Prom, And Why It’s Important

7 04 2010

Recently, here’s been quite a (justified) uproar in the progressive blogosphere over Constance McMillen and the clusterfuck her school made out of prom because she wanted to take another girl. So I am going to bore you all with memories of my prom and thoughts on the entire phenomenon (promenon? No.)

I’m from the North, and obviously there’s a very different culture here, but at our seniors-only prom, we were allowed to take one other person from another year or school. Did we exploit this to get as many people as possible there? Oh, you bet. My best friend took one of our junior friends as a birthday present. Another girl took a friend who had graduated last year, and another friend took her church buddy. It didn’t matter. There is a lot of shit wrong with my hometown, but that was one thing they got right. Let people take whoever they want to prom, regardless of gender, relationship status, or just about anything else. Who wants to dance with whom is not something the school should worry about. But they do, of course.

 Prom is REALLY important to high school girls. REALLY important. Unless you have been a high school girl, you have no idea how important this is. It’s kind of like a wedding, only all of your best friends are getting married too. Even I, lowest of the low femme, postponed a surgery so I wouldn’t have to wear a walking boot to prom. It is a fucking EVENT.

Everybody knows this, and it’s become something of a joke. Scratch that, it is a joke. I see that reflected in some of the abhorrent comments floating around the blogosphere that “it’s just prom.” It’s only one night. To you. To you. To these girls, this might be the thing they’ve looked forward to all year. It’s their night to shine, to go out and have fun with the people who matter most to them. I see in those comments the pervasive idea that women’s/girls’ feelings don’t count. Prom can’t be important, it’s girly!

Others have written elsewhere on this discounting of female emotion and experience. I just want to say that prom can have greater implications. As the entire fiasco in Fulton demonstrates, it is an important social marker of who is socially acceptable. There are class issues out the wazoo and more, but I just want to say that personally, prom was important in my progressive awakening. And now I’m going to get sappy.

There was is was this girl. I was am was in love with her, despite the fact she was dating a guy, and I was so deep in denial I’m surprised I didn’t drown. Slowly, though, I realized I had what they call “feelings” for her, and started coming to terms with my bisexuality. At prom, I was finally comfortable enough- well, as comfortable as you can be while violating social taboos and being seventeen around the person you like- to ask her for the second-last dance. (The last dance was Flo Rida. Yeah.) David Cook, Time of My Life, and she wore black satin. Most beautiful girl in the room. It was perfect, the most romantic memory I have, and also a moment that cemented my sexual identity. If that had never happened… I don’t know where I would be now, but I suspect I would be much unhappier.

So prom is important, on a personal and social level. I know it’s a very privileged experience to have, but like other privileged experiences, everyone should have the chance to have it. Yes, Fulton, Mississippi, even lesbians and disabled kids. Fuck you.

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