Whatever details exist in our story of prom; heartbreak, rebellion, awkwardness, ambivalence, fun, or indifference, we all partook of this ritual experience, even if through rejection. A promenade is the formalized entering of the ballroom, a staging ground for the magic culmination (or anti-climactic punctuation) of our alleged best years. First mentioned in a diary well over 100 years ago, prom emerged as an odd middle-class version of the already bizarre debutante ball. This glittery rite of passage was vital to our teenage cultural experience; as a structure to hold certain charged memories within, dark vague hours to cultivate amnesia toward, or something else entirely, of which we’re still not entirely certain.
So then let’s examine the artifacts of prom night:
You went to a Chinese restaurant that didn’t card and ordered a Flaming Volcano with eight straws, the center engulfed in actual flames. Cameras followed you to make a documentary about prom. You were the inner-city kids to be contrasted against suburban counterparts. You posed for photos with an acquaintance who later died when you were in your 20s. Those photos showed up in memorials for him. You smoked on balconies. You thought it was going to be fun. You snuck away to the lake. You made fun of the theme: A Night To Remember. What you remember is your date’s tongue ring hitting your teeth, sitting bored at card tables with sequins poured on top, your English teacher flirting with you. You wore a feather boa, flip-flops and flowers glued to your dress. You wore a motley suit of burgundy and a dandy's hat. You got your date her corsage at 7-11. It was the last one, bright orange, and in poor condition. You went in a group with a lesbian couple, one of whom was your school's first openly gay student. After 20 minutes you left and went to a cavernous gay nightclub (with a volleyball court) where you lied about your age to get in. You skipped prom and went to a music festival. It didn’t occur to you to save your virginity for prom night. Prom wasn’t a big deal at your school like in the movies. You were raised on Sweet Valley High and She's All That and considered prom to be a landmark moment you'd remember forever. You think prom brings up some interesting gender issues. Boys are told prom night means getting laid. Girls are told it’s a night to indulge their princess fantasies. But no one you knew was actually like that.