Live Through This

A Night to Kinda Sorta Remember

Stories of proms that didn’t go so well. The moral? Pretty in Pink is a really good movie.

Pixie

As much as I hated everything in high school, I carried a tiny romantic torch for the prom. Not the prom itself, I guess, as much as the notion of the prom—the cinematic ideal where all of my problems would fix themselves under the spotlights and I’d waltz around like a queen for hours on end. I daydreamed about walking in and being unrecognizable in my dress, about suddenly knowing how to dance as soon as my heels hit the floor, and about the boy who broke my heart spotting me from across the room and realizing what a terrible, terrible mistake he’d made to let me go. Though I’d never admit it to anyone for fear that it would destroy my reputation as a cynical, eye-rolling, cold-hearted weirdo, I wanted to have a perfect night. What I got instead was a nasty case of mono, because high school always knows just when to kick you in the face.

I woke up about a month before the prom with a sore, swollen throat that was covered in disgusting yellow blisters. It was the most painful thing I’d ever experienced, and I could barely tell my mother what was wrong, as everything I tried to say came out as incomprehensible garbling. A blood test confirmed that I had mono, and the doctor informed me that my spleen was severely swollen as a result of the infection, which meant I couldn’t play softball for the entire season.

“You shouldn’t do anything strenuous with a spleen like that for the next few months,” he said. “The whole thing could rupture.”

I spent weeks in bed, visited by my best friend Matty, who was most likely the person who gave me mono in the first place—not one of the benefits of “friends with benefits”—though he never showed any symptoms. The prom was coming up quickly, and though we weren’t together-together, it was assumed that we’d show up together anyway.

“My mother keeps bugging me about the dumb prom,” he said.

“Mine too,” I said. “She wants to go dress shopping.”

“Mine says I’ll regret it if I don’t go.” Matty was not big on school functions of any kind. “Highly doubtful.”

“Mine said the same thing,” I assured him. We later found out that nearly everyone’s parents had used this line, which meant either that proms were way better 30 years ago or that there was some massive conspiracy to force us all to dress up so that our parents could temporarily blind us for pictures to show to our relatives.

“I guess we should go to the prom, then.” This was Matty’s way of asking me.

“Yeah, whatever,” I said. We were terribly romantic. “But I can’t dance.”

“I know you can’t dance.” It wasn’t a secret to anyone.

“No, I mean, I’m not allowed to dance, like at all, because my spleen might explode all over the dance floor.”

“At least that might make things exciting,” he said.

And so we went.

We spent the entire night sitting at our table, talking about how dumb the whole thing was, save for two or three verrrry slow dances. I don’t remember the songs, just that it was the kind of swaying where we were barely moving, not because we were trying to be romantic, but because we were worried about spleen rupture. The lingering effects of mono meant I could barely stay awake, and I spent a little too much time staring at my ex-boyfriend, who ignored me, which is not part of the romantic climax of any John Hughes movie.

“Well, this sucks,” Matty said before sneaking out to smoke, leaving me at my table in my powder-blue dress, staring hazily at the dance floor.

Me with mono.

Me and mono.

Nothing had turned out the way I wanted it to: it was just another dumb school thing, I was just me in an expensive dress and shoes I couldn’t move in, and my spleen threatened me if I even attempted to get up and have fun. The whole thing was a major letdown. I had built it up too much in my mind, and reality, as ever, had swung down to tell me to check myself.

A year later, the senior prom rolled around. My spleen was fine, my mind was still in depress-o mode, and Matty and I were still best friends. “I guess we should go again,” he said, even though the last time had been a disaster.

I laughed. “We might regret it if we don’t.”

“It can’t be worse than last time,” he countered.

