C'est Cheese!

 

 

 

 

Shitty in Pink

I was at the bookstore the other week, picking up some reading material for my flight to Chicago, when I saw that the teen section of the magazine rack had headlines that screamed "Prom Bliss! Your Complete Guide" and "Special Section: Prom Style! The Looks! The Dresses! The GUYS!" and "Everything You Need for the Prom!"

Ahhh. It’s that time of year again.

*****

Jessica twirled before her sister. She looked stunning in a slinky red silk formal with a wide embroidered belt and black sandal heels. Long rhinestone earrings dangled from her ears. She looked as though she’d stepped out of the pages of Cosmopolitan—which was exactly the look she was after.

*****

Needless, when I was a teen, I craved madly the Prom editions of ’Teen and Seventeen magazines. Having bought into all that Sweet Dreams/Sweet Valley nonsense in Junior High, is it any surprise that one of Teen-Aged Dwanollah’s Biggest Dreams was to go to The Prom?

The Prom! Oh, yes!

Imagine…. Ordinary me, transformed, a la Cinderella, into a creature of inexpressible femininity and beauty. Left-out me, spending fun-filled hours with a best girlfriend, doing our hair and makeup before double-dating with our boys. Lonely and pathetic me, being swept up and whisked off by some impossibly handsome and sophisticated Dream Boy who loved me more than anything. Clumsy me, skimming across a dance floor with Dream Boy in a graceful waltz- Why, the Prom was the culmination of beauty, fashion, friendship and romance, a mythical coming-of-age experience, all wrapped up in one fantastic, taffeta, glitter-ball-sprinkled package!

*****

… Kathy found the perfect dress. It was made of silky, opaque fabric, pale coral and faintly shimmering under the store lights. The skirt flared out from her hips and fell in glowing folds around her. The top hugged her slender form closely, and the thin straps crossed in back.

*****

When I was in 7th grade, I innocently started reading the aforementioned YA paperbacks and teen magazines. I’d always been fairly ignorant of high school life up ‘til then… I bet you I couldn’t’ve told you the difference between a Prom and the SATs. But in a matter of weeks, thanks to Dream Prom and Night of the Prom and "Be Prom-Perfect Pretty!" and "…the white strapless dress was perfect with [Elizabeth’s] tanned skin and blond hair," I got a crash-course. Quicker than you can say "Pretty in Pink," I became obsessed with All Things Prom.

One of the things that appealed to me most about a Prom was the opportunity to wear a full-skirted, foofy formal dress. I was (and kinda still am) a total girly-girly girl at heart. When I was younger, I’d wanted ruffley dresses with ribbons and sashes… curls tied with Nellie Oleson-like bows… patent leather Mary Janes. I cursed the fact that I wasn’t born in the fifties when I could’ve worn layers of crinoline petticoats! But, alas for me, Mother was super-contemporary, and thought I looked better in cute pantsuits or natty shorts sets with a short, gamine-like hair cut. (Chill out, Mom… I’m over it, okay?)

I devoured Prom Information like it was Oreo ice cream with hot fudge and toasted almonds, and I cut out half of the pages of the 1983 Prom issues of Seventeen and ’Teen, taping a montage of formal-gown pictures on my bedroom wall: Gunne Sax, Zum Zum, Bill Levkoff…. When I went to bed, I could look them over and select a dress to wear in the Bedtime Stories of Love ‘n Romance that I made up every night. Perhaps it would be the pink chiffon with the fluttery off-the-shoulder sleeves, and I’d be walking with my Dream Boy on a moonlit beach…. Or maybe it would be the violet satin, and I’d have my hair gathered up in a chignon with little ringlets escaping, and Dream Boy would be unable to resist touching the dainty tendrils as we danced on a flower-bedecked patio…. Or surely I would be a goddess that deep blue gown with an underskirt of pure white… oh, and the scalloped blue overskirt caught up with white rosettes and ribbons, and the whole creation held grandly out with a hoop that would sway as I descended the polished marble stairs to the immaculate ballroom (and, of course, Dream Boy)! I learned critical things like "tea length" and "empire waist" and "Victorian" and "embossed." I started keeping a scrapbook of formal dresses in an old picture album, and, on several pieces of loose-leaf notebook paper hidden in a special blue Trapper Keeper, I compiled a list (in my prettiest handwriting, natch) of things like:

    • Strapless peach lace gown with satin sash, white elbow-length lace gloves, peach pumps, white lacy hose
    • Filmy yellow chiffon with a calf-length gored skirt, slim shoulder straps, and a fitted bodice. Small wreath of white flowers in hair
    • Icy-blue embossed satin with a full, floor-length skirt, small puffed sleeves trimmed with bands of creamy lace, lace overlay on the bodice. Worn with huge drop-pearl earrings

Yeah, so Senior Prom was over five years away at that point. But when the time came, I’d be ready.

