I loathed my suburban New Jersey high school and everyone in it, save for four or five people who weren’t completely obsessed with broiling their flesh to a fine crisp at tanning salons and/or making fun of developmentally disabled kids during lunch period. It was this handful of semi-non-jerks and my two full-fledged non-jerk best friends that I chose to skip prom with. The theme of the dance was “Don’t Stop Believin’,” even though it was 2008. (Also, I grew up in the town where The Sopranos was occasionally filmed.)
In lieu of continuing to believe with our classmates, we booked a roach-y motel room in New York City’s Chinatown for the weekend. When we got there we discovered that our two rooms were only just barely large enough to accommodate their brick-like twin mattresses, plus one of ’em didn’t have a bathroom, AND FURTHERMORE the walls didn’t connect to the ceilings, so it was impossible not to eavesdrop on everyone else on our hall, most of whom were probably not teenagers skipping prom, judging by what we could hear of their evenings. But whatever: I was 17 and so fucking thrilled about this scenario despite the squalor of the place that I can’t even begin to describe the feeling to you.
My friends and I spent the weekend waltzing around the Lower East Side in lazily attempted updos and heavy eye makeup, sniffing around every bar that would have us like slutty baby animals. We got hit on by business-y herbs in striped collared shirts! We danced to songs we had never heard before on raised platforms in a sea of colored lights! Most important, though, at the end of each night, we rejected our hotel’s hard mattresses and opted instead to grab our blankets and sleep on the easily accessible roof. We woke up with the sun each morning and looked across the landscape to the other roofs surrounding us, where people were peacefully practicing tai chi on top of their apartment buildings. Seeing this, my heart did some exercising of its own. The thing was, I was moving to New York for college five months later, and that weekend (especially on those mornings) I felt like I was beginning to become the luckiest girl in the world, and would only get luckier once I moved to the city, where I would see and know and breathe moments like that one, where the sun poured over both longtime residents who knew the score, and also new kids who had chosen their own adventure and were grinning in their crusty eyeliner. It was the best prom weekend ever, which was also thanks to the amazing Italian food we had on Mulberry Street, and, you know, ~NYC MAGIC~. By skipping out on “Don’t Stop Believin'” I found an entirely new way to believe that things were about to get really, really rad for me, and that, in fact, as of that weekend, they already had. ♦