So we showed up, he in a white tux and me in a pair of angel wings (it was 1999, Ever After had come out the summer before, and the romantic dorks among us loved wings and glittered faces. Whatever, give us a break, we were awesome). And though everything was stupid, we did what everyone does when they get a second shot at something: we smiled for the camera, spun around the dance floor, and tried to make a better memory. We still thought the prom was dumb, but we didn’t expect it to be anything else, which made it easier to have fun and bail when we got bored. And while I may not have John Hughes-level memories of the night, I still have an intact spleen, and I’ll take that over a tiara any day. ♦

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22 Comments

  • thebrownette April 10th, 2013 11:43 PM

    that awkward moment when you’re home schooled and are definitely not going to anyone’s prom and are DEFINITELY not going to “homeschool prom” but wish you had an excuse to wear a fancy dress.

    • HollinsCollins April 11th, 2013 9:54 AM

      Oh my god I FEEL THAT.

      • Kimono Cat April 11th, 2013 2:16 PM

        This entire article was mildy depressing for me to read.

    • theycallmebones April 11th, 2013 2:40 PM

      DITTO.

  • lacecat April 10th, 2013 11:53 PM

    Emma, how did you get to go to 4 proms? Dang, my school only allows seniors only.
    Oh and Julianne, Pixie, and Anna- you guys looked so cute! :)

  • lizzyheinie April 10th, 2013 11:55 PM

    “He was just a bit character in a scene of my life.”

    I need to remember this the next time somebody screws me over. Thanks Anna <3

  • 9ql April 10th, 2013 11:56 PM

    Julianne–those marbled balloons! So cool!

  • Anaheed April 11th, 2013 12:20 AM

    Pixie your NAILS.

    • Pixie April 11th, 2013 9:28 AM

      Haaaaaa! I forgot all about those! My nails are usually like, Frodo Baggins status but I got acrylics (!) for prom and it was the WORST. I almost took my eye out trying to get my contacts out and if I remember correctly I picked half of them off before the prom was over. NEVER AGAIN!

  • unicornconnect April 11th, 2013 4:38 AM

    Amy Rose, this sounds like the most magical adventure ever!!!!!!! Totally reinforces the NYC magic so many rom coms have lead me to believe actually exists!!!!!!!!

    You all look rad in your dresses.

  • Blythe April 11th, 2013 4:45 AM

    Bleh I dunno my Junior Prom is this Saturday and I’m really depressed and I don’t have any friends who are Juniors at school and I’m in independent study so I’m not sure I can buy a ticket, but at the same time I really want to go.

  • iamrachii April 11th, 2013 5:26 AM

    It’s nice to read that you guys were largely indifferent about proms; at my UK school we had Christmas dances rather than an end-of-year prom, and although the senior dance was a big deal there were dances for every age group. I blew them all off and only went in my last year, but as soon as school started in August girls would start talking about booking their dresses and their hair appointments and it was just so boring and ridiculous that their lived revolved around this one night (not even the night itself, more the afternoon of getting ready). I got my dress (and my fancy dress costume for the after party) the week of the dance, on the day itself I was at a preparation for Uni event, and I basically got changed and showed up. I should point out the whole ‘getting a date’ part isn’t a thing over here. Anyway I wore a purple 50s style dress and the highlight for me was that the band I was part of (just a group of musical students brought together to play Jingle Bell Rock at assemblies and other Christmas functions) were asked to perform our song which was more fun than the sitting around or the Scottish country dancing parts.

  • Emma Dajska April 11th, 2013 7:41 AM

    Caitlin, I absolutely LOVE your illustration for this one!

  • caro nation April 11th, 2013 9:49 AM

    Amy Rose, you’re the only person I’ve ever heard describe having a really uplifting experience at prom, AND YOU DIDN’T EVEN GO LIKE A BADASS. Although Emma, your prom(s) also sounded pretty fun, too, because you’re so cavalier in describing them. Like, YEAH, I WENT TO FOUR PROMS FOR MY OWN REASONS, THEY WERE NO BIG DEAL.

  • wallflower152 April 11th, 2013 10:46 AM

    Jr prom: didn’t wanna go. My school you had to have enough “merits” to attend if you were a jr. That was gonna be my excuse not to attend but I ended up earning enough accidentally cuz I helped with a car wash which was actually pretty fun. I wore fake eyelashes and they were too long so I trimmed them and accidentally cut my real eyelashes too haha. Very lame night. I don’t dance and I hated the music that they danced to. I wore a floor length gown with matching chucks. No date just went with friends. I only really had two people there that I considered friends though. Highlight of my evening: texting my guy bff/crush/current bf who wasn’t there and eating at Chili’s with friends after. Got home super early like 12 or 1.