*****

Mrs. Campbell seized upon a coral-colored chiffon, with tiers of ruffles down the skirt. She held it to Polly and her face lighted up. "It’s your color," she approved. Polly gasped. Little flowers of gold threads were embroidered all over the bodice, which had a low, wide neckline, merging off the shoulder into tiny puffed sleeves. The gold threads outlined each of the ruffles of the skirt. Polly had never imagined anything so beautiful. She would never dream of owning such a dress.

*****

According to Mom, the Prom was One of the Things You Remember for the Rest of Your Life. Why, her Senior Memories in her school annual even said that Junior Prom was the best time she’d had in high school! Wow! She’d gone with her h.s.b.f. Fred Pfieffer and had worn a stunning white and pink strapless gown, the skirt layers of transparent chiffon over thick crinolines and trimmed with a small garland of flowers, and graceful white elbow-length gloves… über-60s, but soooo glamorous! (I can’t believe she let me play dress-up with that gown when I was little. I ruined it. Shame on me!)

Of course, my biggest fear was that my Prom Fantasies wouldn’t come true, because could someone as ugly and dorky and loserish as me actually hope to have a boyfriend, a "special someone"? What if I didn’t? What if, come senior year, I was Alone and Unloved? I remember reading a letter from a panic-stricken Promling to one of the aforementioned magazines. She had a dress, shoes, jewelry, evening bag… everything but a date. "Don’t worry dear," her mother had blithely told her. "If you don’t have a date, your father can take you." Oh, the horror! What if that happened to me?! Or, almost as depressing, what if I had to go with some guy friend and the night was completely unromantic?! What if… what if I missed out on The Greatest Event of High School Life?

Lucky (?) for me, I ended up going to a super-small Christian high school… I’ll call it Hypocrite High. There were less than 100 students in the whole place, and if something was seniors only, there’da been about 25 people total… including the chaperones! So because of this, the Prom was an all-school event! Everyone could go! Woo hoo!

So, as a freshman, I decided that I would go to the Prom, just in case I never got to experience another one, just in case I didn’t get to have The Bestest, Most Fantastic Night of My Life as a senior. By this time, having removed myself from the toxic public school system where I spent so many miserable years as the Butt of the School, I now was part of a small group of friends, and we decided we’d all go… the only freshmen to do so that year. My buddy Steve, a Martin Gore look-alike, was even going to escort one of our senior friends who didn’t have a date; he rented a smashing lavender tuxedo (we’d recently been impressed by Nick Rhodes’ attire when he and That Skanky JulieAnne got hitched at their Flamingo Wedding). And to my utter surprise…well, check out my 1985 diary:

Wed, May 22:

OMIGAWD – I GOT ASKED TO THE PROM! This guy in my science class – Kevin DeLaura – asked me on Monday. I didn’t write about it then, ‘cos I couldn’t find this notebook. But, I said no, ‘cos I thought I wanted to go to Magic Mountain [with my church youth group] but now I’ve changed my mind. But I don’t want to go with a guy – just by myself. I think it would be easier because that way I don’t get paranoid! To me, it’s just a formal dance. It’ll be PROM when I’m a junior/senior. I just hope I don’t hurt Kevin’s feelings. He really is nice, but I can’t help feeling uncomfortable. It’s just me! So I’m a single.

I know. I know.

I was "paranoid" mostly because I didn’t, you know, LIKE like Kevin. But it was also partially because I couldn’t imagine Stepfather Number Two, Blevins, allowing me to go on A Date. (Remember, Blevins is the one who wouldn’t let me go to a Paul Young concert that same year because he knew I would do drugs and drink. Me? And at a Paul Young concert?! Oookay. So I’m sure if I had asked to go on a date to the Hypocrite High Prom, he would’ve had me drunk and giving some guy a blowjob in the bathroom before I’d even considered white pumps or dyed-to-match.)

