Monday, April 14, 2008

Some Enchanted Evening

I heard on the radio this morning that our local Junior League recently hosted an "Operation: Prom Night," during which the members supplied lower-income teenagers with dresses, shoes, haircuts, makeup, accessories, and everything else a girl needs to go to the prom. Except her dignity, of course.

The woman who was interviewed expressed that she was so glad they were able to provide this service and make sure that everyone had an opportunity to have the magical experience of prom night.

Blech. Gag me.

Okay, I went to my prom. I went to two, in fact - mine and my now-husband's. It was fine. My mom made me two very nice dresses. I managed to rub some goop in my hair until it resembled something moderately fashionable and slap on some makeup, and we piled into a limo with our friends to go have pictures taken to commemorate our magical evening. We went downtown and had at 4:30 pm dinner at a fancy restaurant, where I witnessed two girls from my class throwing up their dinners in the bathroom, and then because we had so much time to kill before the actual prom started, we stopped and played a few rounds of mini-golf.

I don't even remember what happened at the prom. Probably a lot of yelling over the DJ and looking at people's watches to find out when we could leave and have fun again. I wasn't that into the prom.

My wedding day was the same way. My mom made me a lovely dress, I rubbed some goop in my hair and stuck a veil on top, put on some lip gloss, and went to church. I shaved my legs in the car. I didn't mean to make light of the importance of the day, but I just wasn't that into making my wedding the Most Perfect Day Ever. My wedding day was pretty close to perfect, but I think it had more to do with my family and husband than magic.

What I'm trying to say is, so much pressure is put on events like prom night for them to be perfect and magical, when in reality prom night is just prom night. And to view it from the perspective of MTV, prom night is an event designed to pressure kids to spend their parents' money, drink heavily, have sex, and ultimately throw up in someone's bushes at an after-party, all in the name of creating a "magical experience."

The prom champions will argue that the prom is a rite of passage, a symbolic event celebrating the end of high school and the entrance into a new phase of life. It is about treasuring friendships and making lifelong memories. And I agree, the prom is an excellent way to do those things. I just don't think it needs to be built up as the most important event in a high school girl's life.

Call me jaded but I can't get excited about Operation: Prom Night. But, my perspective is skewed; going to the prom was not out of reach for me. I understand that this group of do-gooders is simply helping these girls have a nice dress, cute shoes, and pretty jewelry for a party that they might not otherwise be able to afford. And that is what the problem is - the prom should not be a party that people need charity to attend.

I think these girls would be better served by the Junior League donating supplies for their first college dorm room or apartment on their own, and they can just do the makeovers on each other.

I'm not one of the prom picketers who want to see it abolished in exchange for college application essay writing parties. The prom can be a fun event to celebrate the end of high school and these kids should fight for their right to party. But I will do a silent high-five to myself if I have a teenaged daughter someday who tells me she just isn't that into the prom.