Today my attempts to mix up this blog’s content continues as my Essay Experiment from this past March 21 continues. This time, I’ve decided to cover a topic that I’d promised commenter David Lucerno that I would touch upon—something that teenagers would more readily relate to than the issue of my first entry and therefore make it more fitting for a sketch on the hit Nickelodeon sketch comedy All That, had I happened to earn my way onto the original cast back when I had the chance. That said, please keep in mind that I’d written the following essay from the perspective of a “tweenage”/teenage boy and that the opinion expressed within it would have been my own at the time and my own alone. That aside, enjoy!
Dustin M. Weber
What’s Got Me Bent Out of Shape
Part 2: The Prom
You know what’s got me bent out of shape? The prom. Honestly, if high school life wasn’t already riddled with enough superficiality to rival that of life in Hollywood, along comes this glorified fundraiser to further fuel the romantic delusions of teenagers by the score, coaxing them to spend their parents’ hard-earned money on purchases that all ultimately culminate in what’s supposed to be the most fanciful, sentimental, and important social experience they’d ever had in their young lives. Yeah…it’s an experience like no other, alright—namely, the biggest waste of not only money, but also time and energy that I can possibly think of.
“Well, maybe instead of sitting there complaining about it, why don’t you just not go?”
Well, yeah! No kidding, genius! I wasn’t planning on going anyway. That’s still not enough to keep me from wanting to vent about the whole thing, though. Don’t want to hear about it? Guess what: Hit the bricks while I express my annoyance about the whole thing to those among and around you who do want to lend an ear to my thoughts, because trust me, folks…those of you who’re ready for the rant of a lifetime are in for a real treat right about now.
First off, I simply cannot justify for the life of me the expense of the prom. I mean, fifteen to one hundred dollars for a single, measly ticket to the whole shindig? Why? To fund the senior class graduation? If that’s the case, then forget the whole ceremony. Just give me my hard-earned diploma in the mail with a special note wishing me congratulations and good riddance from your not-so-fine establishment, and I’ll be off on my merry way, thank you very much. Sadly, that’s only the beginning of a prom-goer’s monetary woes. After all, who ever really goes to the prom by oneself, am I right? Not only that, but then there’s renting a tux and a limo, the former of which you’ll probably be glad you’re only renting, as you’ll eventually come to outgrow it later in life when you might otherwise need it, such as…say…for your wedding day. Yeah, I know it may sound crazy, but stranger things have happened in certain guys’ lives, so hey…take that for what it’s worth. Then there are the pre-prom dinner and the after-prom party, neither of which are anything special, as far as I’m concerned. I mean, the pre-prom dinner is something, I guess, but honestly, why bother when my date and I can simply swing by the nearest fast food joint to get ourselves a bite to eat before awkwardly bumbling and fumbling our way on a crowded dance floor through one tired old song after another? As for the after-prom party…who cares? As far as I’m concerned, the only people who get anything out of that sordid mess of debauchery and smut are the wannabe alpha males with all their blazing immaturity and faux machismo and whatever ditzy, painted-faced,-plastic-bodied bimbos who happen to be on their arms when they walk on in to the whole affair, only to end up in their beds in the very end. Seriously, what’s so great about these idiotic after-parties? “Stronger” punch that only leaves the drinker even thirstier than before he or she took a swig of the stuff as well as lighter in the head, duller in mind, and looser in morals? “Edgier” music with tackier lyrics that urges the listener to dance more suggestively with his or her partner until they both end up naked and sweaty in a random hotel room, which only means even more money out of the pocket than before? Less adult supervision to keep the horny, stupid, self-indulgent sub-adults within the premises in line so that they don’t do anything to hurt themselves or each other? Yeah, that’s just plain splendid. I’m sorry, but compared to all that hot garbage, staying home on prom night playing video games seems even more appealing.