So, yup… I turned down poor, shy Kevin DeLaura with a half-lie… and went to the Prom alone. J

But even though it wasn’t PROM, I still wanted a Dress. From the same diary entry:

I’m sick of having cheep [sic] stuff. I want to have no limit. There arn’t [sic] many nice $30 dresses, ya know! I want to look really nice, have one of the pretty dresses I’ve always admired. I won’t go too overboard – just about $80 should be more than enough for a dress, and accessories. I want to look like I fit in with the "classy" image or, especialy [sic], "romantic" image all those proms have. I want to be Cinderella at the ball! Maybe I’m not ready for "Prince Charming" but I want to have fun. Dance. Whirl. SPARKLE. I just hope I finally find a "dream dress."

Well, as long as you had goals and ambitions, 14-Year-Old Dwanollah…you silly tard.

What did I end up wearing? Not quite a "dream dress," but certainly pretty… and, an especial coup, it came from Charlotte Russe! Oh frabjous day! I’d always wanted to shop at the "nice" clothing stores, but, because we weren’t exactly rollin’ in the bucks, I usually got not-quite-right stuff from the junior’s department of J.C. Penney’s. (There’re far worse things in life, but to Teen-Aged Dwanollah, that was a constant point of contention.) My frothy lavender 8th grade graduation dress had come from a discount knock-off mall store for $19.99. So for Teen-Aged Dwanollah to get a $60 formal from The Trendiest Teen Store at the Mall, well, that was worthy of a John Hughes movie script!

I got a strapless, white lace dress. AND lace elbow-length fingerless gloves. Oh, was I stylin’… well, as stylin’ as I could be wearing my everyday, re-polished white flats and a big ol’ lacy bow in my hair. I wanted swags of rhinestone necklaces, a la Madonna’s "Material Girl" video, but they cost too much. Luckily, Gram had a vintage rhinestone necklace in her junk jewelry drawer that looked groovy-ass.

That white dress, splurge though it was, got a lot of use. I wore it to Homecoming when I was a sophomore. I lent it to a friend for the Prom that year, too. I wore it again, for the Homecoming dance when I was a junior; I got a new blue satin sash, blue pumps, and blue rhinestone earrings to honk it up a little. Man, with that and Gram’s fake fur stole, I was the poo!

But freshman Prom was nothing compared to sophomore year.

Reader, when I was a sophomore, I met DumbAss.

*****

The dress was pale lilac with a high ruffled neck and long sleeves with a ruffle around each cuff. It fell in soft folds and there were two bands of ruffles around the bottom of the dress. The belt was made of a deep purple ribbon that cascaded to the hem of the dress….

*****

DumbAss, my h.s.b.f., came to Hypocrite High as a junior, at the beginning of the spring semester. And by the time Prom rolled around in May, we were In Lurve and Going Together and all that. So my Prom Dreams were already starting to come true! I had Someone Special!

This was my first Big Romantic Event as one-half of a couple, and by all means, I was going to relish it! To begin with, Mom took me to the Gunne Sax outlet to look for a Prom dress.

Gunne Sax…. Such magical words! Ever since that first Prom issue of Seventeen magazine, I’d longed for a Gunne Sax dress. I’d committed to heart the copy from those early-80s ads… each page featuring a beautiful dress worn by a beautiful girl, with beautiful script that proclaimed "Somehow sensing that, after tonight, no other rose will ever mean so much" and "Falling in love and feeling the world spin" and "While time stops, you look into your future—and see only him" followed by "Theresa, in black and white satin bustier" and "Leah, in blue floral Victorian with lace trim" and "Christy, in black moiré taffeta dance dress." Bliss! Perfection!

The outlet store had gorgeous dresses for under $30… real, designer dresses that I could afford! And, glory be, I found a stunning dress! It was the most beautiful, most romantic garment I’d ever hoped to own… Victorian style, with sprigs of lilac and pink flowers on a cream chiffon background. There was lace on the high neckline, and more lace around the full skirt, which was caught up on one side with a crisp cream satin bow. Little pearl buttons ran up the back. The skirt swished and foofed. It looked like how I imagined Laura Ingalls Wilder’s pink lawn dress would look if it was cream instead of pink! Oh, DumbAss was going to be positively begoogled with how romantic I looked!

I painted my nails pale pink. I wanted to put my hair up in a chignon, but couldn’t afford a trip to the hairdresser. I settled for full, romantic curls, with one side of my hair caught back with a pink rosebud and baby's breath. Soft makeup, Gram’s tiny drop-pearl earrings and my own pearl pendant on a fine gold chain, spritzes of White Shoulders… I was loverly! I was a romantic heroine! I was a vision!

