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.


I was not excited for prom. Which isn’t to say I was anti-prom—mostly, I felt indifferent about it. I mean, if other people were into the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on a glorified dance and dinner then I wasn’t going to rain on their parade, but I just didn’t see the point. I hated high school, and the idea of never returning was enough fun for me.

But my mom really wanted me to go—she was very much into commemorating traditional milestones. I can’t remember how she persuaded me to do it. It happened somewhere between “You’ll regret it later” and “Don’t you want pictures to show your grandparents?” and “Seriously, I’ll buy your dress and pay for tickets for both you and your date, but you’re going.” I decided I wanted to be as low-key as possible: no limo, no fancy hotel parties. I conceded to getting my hair done, but bought the dress secondhand days before the event. I would go, and I would even let myself have fun, but I would not allow myself to put all—or any—of my expectations on one night.

I expressed my ambivalence about the night to a platonic friend from middle school whom, for the sake of a Pretty in Pink reference, we’ll refer to as Blane. I called Blane my best friend, but that was mostly because I was into the idea of having a guy for a best friend, like Xander and Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I harbored a massive unreciprocated crush on him, which, for the record, is not usually the basis for a healthy friendship.

Here is a historic re-enactment of our phone call:

Me: I just don’t see what the big deal is about prom. It’ll probably end up being lame.

Him: Would it be less lame if I went with you?

Me: Are you saying you want to come to my prom?

Him: I don’t know, do you want me to go to your prom?

And with that, I had a date. Blane lived six hours away and would have to take a bus into the city. “Are you sure that’s OK?” I asked, stressing once again how laid-back I wanted the event to be. “If it’s too much, I’ll just go with friends.” Blane assured me he was planning to come visit for a week around that time anyway, and we decided he would stay with me for the first two nights before crashing with other friends.

Me and my mom.

Me and my mom.

The event itself was held on a rainy June evening. We took photos in the living room. I was wearing a pale gold, embroidered dress from the 1950s. The corsage came from my mom; Blane refused to wear his boutonniere because he said it’d ruin his tux. There was increasing friction between the two of us. I mean, we were getting along all right, but it was clear that though we had been close friends during the first few years of high school, we were growing into very different people. I could never quite put my finger on it, but we had fewer and fewer mutual friends and we no longer laughed at each other’s jokes. Still, I could play the role of the happy prom attendee, dressed to the nines, for an evening that I would describe as “perfectly nice.” The food was pleasant. A dude was elected prom queen. I tried to engage Blane in that not-quite-grinding-but-not-far-from-it dance that makes parents and teachers cringe, but after about four seconds it felt so awkward that I settled for dancing pretty chastely in a group with my friends. Some people got carried away at the afterparty, and there was lots of puking. It was an evening where everything went as expected and nothing was particularly memorable, but at least I could now cross “prom” off my list of life experiences. Blane and I returned home at 4 AM, and the following morning my friends came over and my parents made us pancakes and coffee.

When Blane eventually left to visit his other friends, I started talking to my mother. I confessed that he and I had grown apart. My mom added that she noticed tension between us, and was surprised that I had volunteered to pay for his trip down here. Cue the record scratch. I asked my mom to elaborate.

“Oh you know,” she said. “When you guys came home, Blane asked for a check to reimburse his bus ride down here. I figured you guys had talked about it.”

I couldn’t believe it. Blane had waited until I had fallen asleep to ask for money from my parents to pay for a trip that he said he had covered. I was humiliated. The bus ticket had cost twice what my dress did. I felt like Kat in 10 Things I Hate About You after she found out her date got paid to take her to prom, only I didn’t get a guitar from Heath Ledger out of the deal.

Pissed off, I called Blane. “It was your idea to go to prom!” I practically yelled into the phone. “You promised me it wouldn’t be a problem for you to come into town!” I didn’t listen to his side of the argument, because I had already made up my mind: he had used me, I was a fool, and our friendship was officially over.

I slammed down the receiver, satisfied that I at least got a few dramatic gestures out of the situation, and went to find my mom. “Didn’t you think it odd that I had promised this guy you’d give him money without talking to you about it first?” I asked her.

“I did,” she said. “But I just wanted you to have fun. It was your prom.”

In that moment, I forgot about my rage and realized just how much my mom had done for me the past few days: paying for my dress, accommodating my guest, having my friends over for breakfast the morning after, all to give me a happy experience to end high school with. I was so wrapped up in my scorned crush and my hatred of high school that I had taken for granted one of the relationships that actually mattered to me.

Ultimately, I look back on my prom experience as a happy one. It ended on a sour note, sure, but the event itself was fun. It was a silly night in which I dressed up and danced with my friends—nothing life-changing like in the movies, but I never expected as much.

I don’t know what Blane’s doing with his life now. I found him on Facebook and tried to get in touch when I was writing this piece, but he never replied. I certainly don’t wish him any ill will at this point, but I don’t miss him. He was just a bit character in a scene of my life. ♦


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  • 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


  • 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?