Posted at 7:00 AM Apr 22, 2010
By Andrea Grimes
First, it was Constance McMillen who wasn't allowed to bring her girlfriend to the prom. Now, it's this North Carolina girl who can't bring her 23-year-old Iraqi veteran brother as a date.
Jeeeeeeeeebuz. It's about time we stopped giving a flying rat's furry ass about prom.
I don't know what prom is like for boys. I don't know if they care or look forward to it or hate it or whatever. So I'm just going to say what I know, as a former teenage girl who went to prom. And seems to me like prom is mostly bad for girls--not least because of how desperately they've been told they're supposed to want to make it perfect. It's something akin to wedding day practice. Which gives me the shivers.
|I was going for a kind of Moulin Rouge thing. I think.|
To start with, the premise of prom is creepy, in the way that debutante balls are creepy. Historically (and mostly presently) prom is about class and money and popularity and consumerism. It seems vaguely patriarchal to me in that the popular social narrative generally holds that it's predominantly about girls trying to prove themselves and gain the approval of others for the proper display of their femaleness (you know, so no bringing your gay girlfriend to prom). We don't need a "debut" party for high school kids. We already have one, and it's called "graduation."
A good portion of my senior year was spent watching my friends on the student council try and raise money for our prom. I think in the end, we ended up raising around $60,000 so that we could have a dance at the Ballpark at Arlington (not kidding you) and eat tough chicken and go to a fake casino afterward. Raise your hand if you can think of a better way $60,000 could be spent in any given community. Yeah.
And what do you get for your $60,000? From what I can tell, proms are painfully similar across the country. Fancy dresses. Tuxedos. Dancing. Dinner. Kings and queens. Yes, creative kids do subvert prom tradition (Cons with formal dresses were a big thing for my class of '02), but they have little power over the institution itself, unlike weddings, which are also all painfully similar but at least allow the bride and groom some degree of control over the goings-on. As it is now, anyone who wanted to do a truly original/different prom would be laughed out of town. It's a useless tradition anyway, and because it's boring besides, should be thrown out on those grounds alone.
Okay, so it's boring and it's classist and consumerist and yadda yadda yadda, but are those really good reasons to do away with it altogether? Maybe not, so I'll add this: coverage of Constance McMillen's prom ordeal, and now this thing with this girl not being able to bring her Iraq war veteran brother, have so continued the tradition of hyping up of the Idea of Prom (which I think reached the pinnacle of hypedness with 80's prom flicks) that no prom can ever measure up. Which won't stop people from spending ridiculous amounts of time and money to make it do just that--the long fall into inevitable disappointment will just be that much more painful.
Prom is a boring, outdated tradition that never delivers on its promise. Why do we keep trying to make it something it isn't--and will never be?