But 15-Year-Old-Dwanollah was feeling pretty squidgy, too.

DumbAss borrowed his mother’s white Caddy for the big event, and I was freaky-nervous as I heard it pull into the driveway. I was shy and unconfident and awkward anyway, but having a Boy in a tuxedo pick me up for the Prom was a Really Big Deal! Me and DumbAss hadn’t been going together more than a month or so, and things were still very new and weird. Despite that, I was prepared for my Big Moment, our Big Night. I was bummed there was no staircase to sweep down, but I made my magnificent entrance down the hallway- And when DumbAss saw me, he turned around and rushed away without a word.

Turns out he’d forgotten my corsage, but it was still Painfully Awkward.

*squidge*

Not only that, but DumbAss… well, he looked REALLY GOOFY in his white tux and pink cummerbund and super-big-polished white rental old man shoes. It gave me a weird feeling that I couldn’t explain… or even acknowledge at the time. Perhaps it was just Typical 15-Year-Old-Girl feelings, but… it embarrassed me to look at him.

*squidge*

The awkwardness and weird feelings didn’t go away as we had to pose for pictures (oh, thank GOD Bl wasn’t there!). And then, to make matters worse, DumbAss took me downtown to the office where his parents worked so I could meet them! Ack! Me, a shy, green, pathetic little 15-year-old living out in the sticks was taken to the building owned by One of the Richest Men in San Diego…. You know, I’d thought I’d looked pretty in the mirror back home… but once I was in those scarily-polished marble and glass foyers with the fountains and plants, I was reduced to nothing more than a very unsophisticated little kid COMPLETELY out of her element! DumbAss’ mother was the secretary for One of the Richest Men in San Diego, and the only thing that terrified me more than being introduced to that immaculate, hair-sprayed woman in the reception room was being taken into a dark office to meet One of the Richest Men in San Diego Himself, holding court behind an enormous teak desk- No, wait… it was being taken, after that, to meet DumbAss’ stepfather… a scary-looking, gruff man who bore more than a passing resemblance to C. Everret Koop. Okay, so everyone was pretty nice to me, but holy shit, it sure didn’t help my Feelings of Awkwardness!

*squirm…squidge… squirm*

And the Prom itself?

Anti-climactic. Hypocrite High was big on chaperoning things, so Proms always included dinners, lest we Promlings be left to our own devices and wander off to restaurants or something. We sat with some friends, including one of my then-close girl-pals who was a graduating senior. She’d gone to get her hair done at a salon, and her naturally-curly red hair had been teased and sprayed so it literally radiated all over her head. Not only that, but she’d gone to a Padre game the afternoon before, and had gotten terrifically sunburned. So, with her turquoise off-the-shoulder dress, she displayed a halter-shaped sunburn of grand proportions! Ouch!

I was expecting High Romance and Fireworks, and instead got Creepy Anxiety Feelings and Disappointment. Slow-dancing, undoubtedly to some dreck Lionel Ritchie tune, I got up the nerve to ask DumbAss if he thought I looked okay. "Well, actually," he said, "I don’t really like old-fashioned stuff like that."

Owww! Talk about being crushed!

Well, come junior year, maybe I could make it up to him!

*****

They chose a delicate white dress with softly falling crystal-pleated tiers, each of the tiers edged in silver embroidery, like a ring of sparkly icicles at the edge of a bank of snow. There was also silver embroidery on the bodice, which tapered to Cassie’s tiny waist.

*****

Yes, DumbAss and I were still together in 1987… and by this time, we had reached Supercouple Status at Hypocrite High. We easily won "cutest couple" in the yearbook polls (but Hypocrite High decided at the last minute that the "cutest couple" category was unwholesome and suggestive or something, and yanked it). He was a graduating senior, I was a cheerleader…. Jeepers… I was totally living out my YA Romance Novel Dreams! Y’all, I had ACHIEVED! I was Somebody! And by God, I was going to Prom like I’d never Prom’d before!

