vice versa?
Prom promotes tradition. It’s tradition that you fork over a lot of money for a dress you might wear once or twice and a festive dinner, it’s tradition that the guy ask the girl out in a cute or unexpected way, it’s tradition that you go to prom with a group of people and stress over organizing how many will fit in a limo, what heels to wear, the color of your hair, etc. There are people who want to go to prom with members of the opposite sex just for the sake of doing so – even if they dislike their dates. Prom has been around for years, long enough for our parents to tell us that it was one of the best nights of their lives or one of the biggest things they regret not going to.
The point of prom is to have fun. If you enjoy abiding by all of the traditional aspects of the event, go for it. But, at least for me, agonizing over the amount of people going in your group or trying to conform to others’ standards even if they don’t meet your own wastes your time when you could be having the night of your life. It’s still your choice even if your peers tell you otherwise.
And it’s your choice whether you want to go at all. Just like everything else in high school – the drugs, the sex, the gossip – prom is optional. If you prefer spending your time reading or watching Queer as Folk or going out to dinner with a small group of friends, then do that. Don’t feel obligated to sacrifice your chance to have fun just for the sake of tradition. Whether it’s going to every football game, engaging in a high school relationship, joining National Honor Society, or Choir, or Book Club, it’s all up to you.
Like life, you can only experience high school once
u nless you have to redo grades or you become a teacher or you believe in reincarnation or whatever. But if you do it right, if you do it your way – once is enough.
Anyone agree or disagree about prom, the idea of the male always asking the girl out, or tradition in general?
Speaking of tradition, I’m finally reading the Harry Potter series! Partly because the college I’m attending in the fall is the number one school in the nation for HP fans, but mostly because it’s been on my to-read list for forever. You can check out my brief thoughts on the first book here. Tomorrow I’m watching the last few episodes of Queer as Folk with two of my best friends and I’m ready to cry out every last tear in my oh-so emotionally drained body. Expect that fanboy post soon. Very, very soon.