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The High School Prom

INTERMEDIATE Vydáno dne 26.08.2008

Jak vypadá takový ‚prom‘, neboli americká obdoba českého maturitního plesu.



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The High School Prom

In my home town, there were at least five public schools and at least five private schools, not including elementary schools or colleges. I went to two of the private schools: one, a Catholic school, which didn't suit me, and the other, a school for kids with learning differences (or disorders).

High school is the time when, instead of sitting in the same seat every day looking at the same teacher for something like seven hours, a student begins to move around and see different teachers, and, in a big enough school, different classmates. Sometime during high school, most students (outside of big cities like NYC) get cars. I almost got a speeding ticket the first time I drove myself to school, but I talked my way out of it. Even then, I knew that my specialty was language, although, unfortunately, I thought it confined to the only one I had been proficient at. If only I had begun seriously studying another language then... As it is, my three years of Spanish were a complete waste of time.

promMy fondest memory of high school, though, was Prom. Most schools only allow Juniors and Seniors to attend the prom, but mine was small enough that it allowed all four years to attend. That doesn't mean, though, that I went to four. Oh no, I went to five. Four during high school, and one two years later as someone's date. Prom was a lot of fun because, in high school, there aren't really opportunities to dress up to that level and go out. So the girls pick dresses, and the smart ones tell their dates what color their wearing. My final prom, I had everything down pat, so I knew enough to ask; the tie and vest on my tux were ivory, just like her dress. The girls get the boys boutonniere to wear on their lapels and the boys get the girls a corsage , a wrist corsage or a bouquet. The tiny world of prom reflects the larger world of fashion and, as a result, there are definite trends in dress styles and flower choice, etc. My first year was a corsage. By the fourth and fifth, I'd moved to bouquet. My last year, one of the guys had accidentally gotten his date a wedding bouquet which, while pretty, wasn't practical. Neither he nor his date cared much because they were freshmen, but, and I know how ridiculous this sounds, all of the seniors took note of it. Prom always carries a lot of drama. My senior year, the head of prom committee, Lauren, tried to get two people removed because, as a couple, they'd decided to dress informally. He wore a suit and she wore a cocktail dress. Some places are more relaxed, but Lauren was a prime example of Old South breeding; she believed in proper etiquette and proper attire, neither of which those two exhibited, apparently.

We paid for prom by selling ads in our yearbook , both to family members who wanted to pay for a message and perhaps an embarrassing picture or two to show up in the back and by businesses who were kind. I don't think anyone really flips through a yearbook and thinks "Hmmm... Luigi's pizza... I should go there." Because being on prom committee required going out and selling the required number of ads, having a car was almost a prerequisite, unless you were particularly skilled in something. I had a car, but my date for three of the proms didn't. She was on the committee because she was fantastically skilled with glitter, among other things. I know that, for my senior prom, we used over five pounds of glitter. Every day for weeks, after all the ads were sold, after we bought our themed prom kit, we worked on cutting out the appropriate shapes, gluing glitter, and assembling parts. We had some sort of aquatic theme.. All I remember about it is hauling the fountain to the Cupola, where we had our prom.
King and Queen of promProm King and Queen are a HUGE deal. Granted, they're a popularity contest, but high school is one big popularity contest. They're always Seniors, and they're elected by their classmates. Say three guys and three girls are elected, then everyone that's able to go to prom gets to vote on who gets to win. Some schools give a special dance or something, but there are sashes and the queen gets a pretty tiara. The king's crown is usually a paper, plastic, and fake fur monstrosity, but the queen's tiara is pretty. My school had prom king, queen, prince, and princess, and my senior year, Lauren decided to get rid of prince and princess, so she did it gradually. She changed them into Mr. and Miss (my school) and made them seniors unlike the previous years when they'd been juniors. I got the Mr. and my date got the Miss. I still have my sash and paper and fake fur monstrosity, too! Mine was smaller than the king's so I didn't get the lovely plastic he got.

There are a couple of prom traditions that are done just about everywhere. Of course, before prom, most people go out to eat and the guy usually pays, although going dutch is not unheard of. Proms are almost always themed, as in, everything will reflect a certain idea. My senior prom was aquatic, so there was a lot of turquoise and there was a fountain. All the couples that wanted one had a little fish attached to the wall with their name written on it in glitter. The themes can be anything. Usually it's something cheesy, like "Eternal Love" or "A Night in Your Arms," and I've never quite understood those because you're pretty much given an arch of balloons and told to go with it. At least we had a fountain! As soon as everyone gets to prom, and the pictures are taken and senior walkout is done, almost all the girls discreetly take off their shoes. They hide them under tables or in corners, but before the end of the night, it's a safe bet that most will have done it. If your school doesn't have many dances, like mine didn't, the younger the guy is, the less likely he is to dance. That means that you'll see clusters of girls on the dance floor, except, of course, for slow dances. During the first slow dance of my senior year prom, Lauren (jokingly) told me to "keep plenty of room for the Holy Spirit." I reminded her of that later on when I caught her necking. Officially, prom ends at something like midnight or one, but no one goes home. My group always went to the closest Waffle House to have some more time to hang out and to have some food after dancing for four or more hours. Normally, one does not go to a place like Waffle House wearing nice clothes, but all is forgiven on prom night. Some people go bowling. Others still might go to an after party at someone's house. It just depends on one's taste. Personally, I hate bowling. Oh! And those that can afford it usually get a limo. My senior year, our (kind of) friend got a limo for free, so we all got to ride in it, even though we didn't really like him.
My last prom, the one where I wasn't in high school any more, my date won Prom Queen, and half way through the night, she put her crown and sash down for some reason. I didn't want her to forget them, but I could think of anything better to do than put them on myself. So I did. After a while, I just forgot I had them on and no one really noticed or, if they did, didn't care. We got the weirdest looks when we went to Waffle House... Again, though, everything is forgiven on prom night.

Note: The pictures are from my last prom, the one I went to as a non-student. I couldn't be prom king because of that, unfortunately...

Footnotes:

  • boutonnière: A small cluster of flowers worn on the lapel of a coat, like a tux or a blazer. Usually, it's a rose and a spray of baby's breath.
  • corsage: A slightly larger cluster of flowers that are pinned somewhere on the dress, so hope your date's dress isn't made of stiff material.
  • yearbook: A book that has everyone's picture in it, divided by year/class. Usually they're pretty awful pictures... I know mine all are. Seniors get special sections... and color photos.
  • going Dutch: Splitting the bill. I have no clue where this expression comes from, but it's extremely common in the States.
  • senior walkout: A special moment where each Senior is announced along with his or her date and all the underclassmen get to ooh and aah over them.

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