Hot Dogs, Herbs & Hickory Sticks

It’s prom season around here and this is really the first year that I’ve been close enough to it to see what an insane madfest it is. My daughter’s best friend is graduating high school and for months I’ve been hearing all about the drama, the angst, the preparations, the financing, the planning –ye gods! the planning!

When I was in high school, we didn’t do prom. I don’t know if that was just the era or the rural location of our high school, but to us, prom was something dorky teenagers used to do back in the 1950s. On our last day of school, we piled into and onto a bunch of cars and pick-up trucks and motorcycles and headed to the Upper Falls of Balls Falls, a local recreation/camping/nature park.


We fired up a few of the onsite BBQ pits and threw on some dogs and potatoes. We had some chips and Hickory Sticks  (the snack of choice for rural hippy teens) and a few bags of strawberries from our farms. Everyone brought beverages and “herbs” to…. um…garnish the meal. Someone cranked their car stereo up and we listened to the same couple dozen tapes over and over because we didn’t have 10,000 bands churning out tunes back in the olden days.

Our “outfits” were cut-offs and bikini tops or halter tops for the girls (no bras) and cut-offs and bare, slightly fuzzy chests for the guys. Our hair was long and completely product/flat iron free. On our feet we wore Indian water buffalo sandals, (I still have mine. They were indestructible), or flip-flops, which we used to call “thongs” before thongs meant tiny underpants.

And so we whiled away our last day of being high-schoolers. Basking in the sun; jumping off the top of the falls into who-knows-what below; eating hot dogs and strawberries. We stayed up all night talking about stuff; being mellow; making out a bit; just being goofy. As soon as the sun was up the next morning we piled back into and onto the cars and pick-up trucks and motorcycles and headed home – where we’d work on our family’s farm for the rest of the summer.

My daughter’s friend, Jen, started hunting for just the right prom dress months ago. She finally found one in Montreal; on sale for $300. She and her boyfriend of 2 months bought prom tickets months ago signing a contract that stipulated that no one but the purchaser would be allowed to use those tickets. The boyfriend rented a limousine with 3 of his friends. They paid a deposit on hotel rooms for an after the after-party party.

After the prom dress and shoes and assorted accessories were assembled, Jen had to find a dress (plus shoes) for the after party and a new outfit (plus shoes) for after the after-party party. She has an appointment to have her hair done the morning of prom and another appointment for a manicure and pedicure the day before prom. These arrangements (and deposits) had to be made ages ago because it’s prom season.

Of course last week the boyfriend dumped her and decided to go back to his old girlfriend.

“Now what?” you might ask.

Prom is ruined, apparently. The same scenario is being played out over and over in high schools everywhere. People without dates simply cannot go to the prom. Well, they can, but they’ll look like losers. Better to just not go at all. Jen is inconsolable.

Some local schools have cancelled proms altogether because of all the “mischief” the darned kids tend to get up to after the ceremony. (carousing, consuming of alcohol, boisterous activity, sex play, lots of forced fun).

I’m kind of hoping all the schools cancel prom before my kid has to go through all that. Then maybe the kids can just find a simple, unstructured, fun way to celebrate this milestone with their closest friends.

Of course, I’m not sure if that’s possible anymore. Everything seems to demand a Hollywood-style blowout. Just when you breathe a sigh of relief that all the over-the-top elementary school birthday parties are over, along come the Sweet Sixteen parties. Each is more glam than the one before. Even the guys are throwing Sweet Sixteen parties for themselves – renting a hall, laying on a buffet, a DJ, formal dress, a guest list of 100 – the works!

I can’t imagine what kind of money the parents are laying out for this stuff. And every time I ask the kid how the latest party was, the responses range from “okay” to “totally lame”.  

That’s the worst of it. All this panic and planning and money and pressure and no one seems to be enjoying themselves anymore.

I LOVED – LOVED my last day of high school. I’ll never forget it. It was perfect. I really want my kid to have a day (and night) like that to remember. Not some over-priced, high-stress formal affair. But maybe I’m just seeing things from my own narrow perspective.

Did you or anyone you know really enjoy their prom?