I am a huge believer in prom. I am one of those people that went to both junior and senior prom and unironically loved every minute of them. Junior prom stands out to this day as one of the most magical nights of my existence (it helps that everything seems more magical when you’re 16). I’m pretty sure I’m never going to bother having a wedding because prom is so much better – it’s all the fun of picking out a dress and dancing and eating fancy food, and none of the stress of having to pay for it all or spending the rest of your life with the guy in a tux you’re taking pictures with. (Thank goodness. My junior prom date moved to Australia and became like, a butcher or something. Totally not joking. Thanks, Facebook.)
However, just because I loved prom does not mean it met all of my expectations, which is frankly kind of a relief. The entertainment industry would have you believe that prom is meant to be a dramatic, and in many cases, traumatic event, and that prom is not prom unless there is a shouting match or someone gets punched. I am here to reassure you that this is entirely untrue.
Your prom will not coincide with a harrowing life event.
The first exposure I had to the idea of prom was on Full House. I remember thinking the gold dress that DJ wore to her senior prom was the epitome of sexy (and I kind of still do).
Apparently it wasn’t enough drama that DJ initially didn’t have a date or a dress, so her prom also had to conflict with her desire to be with Michelle, who’d just been in a terrible horseback riding accident. Grey’s Anatomy, a show that’s not even about high school, still managed to have a prom episode full of scandalous hookups, marriage proposals and death. (The scene where Alex tenderly picks up a distraught Izzie after her fiance’s death still gets me every time.)
For better or worse, real life tends to not be that exciting. In reality, you’ll go, you’ll dance, you’ll have fun, and you’ll finish the night on your best friend’s couch watching Legally Blonde and eating cheesecake (I lived large in high school). No hospital stays will occur.
No one is going to be making bets about you.
What is it about prom that inspires douchebag boys to make bets and/or pay guys to get girls there? Where was this at my high school? I was a dorky brunette with glasses; I would have loved it if Freddie Prinze Jr. decided he wanted to make me over and turn me into prom queen. Seriously, if a boy half that cute had even so much as talked to me in high school, I would have been over the moon, and probably would have ignored the whole ‘in it for the money part.’
Speaking of people who were in it for the money, let’s talk about Patrick Verona, the man who ruined all other men for me. Any man who would sing and dance in the bleachers or go paddleboating with me is welcome to do so for money, as long as I’m not the one footing the bill. He was funny, debonair, and managed to get Kat, prom’s greatest critic, to the dance.
But seriously – why don’t these kids have anything better to spend their time or money on than stupid bets? Did these kids not have finals and AP exams and college decisions to deal with? Were they all so bored that their only option was to mess with nice, smart, funny girls for their own entertainment? And what really was so special about Bianca Stratford? (Aside from her prom dress – I know this is a controversial position to take, but I loved it.) I’m pretty sure that girls in real life would have been lining up to date Joseph Gordon-Levitt; he certainly could have found someone he didn’t have to jump through hoops to date.
The popular kids will not be conspiring to do something horrible.
According to the movies, if you are an unpopular person who dares to show up at prom, this means something disgusting will be poured on you. We had pig’s blood in Carrie, and dog food in Never Been Kissed. Like the betting thing, who is actually mean enough and has the time to coordinate this? As someone who probably would have considered dressing up as part of a double helix, I don’t think doing this would have put me at risk for getting Alpo-ed. Prom was just like the rest of high school; all the cliques minded their own business with a minimum of inter-group drama.
You don’t have to lose your virginity at prom
As a child, my parents wouldn’t let me watch the Boy Meets World prom episode, because the previews hinted that Cory and Topanga might Do It on Prom Night (though they actually do not). This seems to be one of the most pervasive, and in my opinion worst, prom clichés ever. Does anyone actually do this? Was I just wildly uncool in high school (okay, yes, but still)? In my prom experience, no one made special pacts to lose it on that night, no guys were luring girls into hotel rooms to seduce them. The kids who were doing it had been doing it long before prom, and the kids that weren’t still weren’t.
Also, is it just me or does prom seem like a horrible time to do this? You’ve got your hair up with like a billion bobby pins in it, you’re wearing a pound of makeup and a ridiculous foofy dress; it’s going to take you an hour just to get undressed and able to lay down without getting stabbed in the head with a hairpin. Plus, anyone who tries to convince you that it’s uncool to be a virgin in college is lying. Pretty much everyone I knew in college was at least half a virgin when I met them.
In short, prom is not going to look like it does in the movies. Save Ferris will not be playing, a boy who’s been using you will not fall in love with you, everyone will be terrible dancers, there will be no fights, no food throwing, and frankly, that’s all for the best. Movies and TV seem to feel the need to up the ante on prom night, but frankly I think it’s a magical time even without the Hollywood retouching.