Limos in restaurant parking lots, giggly teen girls spilling out the backseat in colorful evening gowns exposing more flesh than necessary, falling over themselves because they are wearing heels made for manequins, followed by gangling teens boys trying to appear in control, but looking overwhelmed in tuxedos designed for male physiques that don’t slouch. It must be that time of year again: prom season.
It’s a magical time of year, they tell me. Magical for teens, perhaps. It’s a mystifying time, if you happen to be a prom mom. My heart goes out to parents everywhere around this time, moms especially, who are in a struggle with their teens (wanna-be adults) about this important rites-of-passage season when, in the minds of teens, all rules are up for debate and renegotiation. Moms everywhere, hold your ground. This is no time to succumb to fairy tales.
I am the mother of a teen. She is not a senior, but her date is. The two of us, mother and daughter that is, went to the mall a month before the prom looking for a prom dress. Correction: she took me to the mall to pay for the dress she and her girlfriends had decided on as the right one for her. “No way! How about this one?” (my words). “Yuk!” (her word).
Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. Makeup, the shoes, the hairstyle, the nails, the tote, the right bra, the bouttonniere for the date. Where to go to dinner beforehand, where to hang out afterward? It all had to be perfect, she told me, because everyone was watching. I rolled my eyes and stared.
Those of you who know me from this blog will be proud of me. I kept quiet, for the most part. I decided against spoiling it for the-teenager-who-lives-in-my-house. I kept my feminist/womanist observations to myself. It was difficult, but I managed. No rants. About glorified beauty pageants. About this being nothing but a rehearsal for wedding fantasies. About this smacking of barbie dolls and female slave trade. No diatribe about proms being part of a larger capitalist, patriarchal, bourgeoise, heterosexist plot to dupe girls into believing…into fantasizing…… into buying, buying buying… Except for that one argument there in the store about a dress that exposed much too much flesh for my taste, I smiled and kept my mouth shut.
When boxes and bags kept coming up from the garage, I smiled and pretended not to notice. When the-teenager-wh0-lives-in-my-house interrupted me at my desk to model her various prom acquisitions, I looked up and nodded. But I nearly lost it when she brought out the shoes! “Suppose you had to get away. You can’t run in those!” I thought. I stared over my glasses and grunted. She laughed because she knew what I was thinking because she’s heard it all before.
The whole prom season thing makes me a little reflective. I remember my junior and senior proms like they were yesterday. My date(s) and I had an amazing time and it was a great way to end those last years of my high school experience.
But, gosh, have things changed since I was a teen getting ready for prom season.
For one thing, prom night begins a lot earlier. It was still daylight when the-teenager-who-lives-in-my-house pulled off with her date. That’s because she and all her friends had reservations for a pre-prom meal at a local restaurant. And unlike my prom night when the only audience around to witness my big night were my parents and a gaggle of snickering brothers and sisters, family and friends started pouring into around 4pm to snap photos of the-teenager-who-lives-in-my-house and her date (all invited by the-teenager-who-lives-in-my-house). (Is it me, or does it seem that e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e has a digital camera. What a narcissistic generation!) Among those who dropped by were even members of the date’s family. There were hors d’ oeuvres on hand for all to eat. I wore make-up. My husband had on shoes. It was a wonderful afternoon, but all so strange to me.
And what’s this I hear about parents renting buses or condos or hotel rooms for after prom partying and sleepovers for their prom night teens and their friends? The teenager in my house knew better than to ask. Certainly, my generation of prom goers tried staying out all night—your senior night, that is– or certainly staying out as late as you could get away with without being cuffed when you stepped over the threshold back home. But parents renting a place for an after party where those who want can crash and sleep over. Wow! (I’m sure someone is going to write to tell me that it makes sense because it keeps drunk teens from getting behind steering wheels. Uh huh.)
“This is your curfew. Don’t make me have to come looking for you,” my husband said the-teenager-who-lives-in-my-house. To her date he turned and said: “Get my daughter back here on time, and bring her back the way she left.” Which is cave man, I believe, for “She belongs to me, not you; and don’t you forget it.” Fortunately, not everything has changed.
So, there you have it: I kept my rants to myself, because—well, because, for everything there is a season. A time to teach, and a time to pray that what you’ve taught will be put to good use. A time to yell and scream, and a time to trust and pray.
I kept quiet, but I did manage to embarrass the-teenager-who-lives-in-my-house by passing around to everyone gathered that afternoon an old picture of myself on prom night back in the day. LOL. (It was back when a girl who took home ec could quite possibly, with her mom’s help, make her own prom dress. Why am I not smiling? Hey, I’m a serious sister. Always have been)