Prom Night This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 4, 2012
I would be lying if I said I haven’t daydreamed about my prom since I learned what glamour was. Honestly, ever since I was old enough to appreciate princess dresses, sparkling jewels and passionate romance, the prom seemed a mystical and royal event. In fact, I had been mulling potential hair styles, make-up, slippers and gowns for 12 long years. My prom fantasies had evolved dramatically over the time I spent anticipating the magical night. When I was very young, only a pink gown studded with diamonds would suffice. Arriving in a horse-drawn carriage with Donnie Wahlberg (of New Kids on the Block) on my arm, I’d make a grand entrance and immediately be crowned Queen among cheering and confetti. But, by the time the PA at school started blaring announcements about the prom, I was willing to settle for a clearance rack dress, costume jewelry, a rusty Honda and my boyfriend, Josh. It’s both a relief and a tragedy how we lose our childish idealism.

After a decade of plotting I had failed to work some potential liabilities into my Prom Equation for Perfection. These included big feet, the body of a hippo, absolutely no money and a long-distance relationship. That’s why three hours before I was going to be picked up for the Big Night, I found myself sprawled on my bedroom floor sobbing like my heart was breaking. My long-lost idealism had decided to make a surprise visit in a flood of PMS-induced nostalgia. Every time I lifted my head, I was forced to see my cheap dress and hideous, spray-painted sandals. The world might as well just come to an end.

There was an irritating knock at my bedroom door and I peeked out hoping to see my Fairy Godmother, or at least Josh. I couldn’t have been more wrong; my mother, who possesses the sensitivity of a sunning rattlesnake, stood with her hands planted on her hips. I was too hysterical to recall our exchange. (That’s a lie – I remember it verbatim, I’m just too embarrassed to repeat what we screeched at each other.) Strong words were exchanged, and I ended up slamming the door in her enraged face.

After a few minutes she reappeared to apologize, and I managed to explain my plight between choked sobs. Trying to make peace, she offered to try her hand at my hair. Since I was ready to shave my skull clean of my blond rat’s nest, I threw my shoulders back and cried, “Sure! Why not?”

I often complain about my mother, so I’m going to take this opportunity to say that even though the woman can’t cook a decent pork chop to save her soul, she can really do hair. While I was waiting for her to wind my impossibly fine tresses around hot rollers, I nervously picked up the package of false eyelashes I had bought on a whim the day before. It’s amazing how our latent talents show themselves in desperate situations. Within seconds I was viewing the world through thick black lashes.

My hair was finally done. Mom clipped it high on my head, and cascading blond curls brushed my shoulders. I took once glance in the mirror to admire my ’do and lush lashes, and burst into tears again. I looked ridiculous.

But it was too late to do anything about it. My friend, Tracey (my chauffeur) had arrived wearing silver slippers, a lavender princess dress and a wrist corsage. I glared at her hatefully. With a smirk and wave for Super Mom, we were off to the prom.

There was a huge line of couples waiting outside the ritzy club. My friends stood together in a tight herd trying to make the best of our pathetic, dateless states. Then there was a ruckus and my friend Steve came bursting through the crowd toward me. A few days before the prom he had informed me he was going to be my date. I had laughed, thinking he was only kidding. I make most of my male friends by being loud and obnoxious in class; basically, they like me because we feed off each other. So when Steve came scrambling through the masses with a corsage for me, I was beyond shocked.

A few words about my history with Steve. In seventh grade Mom, The Dark Queen of Domesticity, poured sour milk into an innocent bowl of oatmeal one morning. Unknowingly, I shoveled it into my mouth and hurried off to school. Soon my gastro-intestinal system had a few irate comments to make about my choice of breakfast and decided upon an immediate and complete evacuation of the foul Quaker Oats. Steve happened to be present during all this, and later complimented me on my ability to puke soundlessly. Not everyone who witnessed this atrocity handled it so compassionately. Thereafter, certain people would announce my approach by clutching their stomachs and emitting an enthusiastic cry of “BAAAARFF!”

