Prom–A Teen Rite of Passage?

Hannah and I are having a debate of sorts. I strangely worry that her life will somehow be incomplete if she never attends a prom. I guess I’ve watched one too many John Hughes movies one too many times. Anyway, the funny thing is, what I remember most about prom was that I wasn’t asked to attend my sophomore year. I went my junior and senior year but I cannot remember a thing about them–good or bad.  I have a hunch that I didn’t have a particularly good time attending prom but do not remember why. (I think I probably fought with my boyfriend during prom–see below).

Hannah tells me there isn’t even anyone she’d really want to go to prom with. She ascribes to the theory presented by one of her teachers, who told the kids that prom was a ridiculous notion of our affluent society. He said that today’s kids spend around $1,000 attending prom (dress, tux, dinner, tickets, renting limo or party bus) and the kids who aren’t in a relationship typically end up attending prom with someone they don’t even really like. Those in a relationship tend to spend prom fighting. Over the years, he has asked students to comment on their enjoyment of prom and indeed, not many have enjoyed it all that much. Hannah observed this theory to be true with her winter formal dance, which she did attend. It was a whole lot of money for very little payback in terms of pleasure. The teacher mentioned above also told the kids that this same amount of money could support numerous families in Africa for a year (did I mention that this class is an ethics/religion/english class all wrapped into one?).

I told Hannah that perhaps she should host an anti-prom fundraising party at our house instead. Not sure that would fly with her friends. Perhaps, like me, we are mostly ingrained to think of Prom as an essential rite of passage. I see further evidence of this by the fact that more parents on Facebook post pictures of their children attending prom than they post even of graduation.

So my question to you reader is whether you think prom is an essential teen rite of passage? Did you attend prom? Do you remember enjoying it? Did it make your life complete? Did you think about the amount of money you spent on the whole event?

When I think about it, the things most worth spending lots of money on have been live concert events. One year, when I was in the front row at Alpine Valley, seeing the Black Crowes and the Dave Matthews Band, I thought, “yes, money can really buy pleasure–but only in this limited circumstance and only for this short amount of time.” I do remember the many great concerts I’ve attended through the years.

Okay, so I’m there. I will no longer give any thought to whether Hannah attends prom. And when everyone is posting pictures of their children attending prom on Facebook, perhaps I will post pictures of Hannah volunteering at Lifeworks, where she has been volunteering with the developmentally disabled this past year. Perhaps volunteering should be the new teen rite of passage.

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3 comments
  1. Well I went to my Junior and Senior prom with the guy who is now my husband, to be honest he was my husband during my senior prom. I enjoyed myself but prom isn’t the big deal around here, post prom is. Post prom is a party the junior parents throw to keep the kids at the school so we didn’t go out drinking (we saved that for 5 am). The parents had fundraisers all year to pay for prizes we would win all night long. These were great prizes, tvs, vcrs, microwaves, gift certificates that were donated by local businesses. Now 14 years later they take a bus and go bowling or go to laser tag. They still give out prizes but with a long bus ride everyone is pretty sleepy but the time they get back so there is now longer that 5 am party. If there is a winter formal, what is the major difference from prom. She seems like a bright kid, let her make her choice.

  2. Julie Coleman said:

    I think John Hughes really did a number on us, because my first reaction was, “She has to go to prom!” But of course she doesn’t. Plenty of people don’t go, and they’re just fine. My first date with Bernie was our junior prom. We had a great time, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a first date! We went again senior year, and I remember not having nearly as much fun. Both times, we went bowling afterward with friends, and I suppose we got dinner beforehand. I feel like it wasn’t nearly as pricey then as it is now. If Hannah feels like she’d be missing out on something, then maybe she should go. Otherwise, doing an alternate fundraiser seems like a really cool idea!

  3. motherimperfect said:

    @Cornfield mom
    They do have that sort of event after Hannah’s graduation ceremony–a party at the school where they have prizes and stuff (and they keep them there until 5 am too!), so she’ll have that experience even if she doesn’t attend prom. And I would never make her attend. Our debate has more gone like this: I ask her what she’d do if a boy she doesn’t really like asks her to prom and she says she’d turn him down. I tell her, but it takes so much courage for a boy to ask and wouldn’t you have fun with your friends anyway? But you know, maybe it just isn’t worth the expense. And maybe turning men down is a good skill to have too. And I guess the winter dance was nearly the same experience except girls ask the guys rather than the other way around. Although I think she could ask someone to prom and it would be okay.

    @Julie. Yes, prom is much more expensive now. But maybe it is more of a rural town vs. big city thing. Perhaps proms in EGF still cost at least half of what they do here. The theme of Prom our junior year was “Never Say Goodbye,” right? I think that is something I remember. Do you remember the theme of our senior prom? Was it “I had the time of my life?” If so, oh the irony. Anyway, you started dating Bernie out of it and he was a good boyfriend and still a good friend, so I guess prom worked out okay for you. Still, I had more fun at our cast parties. Those I remember!

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