A Post About Prom (And Why You Don’t Have to Go)

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.

While I didn't go to prom, I did go to graduation! Here's a picture of me and one of my close Governor School friends.

While I didn’t go to prom, I did go to graduation! Here’s a picture of me and one of my close Governor School friends.

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 unless 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.

Some say you shouldn't make your desktop background a picture of the best TV pairing in existence. I say, too bad.

Some say you shouldn’t make your desktop background a picture of the best TV pairing in existence. I say, too bad.

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.


Filed under Society

43 responses to “A Post About Prom (And Why You Don’t Have to Go)

  1. Nice picture, and congratulations on your graduation! (Note to self: stop rhyming.) I assume you graduated a while ago, but I don’t think I said congratulations, so… yeah. Anyway.

    I am undecided about prom for a variety of reasons. I can’t even go to the public-school proms unless my date is a student there, as I’m homeschooled. More importantly, it seems like a ton of money and fuss that may or may not be wasted. I might go just for “research purposes” so I can write accurately about prom*, but I don’t really see myself going with a date. (Hey! Another research idea! I’ll go out with someone, dump them immediately after the prom, and be able to write about how mad that makes them. Um… no.)

    Yay, I’m excited to read your thoughts about HP, especially when you reach the third book! (It’s my favorite.) I am veeeeeery slowly rereading the series this summer and wondering why I forgot how long it is.

    *I do a variety of weird/funny/possibly foolish things for writing “research”.

    • I just graduated a week ago, no worries! And ha, I’ve done some strange things for “research” too, though you could always ask a friend how prom went or just read about it online or in other books! But I suppose one of the best parts of writing about an experience is relaying the emotions that you’ve lived through yourself. I hope we both enjoy HP, even if you’re rereading it and I’m just starting it! Thanks for reading and commenting as always. (:

  2. Totally agree! Prom for me was nothing but stress. I actually ended up going to three proms except for all three, the girl asked me. I’m gay and I knew there was no chance that I was going the traditional path of asking a girl. Just wasn’t going to happen. In the end, there was so much drama surrounding prom that I almost wanted to skip it altogether. I did end up going in the end but I’m not sure if I had fun or not… ugh.

    • Aw, I’m sorry you didn’t have the best time at prom. ): It was nice of you to accompany your friends though, despite your reluctance to participate.

  3. Jenny

    Congratulations on graduating!!!!!!!! :DDDDDDDDDD
    Also, it’s awesome that you decided not to go to prom–I know people tend to feel obligated to go as a senior, and you were just like “Nope, I refuse the status quo because it goes against my values and I have better things to do” (or something like that).
    I definitely agree that prom is a lot about tradition, although I know that in my school at least, “tradition” has started to crumble. I was really excited to see that one of the five plays this year in my school’s student-written/acted/directed/produced play festival-thing was about these two guys falling in love and at the end they kissed onstage and it was kind of beautiful. (^o^)

    • Thanks Jenny! Yeah, I had fun reading and watching the season three finale of Queer as Folk instead of going to prom. (: It’s great that your school allowed such a play to be produced and acted! That’s insane and even more special because it was all done by the students. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. The feminist in me completely agrees with you that girls should ask out guys, too. The coward in me says guys should do all the asking. 😀 Seriously, though, you’re absolutely right.

    You’re right about prom, too. I didn’t go to prom when I was in high school. I hated dancing and dressing up and wearing make up (and generally being around people), so going didn’t really make sense. People kept saying I would regret it later, but it’s been six years since I graduated, and I haven’t regretted it for a moment. I agree with you – if you want to go because it sounds fun, then you should absolutely go. But no one should ever feel forced to go. And going with people you don’t like just for the sake of going – that doesn’t make any sense to me.

    I keep meaning to watch QaF. It sounded good. Also – you’re just now reading Harry Potter?!?! I usually hate all those extra punctuation marks, but I think it’s justified here. That series was such a huge part of my childhood! The last book came out the year I graduated high school. It was very emotional. And I’ll stop rambling now. 🙂 I hope you enjoy it!

    • Well it’s all up to personal preference – girls shouldn’t be forced to ask guys out, but they shouldn’t be shamed for doing so either.

