I realized the error of my ways the instant I entered the bridal gown shop. First, here I was shopping on a Saturday which I usually try to avoid and secondly, it is prom season. The store was jam packed with teenage girls and their moms who were tagging behind, checkbooks ready. Many of the girls had magazines clutched in their hands, chasing after salesgirls, trying to get their attention. "I want this dress right here - see, the one Paris Hilton is wearing when she got out of jail. My boyfriend loves that dress. Do you have it in a size negative 3?" I stood in the middle of it all, surrounded by blurry eyed moms and their starry eyed daughters, who were trying on gown after gown. I wanted to sit down in the midst of it all, and tell them a story about a prom from long ago.
It is May, 1974 and the whole school is talking about 'the' prom. I was on the prom committee and right in the middle of all the excitement and controversy. Yes, controversy over... the prom theme. Our prom committee which consisted of five of my friends and myself, had decided that the theme of the prom and prom 'song' would be 'Time in a Bottle' by Jim Croce. We were all in agreement and the majority of the girls in our class supported our decision. Somehow we didn't think to ask any of the guys what they thought and that is when the controversy developed. The boys actually had an opinion and they wanted to be heard. We really didn't want to listen to them but our class advisor told us we had to hear them out. Great...talk fast...we're all ears.
The boys wanted our prom theme/song to be 'Stairway to Heaven' by Led Zeppelin. Nope, not happening but thanks for sharing. The boys didn't back off and we were holding our ground. The class advisor decided we would be totally democratic and hold an election. What the heck - didn't our prom committee have any power? We had work to do and let's not forget that not one male signed up to be on the prom committee therefore why should they have any say? We still had to reserve the hall and find a band. There were balloons waiting to be blown up and crepe paper waiting to be made into streamers. Plus I had to find a date.
So we held the election. Remember the recent Florida ballot confusion? Well, the MHS prom theme election was ten times worse. This wasn't a secret ballot - the class advisor didn't trust any of us, I guess. Your name had to be written on the ballot. We only had 100 kids in our class yet we had over 100 ballots turned in. Since when did our class have students named Al Coholic or Herbie Hind?
I found our class advisor at her desk, counting ballots. She was intimidating on a good day and today was clearly a very bad day. It was quite clear that she was at the end of her rope. She gave her ultimatum. We either worked this out, NOW, or the prom would be cancelled. She was serious. Long story, short version - we compromised and agreed to the theme, 'Stairway into Time', and also agreed both songs would be played at the prom. Yea.
Now it was time to get down to business and figure out how one gets a prom date. My friend, Katey, asked a male friend who went to another school. Lucky her. I didn't have any friends, male or female, at another school. Cyndy was going to go with her boyfriend. That's not going to work for me since I have no boyfriend. Karen agreed to go with 'Pumpkin' - no comment. It truly looked as if I would have to go solo if I wanted to go to the prom. I really didn't want to since I wasn't the most confident seventeen year old female. Looking back on the events which occurred I should have just stayed home.
It definitely was a stressful time which was made even more confusing as my mother tried to give me advice and comfort me. My mom had one pat comment for me anytime I was upset or stressed out. "Debra, just remember to be thankful that at least you have two healthy legs that will get you where you're going. " What the heck? Was I supposed to walk to the prom? And on a side note, I hated my legs back then. They were skinny toothpicks hence my nickname, Toothpick or Skinny Smitty throughout high school. What guy wanted to take a toothpick to the prom? Not many I found out.
So the prom was fast approaching and I had just about given up hope of going to the prom which I had organized. Guess I wouldn't see the balloons or streamers. Guess I would be listening to my radio instead of to the band as it played our 'two' prom songs. Oh well, at least I had two healthy legs.
Then it happened. One day while in band practice, the obnoxious, immature trombone player who sat behind me nudged me in the back of my head, hard, with his trombone slide. Joel was a major irritant in my life. I played the clarinet and had the misfortune of sitting in front of Joel. He delighted in hiding my sheet music, pulling the chair out from under me and the truly irritating daily nudge to the back of my head.