Oh…and then there’s that stupid corsage that we’re expected to buy our dates, right, fellas? That is, of course, unless we want them whining and crying about how technically “naked” they are going on into it all without a simple band of doggone flowers on their bony wrists or attached to their dresses and how we’re such cheap jerks for not buying them such wastes of precious plant life to wear. Little do they know, though, that if they were really that concerned about being indecent, then maybe—just maybe—they ought to have paid closer attention to how their ugly-as-all-else dresses fit their precious bodies before deciding to plop down several hundred dollars for them, knowing that they’ll more likely than not never wear them again. Really, now, gents, you’ve surely seen some of these hideous “gowns” for yourselves, haven’t you? Especially the ones with the “sweetheart” necklines that barely even come close to the actual neck and show off the kind of cleavage that can hold a can of beer with little to no issue? How about the ones that show off so much leg that the viewer can practically see the wearer’s skivvies—assuming, of course, that she’s even wearing any skivvies to begin with? Also, what’s with these dresses that show off the wearer’s midriff? Seriously, what’s the point? Are the girls who wear these outfits trying to look like belly dancers? Because if I wanted to see that kind of thing, I’d go to a Turkish bar that showcased that kind of thing as a form of side entertainment…not a high school-sponsored social function. Honestly, where have all the classy, stylish, modest prom dresses gone? You know…the ones that commanded rather than demanded attention for the gals who wore them? The gowns that fit their wearers well and accentuated their best features while leaving something to the imagination? The ones that made their wearers look not only mature, but also sophisticated, refined, dignified, and elegant as if they were actually…you know…attending a formal gala instead of trying to pick up sex-starved clients along the Vegas strip? After all, the prom is supposed to be an event where high schools expect their young attendees to demonstrate their social skills, one of which being the notion of dressing to impress. One would think, then, that with that in mind, the girls attending these events would fulfill that notion and wear something that would make onlookers want to feast their eyes upon them instead of making them want to go blind, regardless of whether said dresses were store-bought or even—dare I mention it—homemade. Granted, I’ve no doubt that having such an attitude towards function-specific attire is bound to provoke certain people into branding me a “fashion fascist” and a “woman-oppressing, misogynist pig,” even if I were to explain how embarrassing—if not, in fact, humiliating—it is for guys to be strolling on into prom with a tackily dressed date who’s getting all the wrong kind of attention from onlookers throughout the night. On second thought, even if I were to use that explanation, I’d be having such labels slapped on me six ways from Sunday. Trust me, though, folks, when I tell you that that’s not the case. If anything, I just want female prom-goers to look their finest, and while I would never forbid a woman to make a lasting impression on her classmates at such a time-honored (albeit overrated) event as the prom, one would think that such young ladies would take greater care in their appearance and pay closer attention to how certain dresses make them look.
Then there’s the prom itself. Oh, man…where do I begin? Well…let’s just say that if you do happen to go solo somehow, you’d better hope and perhaps even pray that you don’t have anxiety around people of the opposite sex—or, for that matter, an acute fear of rejection. Otherwise, asking gals to dance with you is going to be a nightmare. I sure know I can easily envision myself standing a fair way off the dance floor nervously watching all the other attendees enjoying themselves, shucking and jiving to whatever school-safe tunes the band’s playing and completely oblivious to me standing there by my lonesome and essentially doing the same thing for the cost of my prom ticket that I could otherwise be doing for free back at home. The thing, too, is that my stereo has some solid surround sound that can rival that of any speaker that any band or DJ uses, and I can always adjust the volume on it so that my eardrums don’t bleed like crazy. Not only that, but I’ve also got a wide selection of music to which I can listen at any given moment and can switch around to fit whatever mood I’m in. Those last two points are luxuries that the prom can never offer, no matter how far back you stand from the speakers or how much you just might happen to like the music that’s playing, and quite frankly, I’d be a fool to give up either perk. After all, listening to my choice of music within the privacy of my own home sure beats standing out like a sore thumb at easily the biggest social gathering in any year of high school any day of the week. Then again, what would happen if a girl were to approach you and offer to dance with you? Would you have confidence enough to accept the invitation and head on out to the dance floor with her, navigating your way through the mess of other patrons just to find the perfect spot where you can show off your two left feet and, in the process, end up embarrassing yourself and the poor girl with your clumsy and awkward dance moves? I sure wouldn’t, and I’m not just saying that because I’m more likely than not liable of stomping on my dance partner’s precious tootsies with my sloppily stepping size 13s. It’d be either that or me bumping into the other dancers like a pinball with less of a grasp on physics and probably causing numerous injuries along the way in a desperate attempt to impress my partner and prove to her that can be just as fancy free and/or romantic and, in the process, confident as any other guy on the face of Planet Earth…only to ultimately prove myself as being anything but. Rather, my whole excuse for not dancing with any girl would be that…well…I’ve always been awful with girls to one degree or another. Honestly, I can only imagine myself reacting to a girl’s invitation to “cut a rug” with her on the hard wood (or vinyl) floor beneath the rest of the party goers’ feet. Heck, she could be the kindest, prettiest, sweetest girl in the entire school—if not, in fact, the entire world—and I wouldn’t know how to conduct myself properly.