      I’m glad that you don’t regret not going to prom, I’m sure that makes me and a bunch of others feel better! But it’s great that you skipped out and feel no sadness about it, that means you made the right decision. (:

      Just published a review of QaF, if you need any more incentive to watch it maybe you can read it? And sigh, I’m sorry, I know I’m really behind but I will catch up this summer! Don’t apologize for the use of punctuation marks, HP is definitely a crowd favorite. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  5. With HP, its never too late to read it. Glad you’re picking it up!

  6. Congratulations on Graduating Thomas :). Amazing things are in store for you I’m sure! And I really hope you enjoy HP! As for Prom, it is definitely one of those drama filled times.I remember there were tears because of seating arrangements and what not. What I personally didn’t understand was that most of the time you weren’t going to be seated, you were going to be on the dancefloor so sharing a table with someone you may not have liked/didn’t know that well didn’t seem like a big deal to me. Anyways I can’t believe it was 5 years ago for me! I’m very glad to have that past me now. I hope you have an awesome Summer and enjoy University of course!

    • Thank you! Yeah, I think people may lose their view of the big picture when under times of stress, even concerning things that aren’t too significant like seating arrangements at prom. Once again, thanks, and I hope your summer is full of great books and fun as well!

  7. I went to my prom but I remember being annoyed that everyone was required to have a date. I had a boyfriend at the time so it wasn’t a big deal for me, but I some of my single friends were really stressed out about finding a date. The guy I was with at the time didn’t even like to dance so I spent the whole night dancing with my girlfriends anyway. I get that it’s “tradition” to have the guy ask the girl and everything, but it would be nice if everyone could choose whether they wanted to bring a date or just go with a fun group of friends.

    Congrats on graduation and finally starting Harry Potter! Which school is the number one for Harry Potter fans and how did I not know about it???

    • Wow, do you mean that your school literally required people to bring dates? Or was that just one of the unwritten social rules? My school doesn’t force people to bring dates but many feel compelled to just because it’s tradition – I agree that it’s more fun to go with a great group of friends and enjoy yourself than with someone you cannot even tolerate.

      Thank you! It’s The College of William and Mary. (:

  8. Phil Martin

    I feel like school dances in general are overrated.

  9. I went to prom. Planning out everything took more effort than I thought it would, but it was well worth it in my opinion. Spending time with friends in a setting other than school for a change was nice. I didn’t spend an exorbitant amount – I think I spent less than $200? Ok, that’s a lot, but it’s a lot less than my mom was (strangely) planning on and willing to to pay for. But then again, my friends and I didn’t totally abide by tradition. In my friend group, all of the girls asked out guys if they wanted dates. And if they didn’t, they just went stag. No biggie. The biggest problem we had was reserving a restaurant. We wanted to eat at the Cheesecake Factory, but they don’t take reservations. Sadly.

    • It’s great that you didn’t experience any of the anxiety or stress some associate with prom! Saving money and not completely abiding by tradition are two smart routes to take when it comes to prom. Yeah, my local Cheesecake Factory doesn’t take reservations either – for you I guess it was only a small hitch in your plan though. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  10. Congratulations on your graduation! I probably won’t go to my formal either (we don’t call it prom here in Australia), my last one only caused me a headache!

  11. Nancy

    Thomas, thank you kindly for writing this post!! Next year is my senior year and everyone’s so excited about their prom, but I’m not one of them. I can’t see how fun it’ll be dishing out hundreds of dollars for a couple of hours with a lot of people I’m not even fond of when I could just be spending the day with my close friends just hanging out. One of my friends said she wanted every one of our friends to be there together to celebrate and enjoy our final year and while I agree that it does sound like a nice idea, I just don’t think prom is my kind of thing. Staying at home reading or watching TV is where I wanna be.
    And I’m so glad you’ve finally started on the amazingly brilliant and beautiful epic that is Harry Potter!!!! I hope you love it just as much as all the Potterheads out there and best of luck with college in the fall! I know you’ll be absolutely pulchritudinous in whatever you do or which ever path you go down 🙂 Keep us updated!

