|not the REAL prom portrait, obviously, but a reasonable facsimile instead|
The Prom (whether any specific prom or the concept of "The Prom" as a whole) and I have something of a love-hate relationship. It all started with what was to have been my initial prom exposure four years ago, when my prom date broke our date after I was injured in a freak track and field accident and was confined to a wheelchair for the better part of three months. The former prom date didn't just call me or pay me a visit in person to announce his change in plans, or even devise a reverse of one of those corny invitations, such as writing out the un-invite onto a blank puzzle and allowing me to put it together to discover that my prom invitation was null and void and that I was hereby uninvited to the prom. For that matter, he could have sent balloons with a rude note attached. Almost anything would have been better than what he did. Instead, the particularly germ-encrusted piece of pond scum announced his decision to a cafeteria full of students and assumed the word would get back to me.
My former prom date's new prom date decided that it would behoove the both of us if she would take matters one step further, and so she visited me in the hospital eight hours after I had undergone orthopedic surgery and was still heavily under the influence of God alone knows what mind-altering substances. I wasn't at that point even allowed visitors other than my parents. The only thing allowing the girl on the floor was her mother's position as a staff R.N. on that floor, which should not technically have granted the girl the right to be present on that floor or anywhere else in the hospital to which the general public is not privy, for that matter, except that what is technically allowed and what actually happens may be two very distinct things. Furthermore, she was not scrubbed, masked, and in a sterile gown, which was a requirement of anyone who entered my room. Had I developed an infection, the burden of proof would have been upon her lawyer to establish that the bacteria attacking my body had not come from her.
In retrospect, her visit seems like little more than a drug-inspired hallucination except that she took pictures as proof that it really happened. The pictures appeared briefly on Internet social media until a hospital attorney visited and informed her mother, who was at that time a nurse on the floor of the hospital in which I was admitted, that the only way the nurse who was the mother of my visitor and photographer, would retain her job would be for the pictures to immediately be taken off the various social media on which they were posted and not to reappear.***
My next prom experience was not nearly so dramatic. The primary controversy surrounded whether or not the invitation was sincere and not a joke, out of which the original inviter would back out at the last minute, leaving me standing alone in formal attire, holding the boutonniere intended for me date. Research conducted by my brother's friends and by my around-the-corner neighbor, who was the head varsity football coach of my school, indicated that such was the plan. In the meantime, a more suitable offer was made, which I accepted. I attended, and while I can't say I had a perfect time, a few of my demons concerning prom attendance were slain in the process.
A week later in that same year, I attended my friend Jared's prom in Utah County. If a person has not attended a prom in Utah County, one may just as well conclude that he or she has never attended a prom, period. It's an event that one really must experience at least once in his or her lifetime. My pink satin prom dress was strapless. The PTA committee positioned in the entryway for the purpose of scrutinizing the attire of all the attendees before grnating them admission to the event conducted hushed conversations (but not so hushed that I couldn't hear every word coming from their mouths), examined my gown from every angle as they debated the merits versus drawbacks of allowing me into their apparently church-sponsored event. (The church wasn't bankrolling the function in any way, yet the term "church standards" was thrown about freely in relation to my attire as though the term were somehow relevant.)
Everything from my real or supposed age, my state of physical development (or lack thereof), my parentage and pedigree, the degree to which my prom gown would have been deemed acceptable at a church-sponsored function, the advisability of forcing me to wear a non-matching shawl with my dress for the entire evening, and even my shoe size was discussed in detail in mock hushed tones. the initial criticism was of my age. The PTA president (or at least she looked the part; PTA presidents often have an air about them that distinguishes them from their less esteemed counterparts, but the the Young Women's organization presidents often have that same look, so who the hell knows from where she derived her authority?) did not believe the dates on my passport. (I didn't yet possess a driver's license, ans so I brought my passport in the event that some sort of official ID might be required. i also brought my California high school student body card, but I had a hunch it would be viewed with suspicion.) "If this girl is fifteen," the PTA President/Young Women's President huffed, "My eight-year-old daughter who was baptized earlier this evening is also fifteen. I'm not buying it. People from California are known for having fake IDs. It's supposedly just about as easy in California to get a fake ID as it is to get a real one. If we went through the little hussy's purse, we'd probably find another fake ID with an age that would get her into bars and nightclubs, though we'd have to dig through all her cigarette packages to find it. I have a cousin who lives in California, so I know."
