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.

Amy Rose

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. ♦

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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?