    • You’re right, you should do what pleases you – if you’re just going to be uncomfortable during prom, then it’s not really a celebration, is it? And like you said you can always hang out with a smaller, closer group of friends to commemorate the end of high school together. That’s what I’ve been doing and it’s working out well!

      Thanks for all of your kind words Nancy! I hope I love HP too and I love your use of the word “pulchritudinous.” (:

  12. Elayna

    The introvert in me would rather have a hyphy dance party in the shower, sing a duet (with myself, of course) while making dinner, or having a nice conversation with a friend. It’s all about preference. I share the same view. Touché, my friend. I agree on your whole shpeal on gender roles. I once asked a guy out on a date and it was apparently a big deal to the world. Can’t say that I really miss the good ‘ole days…

    • I’m glad we agree on so many aspects of prom and gender roles Elayna! Yeah, it really shouldn’t have been a big deal… thanks for reading and commenting.

  13. Congratulations on graduation! It’s a shame that a beautiful event like a prom can be ruined by stress.

  14. I never went and I don’t regret it at all LOL

  15. forestofthedead

    I went to my prom and it was fun. It wasn’t that stressful, because there’s no ‘hunting for dates’, there’s no “Who are you going with?” so I guess that makes things easier. And I just read on Wikipedia that in US, the cost of prom averages more than $1000 per family, which is insane – there’s no way that I’d go if I had to pay that much.
    Queer As Folk is amazing! I need to watch that show again.
    Hope you’re enjoying the Harry Potter series. I adore those books.

    • No drama would alleviate a lot of the anxiety surrounding prom, and while I’m not sure Wikipedia is a reliable source, I know several friends who spent several hundred dollars on it – I wouldn’t be surprised if wealthier individuals spent upward of $1000.

      Finally, someone on WordPress who watches Queer as Folk! (: And yep, I finished the first one and it was pretty good, looking forward to the second!

  16. I never went to a prom. It wasn’t for me. Dressing up. Being asked out. I didn’t know how to “be” this “normal”. I didn’t have anything but fear. I didn’t know how to belong. Sorry for continuing the melodrama. 🙂

    Though I know many of my friends had a wonderful time. And my kids wanted to go to theirs which I enjoyed with them. But…I couldn’t make myself be a part of something that was beyond my grasp.

    I do think it has gotten ridiculously out of hand with costs and expectations.

    (PS….I could NOT get in to HP books. I tried. COuldn’t do it.)

    • Don’t apologize, I’m sure there are several of us who share those feelings of isolation and ostracization! I’m glad you decided not to go, despite any ideas society forced upon you. It’s also great that you enjoyed prom with your children even though the costs and expectations have risen almost unreasonably.

      I suppose you’re one of the rare few who don’t like HP! Though maybe not that rare – we all have our tastes. (:

      • I did have fun with my kids. I was never girly/girly and my girls were more girly than I could ever be. I enjoyed them feeling beautiful and special (though I didn’t need the prom to show me that).

        I so badly wanted to get in to HP because my youngest REALLY loved it. The new books always came out on her birthday (convenient to know what to get her). But I just couldn’t…..sigh.

  17. justanember

    Well you know how I felt about senior prom LOL //cries.

    Yes, the planning sucked ass. But the main reason it caused me so much stress was because I went in a group consisting of people I mostly didn’t know, and the sheer size of it was annoying.

    I like looking fabulous. I like having dinner with friends. I like dancing friends. What happened was my hair fell apart after half an hour, I was forced to “take one for the team” and have dinner at a table with people I didn’t like, and I kept losing everyone at actual prom, so I ended up just making out with my boyfriend most of the night. Which, granted, isn’t a bad way to spend a night, but I could’ve done it in a much more cost effective way.

    As far as gender roles go, I did ask him because he’s my honey bunny, and we only devised that giant show because I wanted to win the free ticket contest since saving money is nice.

    Prom is for anyone that likes to party. I’m not a partier, so that’s why I didn’t enjoy myself in particular. Also I hate our senior class, but that’s another story.

    Great post though! You didn’t miss anything bro.