By this time, I also had quite a few teen magazine Prom issues under my belt. (I saved them all, of course. I save everything.) One of the things that I liked best about the Prom issues was that they would always do Countdown to Prom!!! schedules. I was crazy about shit like that. Only EIGHT WEEKS TO PROM! Have you been practicing Prom hairstyles? Have you ordered your shoes? Are you treating your nails so they’ll be long and pretty by Prom night? Only SIX WEEKS TO PROM! You better find that Prom-perfect lipstick! Have you been looking for that special Prom fragrance? Don’t put off getting Prom accessories; they go fast, and you don’t want to miss out on the best selection!

For those weeks before Prom, I went through a frenzy of prep-work. I dieted. I worked out. I was on a careful tanning schedule, making sure I was sunbathing at least 3 times a week for an hour (no more, no less!), because my dress was white. All us girls discussed Prom Stuff in the locker room before classes started, comparing notes on gowns and makeup. I found stunning sparkle-purple eyeshadow at the Thrifty’s makeup department… with matching mascara.

I was starting to dress just a leetle more unconventionally by this time, and many of the pouffy, shiny dresses in the teen boutiques circa 1987 weren’t quite up my alley… too little-girlish, too short, too pink. I found my junior Prom dress, to my surprise, at Sears. It was long, sexy, and not too expensive; it was strapless, white satin, and had (I know, I can’t believe I wore it either) little tiny glittery hearts scattered all over it. I dug up those fingerless white lace gloves from a couple years earlier (which looked especially beauteous with my long, perfect, flawless, lavender-polished fingernails), bought a new rhinestone earrings, and spent over two hours on my makeup and hair. Because it was such a special occasion, I borrowed these spiral-curl perm rods from a friend so I could set my hair for that special Prom-night hairdo- And… poof! Plus I had the aforementioned sparkle-plenty purple eye makeup. Oh yeah. SMOKIN’ hott!

DumbAss couldn’t accuse me of being too old-fashioned that night. I posed for our Prom picture carefully, tucking my chin down and smiling up at the camera with what I thought was a sexy, fetching look. We sat with Heather’nJames, another Hypocrite High couple (but not as Supercouple a Supercouple as WE were… they’d only been together mere months, whereas WE had been going together OVER A YEAR!) We all clinked water glasses, and fooled around trying to drink out of them with entwined arms, wedding-style. No one noticed James and Heather doing this, but for some reason when me and DumbAss did, a whole bunch of people "awwww"ed. Didn’t I TELL you we were THE PERFECT COUPLE and EVERYONE KNEW IT?! We danced up a storm, and the DJ gave me a KS103 t-shirt for having the lowest-cut dress there (well, low-cut by HHS standards). DumbAss looked better this year, too, in a grey tux with yellow accessories (but still with those stupid over-polished boat-like old man rental shoes). And to cap it all off, after the Prom, since his parents were out of town that weekend, we went back to his house to SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETHER! Because, you know, I’d said we’d be at the AfterProm party. (Yes, Mom, I lied to you.) It ain’t as scandalous as it sounds… I was still Holding Out. But we, like, slept in the same bed and EVERYTHING. Isn’t that ROMANTIC?! Especially because DumbAss complained all night that I hogged the covers and he didn’t have enough room and then he snored and kept kicking me in his sleep-

Oh, I was TOTALLY living out that High School is the Best Time of Your Life thang, wasn’t I? Ha.

But just wait until MY Senior Prom!

*****

Caitlin fastened her emerald and diamond necklace around her slender throat…. The dress she was wearing had been designed especially for her by Jerome of Georgetown. Made of royal blue taffeta, it had a finely pleated, strapless bodice that gave way to a full, swirling skirt. There was also a huge, crisp bow in the back. Caitlin had never looked more beautiful.

*****

So from the time I was, like, 12, I’d had definite ideas of what my Ultimate Life Experience – my Senior Prom – would entail. It would be a Final Hurrah. A feather in my cap after all I’d Done and Achieved at Hypocrite High School. And be assured, I had certainly Achieved at HHS. By the time I was a senior, I was Cheerleading Captain, ASB Treasurer, had headed up the Homecoming Dance committee, was on the Prom committee, was on the school newspaper.... Me and DumbAss had now been together OVER TWO YEARS; if that wasn’t enough, I was now wearing a little semi-precious-stone "promise ring" on my left hand (that made the fact that we were now Doing It permissible). I’d out-Elizabeth Wakefielded Elizabeth Wakefield! (Okay, so I couldn't've done it at a large, public high school, but....) I had it ALL! I had set out to be Perfect, to Reach all of the Important High School Goals as dictated by my favorite reading material, lest I Miss Out and Regret It some foggy day in the future, post-high school. And by gum, I’d done it! Now it was time to celebrate!

