Apr 27 2012
I was trying to remember my high school prom the other morning: How I did my hair. What my makeup looked like. If I had dropped anywhere near $1,000.
On shoes. On a limo. On my nails. On a dinner in a fancy restaurant where other diners stared at me and wondered, “Is that socially-awkward dufus the future of America?”
No, $1,000 was never in my prom budget. Probably closer to $32.50, thanks to a coupon.
But it turns out $1,000 is what most families with teenagers plan to spend on proms this year. That’s according to a survey from VISA, the credit card company behind a lot of that spending. They say it’s a jump of 33.6 percent over 2011. (The survey didn’t give a reason for the major increase, but I expect it has to do with a new $271 jet pack that boys will rent to impress their dates.)
The numbers floored me. That a high school dance — a dance! — could put you back so much money. There’s the limo ride, the food, the cheesy photos that come in dust-free cases. That way they’ll be protected when put in a drawer that won’t be opened for 37 years.
What have things come to? Why have proms taken on such high importance? To me it was a chore, not something to get excited about … or to file Chapter 11 over.
I always hated the fuss. Like being fitted for a tux — trying on countless germ-infested trousers at a questionable rental store that was surely a front for a drug gang. “Man, are you going to look good in that. Now, you also need to drop this package off at 321 West Elm.”
When I picked up the tux, it never fit like it was supposed to. So they would start pulling straps and levers to sinch me up, and thereby stopping the regular flow of blood through my body. I was only given a 50-50 chance of fathering children after that.
It was stiff and shiny, made from a fabric that came with a big, orange warning label that read: “Do not expose to direct sunlight. Do not expose to temperatures over 86 degrees. Do not wear during strenuous activity. May spontaneously combust. If flames ensue, stop, drop and die away from innocent bystanders.”
If you were lucky, the style of your right shoe also matched your left.
Then there was the corsage. My mother was always on hand for this. She figured it her specialty and knew the language to speak — tussie-mussies, baby’s breath, posies, nosegays. Nosegays!?! What the heck was a “nosegay?” How do you even come up with a name like that? Does it mean, “happy snort?”
Corsages were a foreign land that I endeavored not to travel. All I knew was I dropped hard-earned money for them and got something that came in a plastic container normally reserved for restaurant leftovers. Classy.
I don’t remember a limo at my senior prom. Probably because I took my 1965 white Mustang.
It was a super-cool, stylish way to arrive anywhere. Well, provided the carburetor wasn’t acting up and I didn’t stall out along the way. Nothing impressed a girl more than an asthmatic carburetor, burping and sputtering down the road. It lurched and shook with every touch of the gas, and had the acceleration of ketchup poured from a refrigerated bottle.
God forbid it got bad enough that I had to pull over, grab a screwdriver and climb under the hood for a few adjustments. Grease and carburetor choke spray were definitely a no-no for the exploding tuxedo.
The Mustang had old timey seat belts that only secured your waist. My date liked that there was no shoulder strap to wrinkle her dress. I didn’t mention that if we crashed, the belts would likely cut us in two. But, damn, we would make good looking corpses!
I remember prom as a death-defying event, but not terribly expensive. Not like it is today. For the most part it was just a dance. A chance to get out, to dress up and to have a good time.
Not to drop gobs of money. Not on a night that would end up in a drawer that isn’t opened for 37 years.