I’m not too sure about the school prom

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A few days ago I had to stay overnight in a hotel. It’s that time of year when kids are leaving their secondary schools and this hotel was hosting a school prom.

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I’m not entirely sold on the idea of the school prom, but Mrs Adams has put forward a very compelling argument in its defence.

Sure enough, a small number of youngsters were hanging around. There were a few boys in dinner jackets and girls wearing dresses dripping with sequins.

Generally speaking, I admire most north American traditions. The arrival to the school prom to the UK, however, did nothing for me.

Perhaps it’s just because of the impression left on me by years of watching US films and television, but I’ve always felt it’s a huge event that puts kids under massive and completely avoidable pressure. There will be pressure to attend, there will be pressure to look amazing, there will be pressure to go with a date and so on.

I worry for my daughters feeling that level of pressure when their turn comes. With eight year old and four year old daughters,  it may be a good few years away. Even so, I simply don’t like the idea of them having to look amazing and worrying what others will think of them at one of the most sensitive times of their young lives.

I spoke to Mrs Adams about my concerns. I made some comment about the kids having to turn up in a stretch limo as I believe some parents go to such lengths.

She said that when the time comes, we’d feel under pressure to do the same. It proved my point: In addition to putting the kids under pressure, mum and dad are also pressured to go to huge effort to make the school prom a success for their kids.

I also wondered about kids who simply aren’t into this kind of thing. The rockers, the goths and the alternatives. What of those who are painfully shy or were bullied merciless at school?

I’ve always felt the school prom is very exclusive. I mentioned this to Mrs Adams and she then hit me with some of her Scottish wisdom, as ever, put in exceedingly eloquent terms.

What she said went something like this:

“When I left school we all went down to Papa Docs and got s-insert-the-letters-yourself-here-t faced on vodka. At least this way there’s an element of control and it’s a nice way to celebrate the end of your school years.”

Most of you will be unaware of Papa Docs. It was a nightclub in Mrs Adam’s hometown in West Scotland, long replaced by a venue that sounds equally unappealing. The fact its forerunner was named after a former dictator of Haiti tells you all you need to know about this establishment.

I considered what Mrs Adams had said. I thought about my own teenaged years and honestly can’t remember the day I left school.

I think leaving school was simply a non-event. We broke up for the GCSEs and just splintered off, most of us never to cross paths again.

I went on to a college to sit A-Levels. I can’t say for certain that I remember my last day there either.

I have blurry memories that could be from my final day at college. They suggest I was enjoying myself at the time, although I look back now with a certain sense of horror at exactly what I do remember.

I thought back to that hotel I stayed in the other night. There were no drunken kids vomiting in the car park. Young couples with dishevelled clothes and guilty looks on their faces were not sneaking out from behind bushes.

Far from it in fact. The young adults I saw were all sober and behaving very well.  A couple of older guys in dinner jackets, I assume they were school teachers, were stood in the car park marshalling taxis for the prom goers as they left towards the end of the night.

I won’t deny it, I still feel a little uneasy about the school prom thing. It does seem a little exclusive to me.

Maybe, however, our North American friends have a point and the arrival of the prom to the UK was not such a bad thing. The kids at the prom will go their separate ways with memories of a great night spent together with their former school friends, people they spent their formative years with.

No dodgy nightclubs, no horrible pubs or blurry memories. With teachers marshalling the taxi ranks, they should all get home safely too.

Perhaps it makes sense and I shouldn’t worry so much about the pressure. Instead I should maybe feel relieved that my kids will have the opportunity to go to a well-organised event to mark the end of their school days. If they think I’m paying for a stretch limo, however, they can think again.

14 thoughts on “I’m not too sure about the school prom”

  1. Haha ! John you have this to come I have done it 3 times it’s a nightmare, cost of dresses and tuxedos it’s all very stressful and guaranteed to caused arguments. Don’t hold your breath on the limo, I remember saying that twice and then ended up covering some of the cost. There is no place to hide. Great read mate.

