Thursday, May 29, 2008


It always bugged me when Molly Ringwald's character in "Pretty in Pink" referred to "prom". Not "the prom", but "prom", as though it were a substance, like water, or flour, or pie. Would you like a slice of prom? Yes, please, prom is my favourite!

At my high school, it was "the prom". And I went twice, once when I was in 9th grade (1987) and once when I was graduating (1991).

How did it come to pass that a Minor Niner got invited to the prom? "Minor" was an apt description. At the age of 14 I still looked 12; I was shy; I had barely made any friends yet. But it just so happened that my one close friend had an older sister in Grade 13 (that mythical-sounding but true artifact of the Ontario school board), and one of her guy friends needed a date for the prom.

This guy, call him Fred, was not exactly a catch. He was a brainy geek, a late bloomer. He was nice enough, but not attractive. I didn't care. I'd been a social outcast for years, and being invited to the prom by an older boy was a dream come true. I wanted the bragging rights.

This is approximately what we looked like:

except that his tux was black (thank God for small mercies) and my dress was pale purple. (I did an image search for "prom dress 1986" and this photo was the result. It's a little scary how much it looks like our actual photo from that night.)

We sat at a table for six with two other couples. Through the eyes of our wealthy, white high school, it was the Freak and Loser table. We were: The immigrant girl with the funny accent; the gay goth guy who was obsessed with The Cure; the girl with both a lisp and a limp; the guy who was so quiet that I barely remember him; the Minor Niner (me); and the skinny boy who looked like he'd never seen the sun or a minute of exercise in his life (my date).

It wasn't bad. It wasn't great. The best thing to come of the evening, as I'd expected, was the reaction of my peers when I told them I'd been to the prom. It did wonders for my underdeveloped ego.

Four years later I was back at the prom, wearing a very chic little black dress and with my future (now ex) husband on my arm. We shared a table with good friends, and the best part of the evening was the dancing. Ninth grade seemed a long, long time ago.


Karen said...

I refer to it as just Prom. No "the" needed. I do, however, call sex "the sex". So I guess that is where the missing "the" turns up.

Tink said...

I went to prom three years out of my four in high school. I loathed the whole idea of it, but my friends or current boyfriend always talked me into going. I rebeled by wearing the same dress for all three years. :)

Warped Mind of Ron said...

I didn't plan on going to my prom, but got talked into it and going stag. I ran at the last minute and got a suit that was so ugly that puking on it would have been an improvement. Nothing like sitting at a table watching the popular and pretty people have a good time. I only certain memories could be scrubbed away with bleach!!! Thanks for bringing back memories.

unsigned said...

I didn't go to my prom. I spent the night street racing instead.

Leighann said...

I went to my Jr Prom for all of about a half an hour, my boyfriend at the time was born and I was over the moon for him so I didn't argue about leaving.

He refused to go to Sr Prom with me or let me go with anyone else.

Tell me, why did I end up marrying him?!

Sparkling Red said...

Karen: LOL at "the sex". I'm trying to imagine using that phrase in a conversation, and it just doesn't fit anywhere. :-)

Tink: Three times! Woah. That's a lot. Do I hear four? Anyone out there go to prom four times?
I'm starting to think the whole prom/the prom thing is another instance of America-speak vs. Canada-speak. That's a reasonable explanation.

Ron: No problem. Anytime you need me to push on your bruises, I'm right here with my thumb at the ready. ;-)

Leighann: Good question. ;-) As a matter of fact, Ken refused to go to his high school prom and was dumped by his girlfriend because of that. So I ended up married to a man who refused to go to the prom; I just wasn't his date at the time.

girlinterrupted1218 said...

You know, that always bothered me too about Pretty in Pink.

"What about Prom Blane? What about Prom?" Then she storms off. It would have been so much better to say "The Prom" I should send John Hughes a letter about that. Hee..Hee..

I actually didn't go to my Prom. I just didn't feel like putting forth the effort to find a dress. So Lazy!

whatigotsofar said...

the gay goth guy who was obsessed with The Cure.

Something in that statement is redundant.

jameil1922 said...

what fun memories!! we used both. "prom" and "the prom." lmao @ an image search for "prom dress 1986." HILARIOUS!! we will need an actual exhibit of said prom picture. this makes me want to recount my prom experiences. lol.

Dianne said...

is it true that it is now called 'Senior Ball'? I could swear my niece told me that.

I never attended a prom - I was Janis Joplin, too cool to participate.

that photo is touching

Scarlet said...

I'm here via Claire's blog and I just love this post! I LOVED your description of the freak and loser table. Very well done.

You're inspiring me to write about my prom, which was a complete disaster!!

Aurora said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aurora said...

The people at the Freak and Loser table... what were they like? Did you ever get to know any of them?

Sparkling Red said...

girlinterrupted: It's no small task to find a good dress for any special occasion. Prepping for prom #2 I tried on almost every dress in the city before I found the only one that fit. But I was still very caught up in the romance of the prom, so it was worth it.

whatigotsofar: Yeah, I thought that myself during my editting process, but I couldn't figure out which part to remove. It's a subtle redundance.

Jameil: You will likely get to see the real picture soon, because Ken's planning to buy us a scanner. Old photos will be fair game!

Dianne: I've never heard of "Senior Ball", but apparently there are regional differences. I doubt you missed much at your prom - the only point in going is if you are really excited by the concept. If not, it's just another school dance, but more expensive.

Scarlet: I'm glad you're here! :-) I would love to read a post about your disastrous prom. That sounds like a gold mine of inspiration.

Aurora: Except for the quiet guy, I hung out with those older kids for the whole year leading up to the prom. The immigrant girl was incredibly sweet and enthusiastic, though totally uncool by our school's standards. The gay guy was troubled but good-hearted and good company. The other couple I didn't know as well, but they were nice. Even my date was a good guy. I remember them fondly. It's my loss that I was so shallow still, at that age.

Nilsa S. said...

That dress? Is hideous! Oh my!

You beat me by one. I hated THE prom. I felt like it was too much effort and too much money and you always wind up disappointed (which was often the case with friends who went). So, I'd kindly turn down invitations to go. And usually had a better time babysitting the kids down the street. Talk about social outcast?! ha.

Keera Ann Fox said...

The Prom. Always The. I went to my senior prom, and I couldn't tell you what I ate, or who I ate with (besides my date) or what band played. I remember meeting only one other person there that I knew besides my date. I do remember dancing till my feet hurt. That was wonderful!

Sparkling Red said...

Nilsa: You were a sensible girl! I was a hopeless romantic, which caused me no end of heartache on all fronts. I was constantly being disappointed by reality.

Keera: I don't remember much about the second prom, I guess because it was relatively uneventful. My clearest memory involves an in-joke about some guy's chewing gum and everyone laughing. It was good, clean fun. :-)