“Stable” is not a word I’d use to describe Steve. He has severe mood swings, and unfortunately happened to be on an extreme high the night of the prom. He couldn’t stop squirming and he was talking as if he were auctioning off livestock. I was exceptionally tolerant, though, and when he grabbed my arm and dragged me around the room for the sixth time, I obliged. Just for kicks we decided to take random pictures of people we didn’t know – hey, we do what we can to keep our popularity status constant. By the time dinner was served I’d worked up quite an appetite crying, mingling and ordering In-Crowd kids to “strike a pose.” We stuffed ourselves and waited with excitement for the partying to begin.

Eventually the buffet was cleared and the music started. Soon half my class was out there grinding and writhing and my date also felt inclined to take me out for a spin. Wearing dress shoes and standing on an anthill, Steve is 5Ɖ". Barefoot, I am 5Ə inches of Amazon warrior woman. Facing each other, he is eye level with my cleavage. But did I let this ruin my night? Of course not! So in a group of my closest friends I jived away. As we got more confident in our dancing ability, I realized Steve was getting wild, very wild, and waving his arms as if trying to fend off a swarm of killer bees. During one song, he even attempted an Irish jig, and the class jerk sauntered over to tell Steve not to hurt himself.

Where was I? Weaving through the huge mass of squirming bodies to escape my date, who kept grabbing my wrist and pulling me back. A popular song came on and Steve whooped, jumping excitedly. I edged away, but he allowed me no respite. He leaped high in the air, and his patent leather shoes came down hard on my vulnerable, naked toes. As I reached down to make sure they weren’t bleeding, the delicate white rose on my wrist corsage plopped to the ground and was instantly crushed. My face crumpled, but Steve picked it up, tore it apart and showered me with rose petals. My friends were also getting trampled by Steve and began dancing away from us.

Soon we had a four-foot clearance in every direction. With this added space, Steve started trying out new dance moves. Meanwhile, a group of chaperones had assembled in our corner to gawk. “Shoveling” consists of gripping an imaginary shovel and attempting to dig a hole in the dance floor while galloping from side to side. When Steve started “shoveling” my health teacher bent over, screamed with laughter and started pointing us out to other teachers. Soon they were all snickering. I prayed for an early death. And then … a miracle. The song changed to “Lady in Red.”

With a sigh of relief I ran off the dance floor, but heard him scream, “No! This is Brook’s song! We have to – for Brook!” Brook is our mutual best friend who moved to Texas last year, whom we both miss terribly. Only for her would I submit myself to further humiliation. With a sappy grin, Steve went to put his arms around me gently until I grabbed his wrists and insisted we just hold hands. I didn’t think the night could get worse until he started to serenade me at the top of his lungs, changing the lyrics to “Lady in Blue” to describe my prom attire. Because he could not see over my shoulder, he kept pushing me into other couples.

Combined with the fact that he was also ruining their romantic moments with his bellowing, we were getting looks that could kill (which would have been fine with me). At one point he started to lay his head on my chest. With an angry gasp I pushed him away. Glaring hatefully into his glazed eyes I growled, “Forget it!”

Soon the D.J. flipped on the strobe lights and played techno music. I was sweating, and now the lights were flickering, the music pounding. I felt like I was stuck in a psychedelic blender, and started having a panic attack. I stumbled out of the room and begged some teachers to let me go outside for air. Frowning, they agreed with the stipulation I remain in their sight.

The fresh air didn’t help, and I continued to become increasingly disoriented and dizzy. Almost in tears, I asked my friends if anyone was leaving early. Luckily, one of my friends jumped at the chance and dropped me off at home 20 minutes later.

I was home – and safe at last.

Today is Senior Skip Day and I took it off hoping that people might forget what happened if they don’t see me for awhile. Considering the Oatmeal Incident and its far-reaching effects on my social life, somehow I doubt it. But I swear one thing: someday I will have my princess dress, carriage, silver slippers, diamonds and fabulously handsome date! Even if I am just an eccentric old woman by the time I am able to afford it … I will have my fantasy! I will have my Perfect Prom!

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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