An adult goes to prom

The dresses, the dances – it's all pretty shocking. But they are still teenagers, and in the fancy restaurants they can't drink!
Crosscut archive image.

Prom dresses ca. 2007.

The dresses, the dances – it's all pretty shocking. But they are still teenagers, and in the fancy restaurants they can't drink!

Prom season is upon us in the Northwest. This can affect even those of us who are well past our high-school years. We see stretch limos pulling up to our neighbors' humble abodes. Many fabulous restaurants are crawling with teens who are dressed to the nines for prom night. Recently, as I shopped dejectedly for yet another cotton t-shirt for myself that is "kid-schmutz" friendly, I watched wistfully as a gaggle of giggling teens tried on sensational, tiny party dresses and glittery super-high heels. This time of year has caught me off guard for years. Four years ago, my sister-in-law and I were seven months pregnant at the same time. We had saved every Gene Juarez gift certificate we could get our hands on for years and decided to cash them in on a pre-mom's day of pampering. Then we found out that part of our pampering package included styled hair and makeup, so we told our husbands they were obligated to come pick us up looking plump and pretty and take us out to a nice dinner. When we promised the Metropolitan Grill, they were happy to oblige. So my sister-in-law and I spent the day at the spa and got all gussied up in our steppin'-out maternity clothes (they exist, trust me). We got to the Met to find ourselves pulling up in our sassy Subaru station wagon to be valet parked behind a long line of Town Cars and limos. Our table was an island of adultness surrounded by a sea of teenagers who looked fabulous and care-free in their fancy duds and glowing skin. It was a little depressing (my issue, not theirs). Then us gals excused ourselves to go to the bathroom, and dozens of teenagers gawked as we hoisted our rotund selves out of our chairs. Really, promoting birth control was not my priority that night, but our husbands gleefully reported that after we walked past the tables there was a collective unconscious pat on the wallet from the guys who were making sure they were armed for post-prom activities. Two years ago, my Hubby and I received a Ray's Boat House gift certificate from our real estate agent in thanks for using his services to buy and sell our homes. Of course, since we had just committed to double our monthly living expenses, we actually needed to use the gift certificate to go out. We squirreled away that gift certificate for one year and then decided to cash it in for an anniversary dinner. I put on heels and shaved my legs (I had two small children, so you know it was a big night). We arrived at Ray's and were promptly seated at a table with a fabulous view – of three tables of teenagers. It was a little annoying (my issue, not theirs) until I realized that I could order cocktails! Take that, you well-dressed sprites with your 100 percent disposable income! Last year I actually went to prom, to help as a chaperone with a friend who is a teacher. Let me tell you: Times, they are a-changin'. When I was in high school, we had one girl who wore a short black dress and it was a little scandalous. Things have evolved. As always, the young men turned out in their ill-fitting rented tuxes. But many of the young ladies were dressed too maturely for their age. It is understandable given what young film and pop stars are wearing these days. But I find it slightly creepy to see a young woman in an evening gown that Joan Rivers might wear or, worse, a dress cut up and down to there that Mariah Carey might wear - yikes. Nowhere in sight was my full-length prom dress of 1986 (Blast! I wasn't going to give dates), with royal-blue satin, puffy sleeves, inverted dropped-waist (ugh), and silver lace overlay. There were a lot of short dresses and a lot of cleavage. (For you men over 30, no, girls were not built like that when you were in high school). After seeing the dance floor, I fully understood the need for short dresses. The preferred dance style is with the young fellow standing behind the young lady, who has her back turned to him. The young lady backs up until her backside is in contact with the young fellow's frontside, and then she gyrates while the young fellow steps from side to side and bobs his head. Another dance style, which was my personal favorite: The young fellow leans against a wall and throws out all pretense of dancing and just bobs his head up and down while his date (presumably) gyrates her backside against his frontside. It was a little unnerving to see beautifully clad and fresh-faced young adults taking part in what were essentially lap dances. Perhaps the new dirty dance style is understandable. Over the years, women (young and old) have gotten tired of hearing men tell them they don't want to dance. So maybe one day a young woman said to her boyfriend, "OK, fine. You don't have to dance. Just stand there while I rub up against you to the beat of the music." This was really what the young man had wanted all along, so he agreed. So we can't blame the music. We can't blame the kids. It's just nature, an evolutionary turn, basic survival. A cutely dressed woman who got dolled up thought, "Dang it, I want to show off my outfit on the dance floor. What do I have to do to drag you out there?" Thinking this through at Prom 2006, I ended up taking the dancing in stride. It really was a lot less creepy than some of the college-age parties I have seen. All the kids were really lovely to talk to and very gracious to us. I got a free prom picture with my friend against the lovely night-sky backdrop. I even liked my outfit better than my actual high-school prom dress. Frankly, I liked my prom date better, too. Thankfully, times are a-changin'.


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