It’s prom season, and for every parent with a teenager not self-assured enough to take itself out for an Evil Dead/The Big Wedding double-feature at the local cineplex instead of attending a chaperoned night of slow-jam hugging in a school multi-purpose room, that means lots of worrying about what sort of after-prom debauchery their teenagers will engage in (hint: it will mostly involve satyrs, boxed wine, and dry-palmed, tuxedo-ruining handjobs). The supervised after-prom party (sans booze, plus oodles of owl-eyed parents) has emerged as a way to prevent kids attending private bacchanals, but, like parent- or school-sponsored events, it has one glaring deficiency: no one really likes it.
More precisely, no one wants to be seen going to some boring, chaperoned after-prom party because teenagers are nothing if not hyper-attuned to social rituals. Going to a prom party crawling with parents, even if that prom party is held in a sweet amusement park that has been closed to the public, seems like a lame thing to do, especially when you say it out loud:
New College Roommate: So what did you do after prom, Jennifer?
Jennifer: I went to a party at Dorney Park, drank Orange soda, and rode Steel Force seven times in a row with my best friend: MOM!
New College Roommate: Oh, I guess we can’t be friends after all. Maybe you should just spend your freshman year not being invited to parties.
Jennifer: Sounds super fun!!!
You see? Supervised after-prom parties make for terrible anecdotes, which is probably the real reason no self-respecting teenager wants to go. However, parents have another behavior-altering tool at their disposal: bribery. In order to make the idea of a supervised after-prom party more socially appealing, parents have tapped into the acquisitive, consumerist nature of teenagers by offering them tremendous amounts of what they call in the pirating racket “booty.”
According to a report from Reuters, the difficulty of selling the supervised party to teens directly correlates to the expensiveness of their bribe prizes:
The high school prom isn't just a rite of passage, it's an expensive rite of passage. According to a survey by credit-card company Visa, the average teenager spends more than $1,000 on prom for things such as a dress or tuxedo, shoes, jewelry, hair styling, manicures, tickets to the event, dinner out and renting a limousine.
Organizers of the supervised after-prom parties concede it can be tough to impress kids already spending big dollars on proms.
The Roanoke Area Youth Substance Abuse Coalition in Roanoke, Virginia, holds a "grand finale party" on June 1. Each of the area's high schools can send four students who have attended an after-prom party to this special after-after-prom party." Two students will win an iPad, and one will drive away in a 2013 Nissan Juke.
The idea is obviously to keep kids away from drugs and alcohol, or to keep them from doing something remarkably short-sighted, like forgoing college to run away to an alpaca farm with a prom date who is already showing signs of male-pattern baldness at 18. Kids don’t think about these things: sure, alpaca fleece is soft, but it doesn’t make for a realistic headpiece. Will their eternal love survive an act of follicle treachery? No 17- or 18-year-old is ready to answer such a portentous question. Best for teenagers to ride the roller coaster with mom or dad, enjoy some orange soda before the coal furnace metabolism slows to a grinding halt, and just make up a great prom story like everyone else does in college.
Image via AP, John Amis