My Story, Yours Too.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The High School Prom and Life's Lessons

As I approached 30 minutes on the exer-cycle, I overheard a couple of burly men in the free-weights section of my local gym. While flexing, they talked about, not 'roids, but the high school prom. "Yeah, my daughter's going to prom." ~ Huff, puff, flex. ~ "How about your boy?" ~Flex.~  "He's 17, right?"

All these years later and talk of the prom fills my every blood vessel with an intense, beastly nausea.  You see, the first and the last time I mustered the courage to ask a guy on a date was for the high school prom. It went down as follows. [This is also a snippet from the novel I'm supposedly working super hard on, Woman on the Verge of Paradise.]

I viewed my right hand in slow motion, shaking uncontrollably. I witnessed the index finger gently compress each numbered square on the receiver, one by one, until the seventh was pushed. As my heart readied to leave my body, I experienced lengthy oxygenated inhalations but couldn’t exhale.

 Ring. Ring. “Hello.”

“Hi Brad?”


“This is Robyn.”


“Hi. Um, I was wondering if you’re going to the prom?”

“No, I’m not going.”

“Oh…audible silence for about a year…okaybye.” Click.

Tantrums ceased 3.5 hours later.

Ultimately, prom night was mundane. I watched television and turned in early. All that hype and nobody at school muttered a word about it the next day either. How quickly the monumental becomes the petty. If only today’s youth understood mom’s message during one of my moments of bleak hysteria: “Everything’s going to be alright.” We live so many lifetimes in one. Dreams shift, reality transforms, and emotional resiliency pushes us through. The true misfits are the ones who don’t think they are.


  1. I went to mine but don't remember much. Definitely over-hyped.

  2. Prom is a status symbol to torment the insecure. I regard it as a form of high school bullying.

  3. My prom was pretty typical. I went with a girl who said she liked me and wanted to date me. She went to go get a glass of punch and started making out with some random guy. I interrupted them and told her to F off and that I wasn't giving her a ride home. Have fun walking. The guy got mad at that and tried to attack me, so I shoved his head into a wall and gave him a massive concussion.

    You know, typical.

  4. Went but it was just meh, just a wannabe red carpet with ridiculous costing clothes.

  5. Mine was a disaster. Yours sounded much better.

  6. I never went to mine either Robyn, I asked a girl called Jane to go to mine but she said no with me because she was going with a friend already. When that friend pulled out she still didn't invite me haha, this is a blog topic just waiting to be written about haha.

    1. When that friend 'pulled out'?
      How cool they let you watch.

  7. MsA, you're a smart lady.

    Alex, I know the fact that you don't remember much has nothing to do with drugs/alcohol. Yes, way over-hyped. Thanks for agreeing, John.

    Debra, that's perfect. You're great with words. Prom = bullying and torment.

    BnB, I believed every word until the concussion. Did you make that story up to appease me? You're the best.

    Pat, did you rent a tux?

    MF, I'd like to know that story.

    Adam, you're another smart one.

    Yeamie, I'll be looking out for that story. Thank you.


  8. Not to make you or anyone else feel bad, but I married my prom date and we've been together for forty years.

  9. I've never understood this peculiar American rite of passage. 'Prom' means dance or disco, right? Anyway, a witty reply to Brad would have been: "Good! How about we go and see a movie?"

  10. Went to mine with a boy I didn't like, just to go. What a blah evening.

    My grandson, who is going into high school next year, says he may go to prom all four years. I pointed out he would need to go with an upperclassman (er, woman) and what junior or senior girl would go with a freshman. He replied, "I'm already 6'3". Any really tall girl who needs a taller date."

    I hate to admit he's probably right.

  11. I opted for an early graduation, instead. Never went to ANY proms, homecomings, etc. Don't feel like I missed anything.

    However, my son was quite the partygoer. He went to every homecoming, prom, etc. that his school had and even served as escort to some young ladies from OTHER schools. He had a very good time, being popular but not SUPER-popular, which I was secretly glad for. He was too much of his own person to fit in with "the bubble" 100%.

    Such anguish over asking a guy (or girl) out, I remember it well.

  12. BnB,wait a minute...You're kidding, no? Now I must find out.

    Stephen, thanks for balancing things out over here with your happily-ever-after story. It's a sweet one.

    GB, that's probably what "prom" means, though I like Debra's definition better (status symbol, torment, bullying). I was way too shy to have said that to him, though it's a worthy idea.

    LD, I love that story about your grandson. He's a smart guy. I agree, too, he's probably right.

    Bev, yes, it's good you missed out on the anguish. Sounds like your son's a great young man.

    Thanks, all, for sharing your prom stories.

  13. I suppose for the people who have been coupled all throughout high school, prom is Super. For everyone else, it is Meh (at best). I went with a guy I was friends with and had an okay time. However, I think that evening would be better if if were just a big party for the senior class. Can't it just be celebration for graduating high school????

  14. Went my junior year and it was 'blah.' My senior year was more fun because I was with my two best friends and a large group of us went bowling and out for pizza afterwards. That was much more fun than the prom itself.

  15. I went to one.

    Dropped shrimp scampi on my dress.

    Didn't really have fun. :-)


  16. The worst thing about my prom?
    My prom pictures.
    Remember, this WAS the 70's.

  17. Announcement: A Beer for The Shower's story is true! As if I didn't already admire those guys. That's a fabulous prom story.