    1. Nothing like hearing it from one who knows. Nigel, I always love your perspective on these things because you’ve done the teenaged thing. I may not be in total agreement with the school prom, but something tells me there will be no place to hide at all.

  2. My son’s prom was last week. They have two. One is a day time prom at the school and the other is held in a hotel in town.

    I told him I was happy for him to go but he said it was just BS designed to make money and make the popular kids feel like royalty and to remind the others of their lesser standing in school pecking order.

    He said it goes against everything he stands for and he would have nothing to say to the people who would attend anyway. Especially those turning up in ostentatious cars. He wants to save up for a flight to Australia so that when he has finished his college course he can go and live there for a year or 2 so I have put the money I would have spent on prom toward that.

    1. Fascinating response from your son. As I was nowhere near the top of the school-cool pecking order That’s sort of how I would have felt. My only concern if I were in your position was that your boy might go to Australia and never come back! I’ve visited twice over the past year and I have come to appreciate the country’s appeal in a big way!

  3. Absolute waste of time, money and tears. Bloke who sits next to me ended up buying his daughter a dress at the top of the bottom third of prices, still cost £275 (the shop stocked dresses up to £1,300). It’s on par with “graduating” to secondary school.

    What’s wrong with a leavers disco like we had back in my day?

    1. You can buy prom dresses for £1,300? That’s more than my wife’s wedding dress. Considerably more than her wedding dress cost. I have no idea what happened to the school leavers’ disco. Didn’t happen at my school as it happens. There was a sixth form disco but that’s not quite the same thing.

  4. I completely agree with you John, the pressures for all involved are immense however I do feel for those who clearly cannot afford such lavish dresses / suits / cars etc. Whilst many of us “afford” it, just, there is simply no way for others to experience the same and whilst no doubt I will be forking out for a tuxedo / suit and dress as both children get older, I wonder whether I’ll bow down to pressure of “something more” such as limo’s / rides etc.
    At this point in time, I don’t want to and maybe would ask the children to “work” for the money if they wanted it, I’m still inclined not to.

    Great thought provoking post as ever John.

    P.s. Like Mrs Adams, I was probably getting drunk but on a big park somewhere and hanging out by some corner shop begging older people to buy us some alcohol so a fancy ball with no alcohol is certainly a better alternative then having their stomachs pumped.

    1. Funny Jim, I recall sixth formers at my old school having a summer disco and they were rationed to two glasses of wine each. I’d have no issue with that. Like you, I may have my concerns about the prom, but my kids want to go, I’m sure we’ll cave in and buy the dresses etc. It won’t, however, sit comfortably with me. I’ll hope they have a good time, but there is no escaping the exclusivity of it all.

  5. Ah John, i completely agree. Unnecessary pressure. I get that it could be nice, that’s the thing. But with kids being kids, it can always go the other way. It does worry me for sure, and a little stereotypical, i’d worry if i had a daughter more.

    1. It’s fascinating Tom, only one person has commented on this post and had anything positive to say about the prom! It does seem a little over the top, the lengths some people go to. If it were scaled back a bit I might be more inclined to fall in love with the prom but at the moment, I still have some reservations.

  6. I loved prom. I loved dressing up and taking a lady to a formal dance. I went to enough of them at enough different schools that I actually bought my own tux to save money. That all being said, I’m glad that it seems to be losing importance here in the States. More and more prom is turning into a nice little end of year party, with no need for dates or placing extra importance on it.

    1. Good to get the perspective from the other side of the Atlantic. Not that I have children of prom age, but I get the impression the reverse is true over here. With it being a relatively new tradition, it’s being taken very seriously and possibly a little too seriously by some.

  7. I just don’t understand how these have become so much a part of school life these days?! Literally unheard of when I was at school and now the older kids I know talk about like it’s some kind of ‘tradition’. Not a fan!

    1. Ah ha, so you kind of sit in my camp. They must have been going on for 20-ish years so they are established but I don’t like kids of that age being pressured to behave in a certain way.

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