“Hey, Dustin! Wanna dance?”
“Get away from me, you filthy tramp!”
Next thing I’d know, I’d be sidestepping feverishly away from her as she looked on all horrified, dejected, and insulted all at once with angry tears in her eyes as she’d flee the scene back to her friends to tell them how much of a horrible excuse of a human being I am. Worse yet, people would be looking on at the commotion that I’d just helped cause and see me trying to evade the scene like the snot-nosed coward I’d be and heckle me for my rotten show of immaturity. Either that, or they’d be mimicking my own attempts to exit stage right by creating a new dance step at my expense. Yeah…not exactly a way to get off on the right foot, if you’ll excuse the unintentional pun. That said, it’d be safe to say that I’d have no business sticking around the joint, but suppose I would…where would I go? Lingering around the punch bowl all night to the point where I’d be considered the prime suspect for spiking it, should such an event occur? No, thanks…especially not if the foreign agent in question is more than a mere skosh of alcohol and, in fact, is something even worse—say, a freaking T-virus or some trash like that. Yeah, I know it sounds ridiculous, but trust me when I say that stranger things have happened. Now, granted, if ever there was a zombie apocalypse to take place in the real world, and there was a chance that I could combat it upon my being right there on the front lines, I generally wouldn’t say no. Sure, I’d probably lose my life in the process, what with me being an untrained civilian and all, but at least I’d go down fighting. On the other hand, if ever there was a chance that I would be branded a prime suspect for the cause of the whole mess, then that’s a whole different story altogether, and the further away I can be from the punch bowl at a prom, the better. After all, not everyone relishes in the idea of causing chaos just to put it out and be called a hero when he or she was, in fact, the villain behind the whole mess in the first place.
Finally, suppose you were one of the lucky ones who actually arrived at the prom with a date…let me ask you one question: Have you ever had to endure the humiliation of having your date walk out of the event on you with another guy? I bet you that’s a real kick in the pants, huh? Even if you end up doing everything right to be the ultimate gentleman and prove to her that you’re the guy she wants to be with, even if only for that one night, she could be traipsing out the building on another fellow’s arm towards…well…wherever, really. Hopefully straight home to meet whatever curfew her parents had set for her, if nothing else…although it wouldn’t surprise you that that wouldn’t be the case. Whatever the situation, it really gets you thinking, doesn’t it? I sure know I’d be wracking my brains trying to figure out just what I did to make her turn away from me. Honestly, didn’t I freshen my breath enough before riding on up to pick her up for our little outing? Didn’t I rent a big enough limo for the two of us and our accompaniment to ride in on our way to the event? Didn’t I keep her corsage fresh enough in my refrigerator prior to picking her up for our date? Was I that bad of a dancer? Did I sweat too much? I could go on and on with all the questions that would be popping up inside my head right then and there. No matter the case, the notion hurts, and it kills the whole idea of prom being the most romantic evening in a young person’s life—an idea hurt mostly by the thought of not being able to spend it with the one gal whom you care about the most. To think, too, that the only way of properly doing the whole thing over is for you to literally be reborn and enjoy the luxury—nay, the blessing—of a second life, but let’s be real: Is that any kind of guarantee that that’s a thing? Yeah…didn’t think so. Kind of a drag, to be honest, but hey, that’s the cruel nature of life: Not everyone gets what he or she deserves.
Anyway, that’s the prom according to me: a ridiculously glorified and overrated waste of everything one can possibly imagine that I’m not surprised at all has remained a high school tradition to this very day despite all I’ve just said about it. Worse yet, it’s going to remain a thing, no matter how much I air my grievances. Then again, once it’s over, it’s over, for better or for worse, and if other people happen to enjoy it for themselves, then more power to them. Let it be their thing, though, because I’ve made up my mind about it, and nobody can change it. Sorry, prom, but I value both my money and my dignity, and none of your grand promises of any kind of once-in-a-lifetime experience are going to make me turn my back on my attitude towards you.
All That and All That logo (c) 1994-2005 Nickelodeon Productions and Tollin/Robbins Productions and (c) 2019 Nickelodeon Productions. Prom pic (c) 2019 EpicCharterSchools. The attached essay and foreword, however, are the author’s own.