    Robin, a big party is a great idea. I don't know why schools don't do that. I did go to grad night, and that was fun.

    L.Diane, yeah, a more relaxed time with friends sounds much better than the prom itself.

    Pearl, shrimp scampi didn't leave a stain, did it? I'm thinking it could've been worse, like chocolate.

    Johanna, thanks. I'm not alone in having felt alone that night. =)

    Al, he pulled out by phone, and this was well before skype. Thank goodness. I don't like watching a 'pull-out.' It's anti-climatic, you know?


  18. Hey Robyn,

    I always considered the high school prom as some sort of mental anguish for someone like me who didn't fit into any particular 'category'.

    What they did at my high school was have a draw matching people who didn't have a prom date. I found the whole thing humiliating and opted out.

    Robyn, dear lady, look at us now! :)

    Right then, time to pose in front of my full-length mirror...who is that awesome dude? Gosh, it's me!

    Smile, Robyn, even through gritted teeth.

    Gary x :)

  19. I went by myself both years. Last week, I saw on the news that the average person spends over $1000 for the prom. Are you freaking kidding me?
    Next year is Kiddo's junior prom and who knows if she will even go. Knowing her though, she will try and fins a dress at the Salvation Army.
    I'm glad I don't have a clothes horse.

  20. I had a beehive--yes in 1993--and my new foundation makeup to cover my acne made me truly look like a monster. It was all blotchy, even greenish in the photos.

  21. Very interesting post Robyn - insightful and more serious than we're used to - and that's a good thing!
    Also very observant. I never went to the prom either - not even sure we had a thing though I remember my brother going to his . In Australia we call it a deb. As in debutante. It's basically the same thing.

    Years later, my step-daughter had hers - and also went to two others. Seems such a big deal about nothing.

  22. Never did like prom.

  23. I went to mine...after my date cancelled two weeks before I took my friend mike. I wore a hidious dress because ...get this...I found out someone else had the same dress and I couldn't bear wearing the same gorgeous lavender as any intelligent, mentally stable and not the least bit impetious girl...I wore a pink dress that was too big on me. ...But no one noticed that however...they were probably too busy looking at my sweet up-do hair...That (because of the rain and my instant frizz) turned into an afro encased in aquanet.
    Robyn, I wish I had hung out with YOU on prom night!
    Blessings, Joanne

  24. chortle - oh well. I hear Carrie's was worse xo

  25. ugh. i remember my prom. it was nice and all, but bleh. i could have just stayed home and watched tv, probably would have enjoyed it more.

    i like the title for your novel!!!

  26. Gary, yes, look at us now! We did turn out pretty and pretty good, didn't we? Wink. Thanks, dear man.

    Ruth, damn, where do these kids get that kind of money? You have a smart kid. You should be proud.

    Tara, I'd like to see the photos. I'm sure it's not as bad as you recall. Or is it? Smiles.

    Thank you, Anthony. It's like the holidays: a ton of hype for even greater disappointment.

    Nutschell, I'm in good company on that one. Thanks.

    Joanne, yes, it's against teenage girl code to dress the same for the prom. I love your description of your hair. I also wish we'd hung out -in t-shirts and sweats, with a huge bucket of popcorn, junior mints and a good chick-flick.

    Good point, David. I have no reason to whine.

    I'm enjoying all of your stories. Thank you, friends.

  27. prom was fun! i was the soccer sweetheart so i was in the royal court eating up the fun!!

  28. I didn't go to mine either. I probably would gotten into a fight.
    Granny always said that "high school graduation is the great equalizer. You have to go to at least one reunion to see it though."

  29. Well said. I took my best friend to prom. We left early and our driver bought us winecoolers, took us to Oak Street beach, then out to breakfast. He was the big brother neither of us had growing up that night. Our partners in crime that night were another couple, two other friends. Rick, Michelle and I all survived the rotten teen years. Ron did too, but was gunned down in a drive by 3 months shy of his college graduation. We all still talk about him and that night. I would not trade that experience for anything, the dance was a joke, but the company was excellent.

  30. I went my sophomore year with a senior. On the night of my senior prom I went out for dinner and a movie with two friends. I'll bet that Brad was also shy, and would've gone if you got up the nerve to ask him.


    P.S. I just saw Melissa's comment, and I feel horrible about what happened to her friend.

  31. We don't do PROM in the UK, but I did the ten year reunion around twenty years ago. I saw all those who'd bullied me had turned out exactly as I once wished (empty, lonely, haggard, unsuccessful) and felt sad. I was at university at the time, having spent a few years travelling, and their usual jealousy tinged them green again. The best justice for came late, however. One girl (who was huge at school and got bullied terribly) turned up looking stunning and pronounced she earned a fortune working as a model in France. I felt so great for here tears rolled down my cheeks and I ran to give her a huge hug. We'd both been painfully shy at school so were never friends (though we silently empathised) so she was a bit shocked, but smiled. She sipped one Evian water and left. Classy lady.

    I'm glad I went. I had ghosts to bury, which I did. But it was a washout of a do and I left after half-hour.

    Shah X

  32. I never went to prom. Not even close. I think your prom is the perfect one.