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
… 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,
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
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
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 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,
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.
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.
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!
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
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
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,
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:
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
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
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
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
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.