Last night, while reading our site's #tips section, I came across a plea from a high school reader who is currently struggling with the drama that is prom season:
this is so selfish of me. but i'm the only girl of my friends with no date for prom, and jezebel is a website where i really feel accepted and supported and i know its melodramatic but could there be a thread of prom horror stories? right now, being a teenage girl, i feel very ugly and lame for not having a date. and i know a lot of jezzies are sympathetic to classic teenage drama.
Oh, reader. There is absolutely nothing, nothing, nothing wrong with you. There's nothing wrong for you for not having a date, and there's nothing wrong with you for feeling the drama that comes along with prom season, as it's pretty much shoved down your throat that you have to be swept up in it from the time you enter middle school on. The prom is the precursor to the wedding industrial complex: you'll notice that some people get really into it, and enjoy it, and others would rather do anything else. But everyone, at some point, is pushed to participate, as society has built the tradition, via movies and tv, into a BIG THING.
The prom was probably the most anti-climactic experience of high school, for me: the only reason I had a date to the prom was because my best friend in high school happened to be a boy, and our mothers forced us to go together, even though I was just getting over mono and couldn't really dance for fear that my spleen would explode. Not a good look in formal wear! I was miserable and really tired and the music was awful, because it was 1999, and when I was in high school, people actually thought it was acceptable to thrash around to Limp Bizkit. I know. I know!
Anyway, I spent most of the night coughing over a plate of veggie lasagna in a powder blue dress with an ill-fitting strapless bra while my best friend kept sneaking outside to smoke cigarettes and drink Peachtree Schnapps from a flask. Later, at an after party, while I was sitting on a bench, trying not to pass out from sheer exhaustion, a friend of mine got drunk, threw up on my shoes, and told me I was "poetic...like Britney Spears." He then sat down on the bench beside me and fell asleep. It remains the best compliment of my life. My spleen almost exploded from the hilarity. And from the disgusting sight of vomit on my silver shoes.
The best advice I can give you is this: always remember that there is life beyond high school. A LOT of life beyond high school. Things that seem all-consuming and important today will probably, as you noted, be the source of "classic teenage drama" stories ten years down the line. You don't have to define yourself now, you don't have to let others define you, and there will be times where you feel like you're not "doing things right" because the experiences you think you're supposed to have—the ones that Hollywood and retailers make it seem are necessary for a full life—aren't always coming your way. The truth is, however, that there's no real way to "do things right." All you can do is what makes you happy. The trick is to watch for multiple paths, and to take risks, and to remember that nobody is living your life but you. Don't have a date but still want to go to the prom? Go to the prom! Take a friend! Go alone! Ask somebody! If anyone gives you shit about it, it is because they are small and petty and, most likely, unable to take those risks themselves.
In the end, I hope whatever you decide to do or not do works out. But if you do end up going, remember: don't dance with an enlarged spleen. Or get close to any dude who wants to compliment you after drinking Kool-Aid mixed with Captain Morgan. Nobody should have to wash vomit off of their shoes on prom night.
Readers, feel free to share your own prom experiences in the comments.