 

Me, at the height of my I Am Perfect (As Per YA Stereotypes) incarnation. 
Because if I was Perfect, then surely I'd be happy, right? RIGHT?

And of course, I’d been planning since 7th grade to wear a deep blue (my favorite color) taffeta dress to the Prom to End All Proms. I’d recently read a description of The Ideal Dress in the latest of the Caitlin books, and was impressed enough to alter my vision of a long hoopskirted gown; I had a clear picture of something like Madonna’s "Material Girl" dress, but in blue, with a fuller skirt.

The only problem was, I couldn’t find anything like that in the stores. Sequins were big in ’88. So were bubble dresses, dresses with stretch-Lycra tops, mermaid dresses and dresses in gold lamé. Nope. Not me. I combed all the mall stores, including Prevue [sic], the one that specialized in Prom dresses and actually REGISTERED who bought what so that no two girls at one high school would have the same dress. Iridescent pastels… asymmetrical skirts…sheaths with peplums…black and white, peach, fuchsia. Yuck, yuck, yuck and yuck. In desperation, I abandoned the malls and had Mother take me back to the famous Gunne Sax outlet, but, to my jaded (DumbAss-influenced) eyes, everything looked too old-fashioned. My mom picked out a long, full-skirted wine-colored chiffon dress that looked pretty nice when I tried it on. I even got a hoopskirt to go with it. But when the dress was home and in my closet, I was dissatisfied beyond belief with it. It wasn’t what I REALLY wanted.

The Dress Quest went on. I was doing a more extensive Countdown to Prom!!! schedule than ever before; after all, this WAS my Senior Prom, the last Prom I’d go to, the Big One… so I had to treat it accordingly. I was already on my diet-and-workout schedule well before I’d found my Prom dress. Finally, I went to a fabric store. And I looked up seamstresses in the phone book. And I found a lady who would make me a dress in time for the Prom. It would cost me $90, not including the material, but I could’ve easily spent more than a hundred dollars at one of the boutiques. Plus, it was my last Prom. So I went ahead and doled out my hard-earned Domino’s Pizza earnings to pay for it. I had to economize on the material, and got the most inexpensive cobalt blue taffeta in the store, along with the pattern, zipper, and black lace and net for the underskirt. In the week that my dress was made, I shopped for long black gloves and sexy black stockings with seams up the back. A friend of Gram’s sent me a bag of junk jewelry, and I salvaged a pair of rhinestone flower clip earrings to use as shoe decorations (I’d bought a pair of shiny high-heeled black pumps), and fashioned a cuff bracelet from a wide band of rhinestones and a broken earring. I put off getting a haircut, because I wanted my hair as long as possible for the Prom; I got an inexpensive rhinestone barrette to fix it with. I even bought some blue-and-lavender body glitter! I was thisclose to blowing another hundred dollars on a fantastic, big-ass rhinestone necklace at Claire’s Accessories, but my ingrained guilt about spending swags of money on impractical stuff like that got the better of me. I did splurge on some new rhinestone earrings with blue stones, and a new rhinestone necklace that, while not as spectacular as the $100 one, was still pretty fancy.

I re-read that passage from Caitlin before I went to pick up my completed dress. At last! A dress to my specifications! A "dream dress!" Perfection! Right?

Well. Not quite. The dress looked okay, but…the cheap taffeta hung limply. The bow in back was small and floppy, not big and crisp. The waistline cut weird across my middle and the skirt was shorter than I’d wanted, making me look dumpy, not sleek. I was kinda bummed.

But… well… that didn’t matter! No! It was, at long last, Senior Prom… the stuff scads of YA books were based on! I was in love! I was Cheerleading Captain and ASB Treasurer! I had friends! I was Perfect! Yes! That's right!

I’d wanted to go Totally All-Out for Prom… limo, fancy dinner, big party, hotel room, the works. I spent weeks heading up the AfterProm committee, getting special permission from Hypocrite High’s administration to have a party at a classmate’s house instead of the usual rent-out-the-roller-rena and/or watch movies shtick. I wrote articles for the school paper about all the Prom Prep-Work. But when I suggested to DumbAss that we rent a limousine with our friends, he got pissy. "Isn’t my car fancy enough for the Prom?" he snipped; he’d recently purchased a custom-painted Mustang all rigged out with tinted windows and a fancy stereo… a car that, unbeknownst to him, my friends at school had christened the Pimpmobile. So, no limo. Strike one. What about dinner? We could go to the super-fancy restaurant owned by One of the Richest Men in San Diego- Ah, but, again, Hypocrite High’s administration was adamant that all Promlings come straight to the Prom, not loiter around strange restaurants unsupervised. So if you weren’t there when dinner was served, you didn’t get to attend the Prom. Strike two.

