There are a lot of great ways to ask a girl to prom. You can keep it simple and just pop the question between classes. Or you can go all out with huge signs hanging from the front of your school, lip-synced and choreographed routines in the quad, the works.
However, there are a number of gentlemen that attend one Orange County, California high school who are showing us all how it should NOT be done. The boys at this school, for the past few years, have hosted an NFL-style draft to select their prom dates. Basically, the boys pick numbers out of a bowl. If you get the number one, you have your pick of any girl at school. If you get the number 100, that’s 100 girls who already have dates to prom. If you’re a dude at this school with cash to burn, you can pay for a higher draft pick. One boy apparently paid $140 so he could go with the girl he wanted. Yes, he BOUGHT this girl, like she was PROPERTY. Whether or not the boys buy their draft picks or luck-of-the-draw select, these young men are treating these young women like things instead of people. And these young women who go along with this prom draft-culture (and the sad thing is, most of these young women at this high school apparently DO go along with the draft) are agreeing to be treated like things. As one girl said “A lot of girls respect the draft and just stick with those dates.”
I’m troubled by this story on so many levels (it’s possible I’m troubled by this story on ALL the levels). I’m disturbed by the practice these boys have established, year after year, of treating these girls like prizes to be won. I’m unsettled by the fact that most girls at this school seem to go along with this backwards tradition without standing up for their their right to choose their own prom dates. I’m blown away by the fact that it took YEARS of this going down before parents and administration found out. Like, no girl went home and told her mom “Ugh, this boy BOUGHT me at prom draft today and I don’t really want to go on a six-hour date with him but I guess I have to because he BOUGHT me so he OWNS me for that period of time so I don’t really have much of a choice, how was your day?” No girl said that to her mom? Is it not cool to tell your mom things anymore? Am I just a behind-the-times grandma for thinking someone should have told their parents something?
I feel for these kids. I really do. Peer pressure is easy to crumble under and tough to stand up to. I still remember my parents feeding me that cliched old line “If everyone was jumping off a bridge, would you?” and me snapping back “Well, maybe they all have a really good reason for jumping off a bridge!” That’s the thing about peer pressure. You’re worried that everyone else is right and you’re wrong. If enough people are saying “No, chill out, bro, it’s cool,” it’s so hard to be that person that says “No, but you’re wrong, this isn’t cool at all.”
Growing up is about making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. I hope this is a mistake these kids can learn from. In the meantime, I hope high schoolers across the country are paying attention. There are a million great ways to ask a person to prom, and they all involve treating the person you’re asking with respect and letting the choice be theirs.