The woman seemed first surprised, then taken aback, when I opened my purse and emptied the contents onto the small table holding a guest book for attendees to sign. I wasn't sure whether she was more taken aback that I had called her bluff or that she was irked that my lipstick, small wallet, and small bottle of hand lotion had sullied her perfectly arranged guest book table. She turned to another female in the Gestapo screening panel and said, "She obviously left her contraband in the car."
"Would you like to come check our car?" I asked her. Jared was, by this time, kicking me while trying to be sly about it. I learned later that he had a bottle of Jim Beam in the car. I knew nothing about it, though.
One of the men on the panel - either the principal or some ecclesiastical authority - a bishop or stake president -- who should have claimed no more power than anyone else, though in Mormon circles, things work differently than they do elsewhere, tried to smooth things over and suggest that Jared and I simply be admitted to the prom.
"But her dress!" exclaimed a female doorkeeper.
"Her dress?" asked in of the men.
"It has no straps!" said the female doorkeeper who had initially expressed dismay at my dress.
The stake president type picked up a prom brochure lying on the guest book table. He thumbed through it briefly, then stated calmly, "I don't see anywhere that it states prom dresses must have straps."
"Church standards, President," she scolded him. "We don't ignore church standards simply because it's not a church-sponsored event."
Another man spoke up. "I'm not saying we ignore them. But we need a distinction between church and state even in Utah. This is a school function. While the dress standards need to address the mores of the community, neither to we have any right to push LDS standards of dress or anything else on those attending this event."
The original PTA President/Young Women's President burst into tears. "So that's where we'e going to let this go! We will let our little local prom turn into some sort of Sodom and Gomorrah-like event because we lack the strength to stand for out principles. It may look like a small thing, but years from know, we'll look back on this day and remember that it all started right here and now."
"Sister, you're giving way too much importance to this," another man who was probably the president of the district's school board opined. "One little girl is wearing a dress without straps to an event for which strapless dresses were never forbidden."
"She's not exactly bursting out of the dress," another man added.
"That's another matter entirely," another female added." My sixth-grader would fill that dress out more fully than she does. She 's advertising what she does not have, and should be embarrassed to be seen in that dress."
"She's well-covered in the dress and is not showing anything she shouldn't be showing. As for those of you who are taking shots at her lack of measurements, you should be ashamed of yourselves, " the Stake President added. "And you know he's heard everything you've said. Are you proud of yourselves?"
"Right is still right," said one of the female teachers who sided with those who took offense to the dress.
"And right is not on the side of the Saducess, Pharisees, and others who would take offense at a simple dress worn by a child," added a female counselor who had remained silent to that point but had grown weary of the Utah County brand of judgment.
"And there's still the matter of the girl's age. Do we have any reason to believe that this girl is anywhere near old enough to attend this event?" asked a mother who had joined the panel of chaperons.
The district superintendent spoke up. "We have her passport. We have her high school student body card. We have the word of Dr. Christensen, her date's father, who had to endorse the application in order for her to be allowed to attend. Do we have any reason to believe Dr. Christensen would perjure himself so that his son could take an underage girl to the prom?
"On the other hand, we have three mothers whose daughters would have liked to attend the prom with Doctor Christensen's son. Why they would have wanted to go with him is anyone's guess/ I personally think he's a bit of a squirrel. But that's neither here nor there.
"If anyone else has any new evidence as to why this kid should not be allowed into the prom, say it now! Otherwise, I'm letting her in, and that's the end of the discussion"
I was allowed to enter. The rest was history, with McDonald's cheeseburgers, orange Hi C, and apple pies as the gourmet faire. I endured such indignities as, "Where did you get your dress from? Victoria's Secret?" As though Victoria's Secret would carry any garment that looked like it might have been worn by a Disney Princess.
After my initial prom difficulties, I made a vow to myself that if there was something I could do to help another person through prom difficulties with no strings attached, I would do so. This year is going to be one of those years. Someone my aunt used to tutor was dumped by his prom date in favor of someone she considered a better date. My aunt has him on his word that he will take no liberties with me. I'm using a re-made prom gown that my auntie used when she was in high school, so it won't cost me a thing. It's a beautiful dress, and I think I'll look just nice enough in it that no one will make fun of the guy because of the appearance of his date.The experience may be bit awkward, but in the grand scheme of things, it will make a guy's high school memories substantially less painful. I probably would have preferred to have spent the night at home in front of the TV, but we all must make small sacrifices for the good of others. Furthermore, eventually I'm going to outgrow the appearance of a prom date and will therefore be exempt from this obligation.