A fellow teacher tweeted that she had a great time prepping students for prom, and that she had a happy crew.

Prom. That magical time in high school when people without boyfriends get cast aside wondering whether or not to buy a dress. I wanted to skip it altogether. Eventually, I caved in to the peer pressure.

“You have to go,” they said. “You’ll regret it for the rest of your life!” 

That sounded serious. The rest of my life could be a long time. Or then again, I could get hit by a truck after my trig exam. I didn’t want to tempt fate, though–what if I did regret it for the rest of my life.  It was a distinct possibility.

I’d go alone. First off, no one asked me. Second, I was too proud to pretend that mattered. Resolved that I’d attend, I set about making the necessary logistical arrangements. I borrowed my dad’s car, the “Deer Slayer.” We called it the Deer slayer, because he killed some distant relative of Bambi, subsequently removing various sections of the car, like the right front quarter, which he deemed unnecessary to the operation of the motor vehicle. One fender and headlamp would suffice. There wasn’t a rear view mirror, either, but that didn’t matter, because it’s easy enough to turn one’s body around to see behind if necessary. How often should a person be driving backwards, anyway?

This was to be my chariot. Transportation issue settled, I said “yes” to another dateless friend or two, filling the car, then marched off to Salvation Army to procure my dress. I was a folk musician in training. People like me didn’t waste money on dresses. I would find a dress at the Salvation Army, that someone once loved and I would love again.

I found a light blue lace dress, guaranteed not to be duplicated by fifteen angry girls convinced they would have a runway debut at the prom. My dress was undoubtedly worn by someone in the late seventies. No one would be duplicating that haute couture.

I even agreed to get my hair done–it wouldn’t be until college that I could jump into a slinky black dress and do my own hair at a moment’s notice, preparing–properly–for a formal in style. I said one thing to the hairdresser, “Don’t give me poofy hair.” I wanted something folk-musician like. Instead, I got something 80’s metal band-worthy. She must have missed the “don’t.”

Prom tip: don't talk politics at prom.

Prom tip: don’t talk politics at prom.

The tables at the prom were all even numbers–designed for couples not dateless people. Even my best friends all had perfect sets of five couples at each table. Someone squeezed me in. Turned out one of the guys seated next to me liked serious politics. He was a six-foot senior in my gym class who always saved me from the volleyball. It was nice to discover he knew events on the world stage. I was unaware, however, that there is an unwritten code that intellectuals of opposite genders cannot exchange deep conversation at prom–every guy should be staring deep in the face of they girl they took, even if she was unprepared to discuss politics. This way, he would not confuse her with the fifteen other girls in the same dress.

He quickly got packed off somewhere else. I was alone again.

I was bored. I hated the food. Vegetarians are outcasts at events, unless the event is hosted a Hindu or Jew, both of whom feed us very well. At other places, we usually get a tomato roasted in glop or overboiled pasta like the banquet chef was presented with a mystery of the culinary universe he was unable to solve.

Eventually, I decided to cut my losses and drive Deer Slayer home through the pea soup fog leaving the 80’s romantic metal ballads to the perfectly matched couples with girls in identical dresses. I did not go to the beach afterparty. I went to bed and was up bright and early at work at 6 AM. It turned out I would not have regretted missing prom for the rest of my life. I would have preferred the extra hours of sleep.

I became a teacher so I could plan my own prom, erasing those memories forever.

Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 5.53.12 AMMy class council consisted of frequent fliers from detention. Instead of cutting classes, they could cut ribbons and bows for centerpieces.  We did this prom right.

We decorated, calligraphied name tags, and arranged seats like a wedding. I secretly procured tickets for those who couldn’t, and made sure the dateless wonders had the best seats in the house–I circulated like a hostess so they’d all be included. I even danced.

“Miss,” they said, “you really can’t dance.”

Which is true. I looked around, noticed the smiles, and thought to myself, “They will love tonight.” It’s been years since that prom. When I think of the essence of high school, it’s that event I remember. Mission Prom Redo–success.

The world of education is getting so serious. Testing this, benchmarks that. We must produce quality students. But as spring rolls around, I wish for something more. I hope students have memories that will last them forever alongside the skills that will carry them a lifetime. I want them to say, “I remember when,” and tell prom stories to their own kids.

That’s what high school is all about.

[Special thanks to Vicki Davis, the “Cool Cat Teacher” for dredging up my memories of prom. If you haven’t read her blog, do so. She’s cool. Which is how she got her name.]

[Image Credits: promnight.com and Pretty in Pink–Paramount Studios]