Lest this turn into a 1,000-word discourse about the fragility of my ego and desire to be liked when I was a teenager that probably still continues to this day, I’m just going to simply state that from the moment I set foot in my high school as a freshman, I looked forward to going to my senior prom. This is probably because I watched every John Hughes movie too many times, but since we held our prom on the Thursday before graduation, I felt like it was a truly special occasion, that “last hurrah” before heading off into parts unknown. And while that attitude probably set me up for a huge letdown (as proms often are), I actually had a really good time. Granted, I’ve written more exciting fiction than what actually happened on my prom night, but that’s why it’s fiction, right?
Anyway, I’ve got prom on my mind for a couple of reasons. First, I’m about two weeks away from chaperoning my seventh consecutive junior-senior prom. People I work with always seem astounded when I mention this, especially since I also chaperone the Homecoming Dance, but when I explain to them that not only do I get plenty of coverage for the yearbook but there’s tons of free food and chaperoning both dances gets me out of taking tickets at games, which is something I loathe. Second, this piece on Jezebel caught my eye: “Prom is Even More Magical When the Economy is Shit.” It seems that despite the bad economy, spending on prom (mostly by girls and their parents) is up to an average of $1,078.
Most of that spending, by the way, is by families that are decidedly middle-class. According to the article, rich families don’t really spend a lot on the prom:
Actually, those families spend less than parents in lower income brackets: according to a Visa phone survey, families that make between $20,000 and $29,999 a year will spend more than $2,600, twice the national average, while wealthier families plan to spend between $700 and $1,000 on clothing, accessories, grooming, dinner, and transportation.
Now, I suppose I could spend the rest of this post decrying the misplaced priorities of parents in the middle class, or how prom perpetuates the notion that a teenager’s social life is more important than her academic career, or something about a class war or war on women or mommy wars or war wars. But as I was reading the piece — and realizing that thinking about what I paid for my prom was useless since I am a guy — I began to think more about prom itself. How did it begin and why is it still part of our schools’ culture? Read the rest of this entry »