I’m going to the prom on Saturday night!  It’s not what you think.  From the Yellow Springs News:

Villagers will have a chance to relive — or redo — the greatest night of their lives at “Enchantment Under the Springs,” a 21-and-up event organized by a committee of the Yellow Springs Browns’ Backers.

“The idea was to let people relive their prom but have more fun,” said Kira Lugo, a member of the prom committee. “I’m excited to go to the prom and enjoy it the way it should be.”

I hadn’t planned to go.  Then last week at a discussion of Peggy Orenstein’s book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter (a great book, I blogged about it here), my friend said her husband wasn’t interested, so she would go stag.  (Is it called “stag” when it’s a woman going alone?  Is it going doe?)  Whatever the nomenclature, I decided I’d join her.  (Clearly, our husbands have no desire to relive their high school days.  Smart.)

What to wear?  The week is busy, too busy to peruse thrift shops for couture.  Something in my closet would have to do.  I have a few fancy dresses.  (And isn’t it more sane to not get stressed over something that’s supposed to be fun?  Don’t spend money, just choose something you already have!)  But as I considered what to wear, nasty anxieties bubbled beneath my mature, forty-six-year-old exterior.  To wit:

Junior year, 1983 (…thirty years ago??), as prom approached, each week, I stuffed myself into the hand-me-down bridesmaid’s dress, making sure it would still zip up.  I struggled with weight as a teenager.  Recently, my mother gave me some photos from her father’s things, including a picture of me that night in that dress.  Sausage-wedged inside the floor-length fuchsia gown, hair curling-ironed, make up covering my young skin, I smiled.  (Wrist corsage from my date, who was not my steady, but a neighbor friend.  He wore an all-white tuxedo.)  I have no curling iron now.  Back in middle school, I’d burned my cornea using a curling iron, but that didn’t stop me for years to come.  Now I see the insecure teen beneath the bright-pink girly sugar dream.  When my five-year-old daughter, princess and pink-loving, saw that photo, she cooed and said, “I wish I was you.”

“Why?” I asked.

“So I can have a beautiful dress like that.”

I reassured her that when her prom comes, we will find something even more beautiful for her to wear.  (She doubted that would be possible.)  (Reminder to mother: Your stories are yours, not hers.  All she sees in that photo is the shine, the fancy.)

For my senior prom, I found a vintage periwinkle knee-length dress.  Satiny skirt, wide satin belt, lace and rhinestones on the bodice.  At the time it was fairly gorgeous, and it fit me well.  I kept it for a long time.  (I wish I still had it!)  I think it cost $12.50 at Deborah’s Attic, a wonderful vintage store in Springfield, Ohio.

I am not who I was then, but some of that girl remains.  Ironically, this week, I read an abbreviated version of this article about the development of humans and how our self-image during the teen years can shape us as adults: how and why the years of high school linger long.  My friend and I have had several email chains going this week, giggling electronically at the silly stuff that PROM is calling up.  Our adult wisdom in tact, for me, it’s still been hard to maintain inner calm when I think toward Saturday night.  If it’s going to trigger some wobbly feelings from three decades ago, it’s an intentional trigger; I’m choosing to pull it.

I’m choosing a superficial week, focussing on the outside, seeing what it’s like to do this as an adult.  From the floor up: I’m going to wear my red “vintage” Dr. Marten boots.  I got them in the 90s, wore them everywhere, and nearly wore them out.  I wore them all around Italy.  I loved those boots.  I still love those boots.  I’m going to lace them with hot pink tulle leftover from a pair of butterfly wings I made my daughter last year.  I have a couple of dresses that might work with the boots and turquoise tights.  The real question for the rest of the outfit is whether to follow the notion of reclamation (wear what’s comfortable to you, now, decide to look fabulous!) or the urge toward theatrics (how often do I have the chance to go over the top?)  And do I have the chutzpah to be that freak mama who shows up in her big blue butterfly wings (which are hiding in my closet)?  And if I am, how far over the top shall I go?

Today, I went to Iona Boutique to buy a “doe” prom ticket.  The shop owner had a few old-school options, including a salmon-pink 80s style dress.  (“Might as well try it on,” I said.)  It fits.  I’m borrowing it–I gave her a donation to the Yellow Springs Kids Playhouse, for which the prom is a fundraiser.  (Men rent tuxedos, after all, don’t they?)

So, revisit?  Reclaim?  Redefine?  I’m not sure yet.  I just want to dance!

4 thoughts on “The power of PROM

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