Prom day came, and, with the help of my careful Countdown to Prom!!! schedule, I spent all day (and much of the night before) getting ready. I’d actually written up a checklist in my diary:

 

Friday night:
6:00 – put together Prom-night emergency kit: extra stockings, safety pins, hairpins, clear nail polish, face powder, lipstick, earring backs, etc.
8:00 – steam face, facial
8:30 – do nails
Saturday:
10:00-11:00 – final coat of nail polish
11:00-12:00 – sunbathe, let nails dry [all while re-reading the Prom-themed YA books in my collection for mental preparation….]
12:00 – bath. Use scented soap. Shave legs, cover with baby oil. Bleach arm hair. Cucumbers on eyes to reduce puffiness. Deep-conditioning treatment for hair.
1:30 – bath over. Use scented lotion!
1:45 – Towel-dry hair and set
2:15 – Pluck eyebrows
2:30 – exfoliate lips. Rub lips with old toothbrush covered in Vaseline
2:40 – 4:00 – do makeup

And so on.... Yeah, I was pretty freakin’ anal-retentive lame-brain dorky. But did I mention this was the long-awaited Grand and Glorious Senior Prom?! Heck, it was such an event that Gram came over to see me and DumbAss off… and brought my Great-Gram, then 98. Big doings were going on!

My friend Stevie-kins, the Martin Gore look-alike, was going to be taking a friend of mine, Alex, to the Prom. Long story short? Alex used to date one of DumbAss’s best friends (all who went to a public high school), but they’d broken up a few months before. Alex was stunning, and Steve, very single (and very gay, although that sort of thing wasn’t even THOUGHT about at Hypocrite High in the 1980s) wanted a gorgeous Prom date. He’d met Alex before and they’d hit it off, so he asked her. If we’d rented the limo, we were gonna all double-date, but, well, no limo….

Anyhow, Stevie arranged to pick Alex up at my house, and so Alex’s mom brought her over. And needless, that meant Huge Major Mondo Photo Session with two moms, a gram and great-gram (and a surly stepfather) all gushing and being sentimental. Stevie arrived first in the gorgeous antique Rolls Royce he’d borrowed from his aunt. He was all decked out in the vintage tux and black priest-collared pre-goth shirt he’d bought at Gamma Gamma, coordinated stunningly with his patent-leather, multi-buckled pointy-toed pre-goth boots. His curly hair, newly bleached platinum at the tips, was teased in a Martin Gore bouffant. My Great-Gram took one look at him, grabbed my mom’s arm and hissed in alarm "Is he going to wear his hair like THAT to a beautiful event like this!?" Ah, poor, easily-shocked Great-Gram….

And then DumbAss showed up, all decked out in a black tux with tails. (Unbeknownst to DumbAss, I’d asked him to wear a very formal black tuxedo because, in my pathetic mind at the time, "the next time he wears a black tux with tails will be when we get married in a couple years!" I thought for sure we’d display our formal Prom picture from that night at our wedding. Yes, I was really really really dumb enough to think things like that. Perhaps it was an omen that our formal Prom picture didn’t turn out, because DumbAss had done his standard blinking-during-the-picture thing.)

Once again, Prom didn’t live up to the hype. I actually had more fun getting ready for Prom than at the Prom itself. DumbAss was his usual possessive self, so I didn’t really experience the "fun with friends" facet of Prom. The music sucked; remember, this was 1988, and top-40 radio (and accordingly, the Prom DJ music selection) wasn’t exactly rife with synth-pop and remixes. The buffet was icky. My dress itched. I spent the whole night trying to convince myself I was having a MARVELOUS time. Because I was supposed to. *sigh*

My one clear memory of Prom night was DumbAss hauling me around the dance floor to the theme song from that new movie Dirty Dancing. "I’m a better dancer than that Patrick Swappy dude any day, aren’t I?" he told me. Oh yeah, DumbAss. I had the time of my life.