I turned around to yell at Joel. He was sitting there with his goofy smile on his face, big space between his front teeth. "You wanna go to the prom with me?" I turned back around in my chair. Great. I finally get asked to the prom and it was a major pest doing the asking. I weighed my options. Go to the prom with Joel or stay home alone - I thought about it for fifteen seconds. I turned around and told Joel that I would go with him. I was going to the prom!I bought a pink floral print gown and white sandals with a heel. I went to the hairdresser the afternoon of the prom and sat in the chair with tears running down my face as the hairdresser teased my hair into this huge beehive creation. I can still feel the pain from her teasing my hair, yanking my head around. She sprayed a whole can of hairspray at the beehive, insuring that it would take an act of God to destroy her creation. What did she think I was going to be doing - standing on my head while dancing? I can still remember leaving her beauty shop and working to regain my balance as I walked because my head felt so heavy.
I started getting ready early and practiced walking in my heels - I was pretty shaky as I paraded around our house. I remember being concerned that if I was crowned prom queen the tiara wouldn't sit straight on my beehive updo. I decided to worry about that later.
Joel pulled up in our driveway driving a shiny, black, large car. Where was his clunky, rusty truck? Joel presented me with my first corsage and told me his boss had loaned him the car for the evening. I was pleasantly surprised - maybe I had judged Joel incorrectly. My prom date was looking better by the minute.
We got in the car and headed on our way. I can remember that uncomfortable quietness that filled the car. Up to this point I had only ever yelled at Joel to stop hitting my head, to give me back my music and stop touching my chair - none of those comments were appropriate now.
All of a sudden I realized that my seat was going up. I asked Joel what was going on. Straight-faced he looked at me and asked me what the issue was. My beehive was now being squished into the roof of the car. I realized that Joel could control the height of my seat and he was totally enjoying this little game. I decided to ignore the fact that my updo was being squished and said a quiet thank you prayer for the can of hairspray that was holding my hair together.
We finally arrived at the hall. I took a deep breath as I got out of the car. My evening could only get better. I saw my friends standing over in a corner. They all looked beautiful in their pastel colored gowns. They helped me spruce up my hair and then it was time for pictures. Joel and I smiled and headed down the long flight of stairs to the main hall where I could potentially be crowned Prom Queen. I was about halfway down the stairs in my new heels and WHOOSH, I tumbled down the rest of the stairs. I laid in a pile at the bottom of the stairs, my gown tangled around my body. I was disoriented as I laid there trying to figure out what had just happened to me. I discovered that my heel had broken off of my new shoe. A crowd of people were gathering around me, asking if I was alright.
I slowly started to sit up when all of a sudden I was being lifted up roughly by my beehive. It was Joel, who told me to get up because I was embarrassing him. I was embarrassing him? Interesting. It was at this point that I decided proms suck.
I can't tell you anything else about my prom because I remember nothing else. I don't think we danced. I know I wasn't crowned prom queen. I do remember that the photographer helped me out by nailing my heel back onto my shoe. Unfortunately the nail was too long and it dug into my heel. It hurt so I went barefoot for the rest of the evening. I do know it was a very quiet ride home after the prom - and Joel didn't move my seat up or down once.
There was an after prom party at our high school. Joel told me he was too tired to attend and that he just wanted to go home and go to bed. Fine with me. He dropped me off at my house. I think I forgot to say goodnight, thank you or screw you. I ran into my house, stripped out of my gown, put on my jeans and jumped into my 1967 Plymouth Fury III and headed to the after prom party. Maybe I could still save this evening.
I walked into the gym, letting my eyes adjust to the dark. Kids were standing around talking, laughing and dancing to the music of a local band. At first I didn't see anyone I recognized and then...could it be? I walked over to a couple who was sitting on the bleachers, talking. I stopped when I was standing directly in front of Joel and his 'old' girlfriend. I so wish I had a camera because the look on Joel's face was priceless. I would like to end my story by telling you that I gave Joel the finger and it felt so good. I would then like to tell you that I turned on my sore heel, grabbed the first boy I saw and danced as I had never danced before. But I didn't give him the finger. I didn't shout or cry and I didn't dance. I don't remember feeling anything. I remember going home alone.
The next morning my phone rang. It was Joel. He wanted to know if I would like to go to the beach with him and Quasimodo, a mutual friend.
I said yes.