    Sr prom: a little less lame. I took a girl friend who was a soph. and my guy bff at the time/friend with benefits was my other date. Still didn’t dance, still hated the music. There were more friends this time so that made it better. ‘Specially to see my guy friends in their fancy clothes. Got home early and watched MTV’s True Life then opportunity arose to sneak out and go to my guy date’s house, drive down to the dead end on his road and makeout in my grandmother’s car until nearly 5am.

    PS: I noticed I always leave long comments on Rookie haha. I like to read what other people have to say about the articles so I like to share my thoughts too and I’m at bored at work so yeah. : )

  • christinachristina April 11th, 2013 12:53 PM

    I’m certainly not advocating doing drugs, but I went to my senior prom with a group of my best friends in a crappy old limo wearing a ridiculous dress from the 1980′s ON MUSHROOMS. It was completely amazing.

  • GlitterKitty April 11th, 2013 3:00 PM

    What is this junior prom business?? Isn’t the point of prom that you’re graduating? At my school only the seniors are allowed to buy prom tickets. Technically you can go if you’re younger but you have to go as a senior’s “date” and they have to buy your ticket. I feel like it’s some sort of American thing that we don’t do in Canada….

  • flocha April 11th, 2013 3:02 PM

    I live in England, and although my school doesn’t have an actual prom (yay for all girls schools) last year some friends of mine who go to different schools started looking for dresses and hiring marquees for after parties and fire engines to turn up in the September before, because prom had to be THE BEST NIGHT OF THEIR LIFE AND EVERYTHING HAD TO BE PERFECT. I understand the fun and appeal of dressing up/dancing/getting horrifically drunk with friends and everything, but I think that the whole experience would be more fun if everyone just calmed down a bit and stopped placing all their expectations on one night.

  • ellie0226 April 11th, 2013 4:00 PM

    Last year at my junior prom, my date was actually going steady with another girl and I didn’t see him the whole night, haha. I think I had more fun with my friends anyway.

  • glitter riot April 11th, 2013 7:26 PM

    I loved this piece, but it was also really depressing. I too want a John Hughes prom experience, but I really don’t think it’s going to happen. I don’t talk to the majority of my peers and the one’s who I do talk to i’m not too close with. three of my best friends aren’t going to prom, so I would have no one to sit with. I really really wish I could go and dress up and be the only girl who looks like she stepped out of a vintage magazine next to the girls in glittery, sexy dresses. But I can’t dance, I don’t have a date, and I’m scared of going on drugs because I had a really bad experience with them and vowed to never do them again. I mean, i guess i could always get drunk to get myself through it but i feel like I could just do that at with my best friends and save 150 bucks.

  • Lydia Jane April 21st, 2013 4:28 PM

    My prom was last night, and the whole thing was really weird and awkward. I’d definitely been hoping it would be either incredible or terrible–I think I just really wanted it to be a pivotal moment in my adolescent life, a la Pretty in Pink or Perks of Being a Wallflower. This article’s awesome because it kind of gave me a new perspective. I’m looking forward to being able to look back, in a few years, and laugh/cringe/sigh at the uncomfortable-ness and strangeness that was my junior prom, haha. x

  • fashionforteens May 30th, 2013 9:56 PM

    My prom experience was pretty similar to some of these. I basically dragged myself to both proms just because I was afraid of “missing out”. I had even more romanticized, 80s John Hughes-esque hopes for the evening than I’d like to admit and naturally, I was let down. While I’m ultimately glad that I went, neither prom was particularly memorable. I didn’t really hit it off with my date Junior year, who was pretty quiet and awkward. Senior year, the dance itself was the typical boring high school event and the after prom was excessively fun for the oh, about hour or so that I was there before drinking way too much and passing out. So all in all, prom wasn’t really what I’d hoped for but hey, neither was high school and I have the rest of my life for romance, right?