 

"I'm a better dancer than Patrick Swayze, huh?" "...'I, Dwanollah, take you-' no, 'I, Dwanollah, takest thee, DumbAss....' " 

Post-Prom, we were supposed to head over to the carefully-planned AfterProm party… and, now that I was more than just one-half of the Campus Supercouple and actually had friends, I was really looking forward to hanging out with a large group of people and reminiscing about years past. But first… since DumbAss’ parents were out of town again…we were gonna go have a Prom Night Doink. (I’d been hoping their annual trip would be following weekend, so we’d have an excuse to rent a hotel room… something special for our final Prom… but, alas, it was the same old routine.) Post-shag, DumbAss fixed a frozen Stouffer’s dinner and turned on the TV. "What about the AfterProm?" I asked. "We should go… I planned it." "I really don’t want to go," said DumbAss, heavy into Saturday Night Live. "Let’s just stay here."

Strike three.

So that was my romantic Prom night… capped off by sitting at DumbAss’ house while he watched TV. How… how typical.

There was one bright spot in the whole Prom Blues…. Come morning, Stevie and a couple other friends from school showed up at DumbAss’ house to find out what we were up to (i.e. give us hell for not going to AfterProm). DumbAss was cranky; 1) it was before his preferred waking hour of 11:00 and 2) they toilet-papered the Pimpmobile. But I didn’t care. I was so happy to be doing something genuinely fun and High School Hijinx-like! We decided to go out to breakfast, and I wriggled back into my Prom dress, having nothing else to wear (DumbAss refused to put on his tux again; he was the only person in non-Prom shorts and a t-shirt out of the whole group of us). We descended en masse on Denny’s. As we waited for our table in the crowded lobby, various Old People and post-church people elbowed each other, looking at us either with amusement or bemusement. Finally, Steve tossed his head. Standing up and posing in the center of the lobby, he addressed the crowd. "Why YES! We DID go to our Senior Prom last night! And don’t we look FABULOUS?!"

How awesome was Stevie?! J

*****

[Andie] was in the doorway wearing the loveliest pink dress he’d ever seen/ It didn’t look anything like the one he’d bought her. On the other hand, it didn’t look anything like the one she’d gotten from Iona, either. It was as simple, unique, and beautiful as the willowy young woman wearing it. And it took him a moment to realize that an hour ago the exquisite young woman had been his little girl.

*****

Those were my Prom Experiences... yearned for for years, dreamed about, planned.... But, alas and alack, there was no transformation from ugly duckling girl into swanlike adult woman. No night of breathless romance and promise, every detail crystal-clear for decades to come. No major, gripping moments of deep and abiding friendship. Heck, I didn’t even get a groovy-ass weird story out of all those Proms, like my date ending up on trial for murder or anything!

Geez. What a gyp. Broken Prom-promises.

That feeling of flat-soda-and-stale-doughnuts letdown lingered for years after…. I bought Prom magazines and secretly envied the fresh-faced girls who had it all ahead of them. I bought a stunning black dress with a drop waist and a flaring taffeta skirt a couple years after the Prom, in hopes that I could find some formal event – a dinner, a party, a special night out – to re-create that Prom-like magic. That didn’t happen, either.

How come the magazines and paperbacks didn’t talk about Prom Letdown, huh?

If I had it to do over, I would’ve dressed in something vintage and costumey and totally unique. I’d’ve rented a big-ass limo with Steve and Alex and all my other friends, and loaded it up with kick-ass mix tapes and plates of scrummy hors d’ourvers. We’d’ve made a couple hours’ appearance at the Prom, and stopped by the AfterProm, but spent most of the night trolling around San Diego in our limousine with the Duran and Depeche and New Order tunes blasting. Maybe a drive-thru McDonald’s… maybe one of those weird new late-night coffeehouses… before we ended up at the beach at sunrise, dancing in a sandy, empty parking lot and toasting our years of friendship and the passing of high school with two-liter bottles of Cherry 7-Up and sparkling cider.

So stuff THAT in your sequined bustiers, John Hughes and Francine Pascal.

(And, oh yeah... you knew I'd do Spice Girls/Barbie pix, didn't you?)

Have a tale of Prom Angst? Was it the Best Time You Ever Had? Did you skip it entirely? Was your date dreamy or dreck? And what did you wear? (Hey, I take picture submissions, too!) E-mail Dwanollah like Birmie here did, and you too could win a fabo-keen prize package!