    • Aw, as you already know I’m so sorry that prom didn’t go well for you. ): It’s great that your boyfriend was there for you and that you averted gender roles to have a good time though! You should never force yourself to associate with individuals who you dislike. Thanks for reading and commenting, at least it’s over!

  18. Oooh, congrats on graduating Thomas!! I’m been a bit awol and missed all your wonderful posts, but you must be feeling so good right now. It’s all paid off, my friend. And there are even more good things to come =]

    And duuuuude. I say wallpaper that sucker with that OTP. I watched a few clips of just Brian and Justin’s story and errmmaghheerrrdd *fans self* It’s – GAH. It’s so touching and unexpected. Also hot. Almost too hot for me to handle. And I love…Debbie, is it? Michael’s mom? Been awhile since I watched them. Need to go and finish it.

    And yeah, prom. So many expectation that society places on itself you know? It was weird – I always managed to dissociate myself from drama somehow for most of highschool, for which I can only be grateful when I hear everyone else’s stories. But I am definitely not surprised that people would put that kind of pressure to have the best outfit, the best date, the best night etc. I ended up going with a few friends in the end and had a lot of fun. But yes, people should do what they’re comfortable with and it boggles my mind to see them suffering for things/people they don’t care about. Meh. We all have to learn it ourselves I guess.

    Oh and welcome to Harry Potter!! *Queue theme music* Ok, sorry, this comment is really long and you’re always so diligent about replying to all the comments as well. Anyways, congratulations again! Because it requires two congratulations. And looking good in your pic! Looking forward to your QaF review.

    • Thank you, I’ve missed your comments! Yeah Brian and Justin are quite the attractive couple, but their chemistry is what really gets me – it’s so genuine and well-acted and just pulchritudinous. I hope you get around to watching however much left you have of the show, it is worth it!

      I’m glad you were able to avoid drama in high school and that you had a great time at prom with a few friends – that’s the way it should be, whatever makes it fun! But it is an important lesson to learn on our own or with the help of a few others.

      Don’t apologize for long comments, I love them; I love replying to them too, especially from people like you! Thanks again for reading and commenting after this time apart and for all your compliments. (:

  19. Amy

    Haha. I went to prom, but I only went for the experience, so that in the future, I could tell people I went. Honestly, I picked out a dress from my closet and went in that, and my date was a friend of mine. Prom was lots of fun, and it was nice to see everyone all dressed up and looking clean-cut (for once, haha).

    Moral of the story: drama and lots of spending typically accompany prom, but they’re not completely necessary. It’s really your choice whether or not you want to cause a scene, and it’s your choice whether or not you want to throw money away for an outfit you’ll probably only wear once.

    • You’re an example of how prom can be a great occasion. (: It’s fantastic that you went about it your way and had a fun time as a result! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  20. Looking smart in your graduating gear.

  21. Over here prom isn’t a staple (however I do see its popularity rising), the Christmas parties are but even then there isn’t any pressure to have a date, though certain vices are indulged (I don’t expect otherwise).

    Generally – though I’ve never been to one – I don’t think it’s worth it mostly because of the pressure but if your a person who can choose to ignore some of it and just chill with good company, that’s cool but there are a lot of sensitive kids who feel as they must conform and embracing all that stress is supposed to be a part of it.
    Like you said, it’s up to that you. Me? A Lord of the Rings movie or a HP book (by the way I’m so excited to hear your thoughts on the other books in the series!) and some hot chocolate; perfect, well spent night right there.

    What that girl said is ironic, they can’t have it both ways; a swooning-damsel-in-distress type and madam-independent. Calling that guy names is just, well, wrong. Boys should be the only ones to approach a potential date.

    For the most part I think tradition is stability, but like everything, it really depends on what one tradition is like. There are the good and the bad stuff, on the bright side it ties us to the past generations, giving this warm feeling of belonging and completion on some level for me. It seem that you had a nice time at graduation! I’ve been off the grid for a while now but I’m catching up 😉

    • Devina it’s so great to hear from you again! Even though I think we diverge when it comes to our opinions on tradition (I remember we had a similar discussion to one of my past posts about cross-dressing), I agree that it’s up to the individual to decide what he or she wants to do. Thank you for reading and commenting and I hope you’re doing well.

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