Very recently I was at my sister’s house to celebrate my niece’s birthday. Family and friends were gathered on the front lawn at picnic tables enjoying the company, food, drinks, and my niece’s special day. Although we were there for my niece, for about an hour or so the attention of many of those in attendance – me included – were distracted by the goings on at a house a couple of doors down which, I think, are worth sharing about here in this blog.
At first the distraction was due to the mystery of it all and trying to figure out what they were doing. A couple of ladies were out on the front lawn and driveway setting up various decorative items. When I rolled in they were stretching sheer white fabric from the front window down to the lawn, and created a large structure out of balloons. Not long after, a large double seated chair – a throne effectively – was brought out to the lawn and connected to the end of the stretched fabric and the balloon structure was placed behind it as a background. This was followed by a large sign with a picture of the girl who lives in the house which said something like (I forget exactly) “Senior Prom: this is your Cinderella night!” At this point, the mystery was solved and they were clearly setting up for a prom.
Although I thought the above was a little over-the-top, it seemed it was only the beginning. The ladies then went ahead and constructed a carousel near the front door about six feet high with a hobby horse and more sheer white fabric stretched tastefully on it. Out of that same front door came a white carpet which stretched to the street. While at the street, about four poles were set out, each about four feet high, with a rope connecting them, to create what appeared to be a queue line rope as one would see at a red-carpet-event behind which the paparazzi and other spectators would stand.
Apparently the paparazzi rope was necessary as about thirty friends and family and other spectators arrived and congregated behind the rope all wielding cameras, cellphones, and tablets in order to capture the event.
At this point I was really curious just how far all this hoopla would go and I, and some others, had shifted our chairs on my sister’s lawn to face her neighbor’s house and became an audience for the building spectacle.
Now that all the props had been set in place, the next phase was the arrival of the date. Just so you can have a visual: my sister’s street is a one-way city street with cars parked on both sides. Suffice it to say it’s pretty narrow. Eventually, down this narrow street, came a stretched Porsche limousine with gull wing doors that parked in front of the girl’s house and remained there for nearly an hour. Needless to say, no one was getting down my sister’s street while it was there, and I am pretty certain no permit was secured for this event. The gull-wings on the car raised and the girl’s date emerged to music playing from a stereo which had been set up on the front lawn. At this time, I want to point out that, despite all the over-the-topness of it all, two things surprised me. First, the boy’s tuxedo was black tie with a black coat and white pants and white shirt. His abominable ignorance of standard tuxedo formal dress codes aside, I was expecting him to be wearing something completely ridiculous. So, his fairly conservative choice was not at all expected. Second, curiosity got the best of me and I poked my head into the limousine. I was expecting it to look like some gaudy version of the bridge to the Starship Enterprise inside. Much to my disappointment, it just looked like a standard party limousine inside.
Moving on: the date moved beyond the paparazzi rope at which time the music swelled and a little girl in a gown emerged from the house on the white carpet spreading flower pedals on the ground below her. In other words: a flower girl. Yes, a flower girl, as in someone who participates in a wedding. Behind her, the girl-of-the-hour appeared wearing a white(ish) dress with a train and veil (not over her face thank God) being held by her mother who was immediately behind her wearing an off-white dress which appeared to be a mother-of-the-bride dress. It was all rather uncomfortably (for me) wedding-like.
Of course, the paparazzi snapped countless pictures and took video footage of it all. The girl made her way to the throne on the lawn, to be joined by her date for a photo-op.
And then, in an hour’s worth of over-the-top, something completely absurd (to me) occurred: some guys went into the house and carried out an area rug (presumably from their living room) and laid it out in front of the couple, and on that rug a little girl (the sister of the girl in the prom maybe?) performed a dance for the happy couple to music played on the stereo.
After all the festivities, the couple entered the limousine and were transported to an evening of bliss at their Senior Prom.
Now, I admit I did not go to my prom, so some of this seems silly to me all the way around, but I get that people go to prom and enjoy it. My sister went to her prom. She and her friends got their hair and makeup all done up and wore fancy dresses, and their dates came over and took pictures in my back yard in their outfits, and then went in their cars to the prom. That was it. My sister had no paparazzi. No interpretive dance. No carousel. Most disappointing of all? No car with gull-wings. This seemed normal to me. I think it is normal for most people in my age group.
How and when did promos change? I am sure the kids I watched at my sister’s house also had an elaborate “promposal,” which is this new thing where asking to go to the prom is, itself, an event. I told my sister that my niece – who we were all there to see after all – was likely taking mental notes about her own prom in about ten years, and my sister needs to brace herself!
Although the story I related above is fun and possibly interesting, I think things like this are becoming more and more typical. I wonder what it says about our society and our culture?
The first thing that it says to me is that it reflects our culture’s weird obsession (worship?) with celebrities, reality television, and the idea of “being famous.” I have seen many polls which suggest that kids today would much rather “be famous” when they become an adult than take on an occupation or accomplish something. Apparently, reality television – and the constant barrage of tabloid media that people (especially kids) now consume – seems to have shaped actual reality in some way to make things like the above expected or perhaps “normal” now.
I think it also points to our culture’s superficiality. These are just two high school kids. This is not a wedding where life-long troth is pledged. Yet, from the hoopla, it would seem the same significance is applied to both. We seem to ignore the deeper and more significant aspects of relationship (e.g.: commitment, self-sacrifice, etc) and, instead, focus on the superficial feelings of the moment (e.g.: romance, desire, and impressing others). Many jokes were made about what this couple will do after the prom is over, all suggesting some sort of sexual encounter. I hope these jokes do not reflect this couple’s reality, however when we celebrate a prom in a similar way as we celebrate a wedding – down to using similar imagery (e.g.: flower girls, white dresses, etc), what message are we (as adults) sending to these kids, and what else should we expect them to do or think? Why wouldn’t their evening head toward a sexual encounter? After all, it’s presented to them with the trappings of marriage. Teenagers have enough internal motivation for this sort of thing, they do not need the adults in their life giving them the illusion that prom is a mini-wedding, and all the things that go along with that.
Another, and perhaps more depressing, aspect of all this is what it says about marriage. Despite all the attention “gay marriage” has received, the fact is that marriage rates are on a steep decline, and have been so for some time now. As a family lawyer, my thoughts went to marriage and children while I watched all of this, and I could not help but think that all of this spectacle poured into something as minor as a Senior Prom is due to the fact that there is no expectation to marry any more. This was the girl’s opportunity to have a big romantic evening with her boyfriend, not her wedding. Who has weddings anymore? That is so last century.
Finally, there seems to be a consensus in America that our economy is, at best, under performing, and people do not have the income and money they used to have during better days. In spite of that, this family spent lavishly for one ephemeral evening for a high school event. This took place in a typical middle-class area. These people were not rich. It seems that, with all the complaining about the economy, people still insist on spending absurd amounts of money on frivolous things. Perhaps our view of the condition of our economy is as much due to our own feelings of what we are entitled to have and spend our money on as it is to reality. This is a much bigger discussion, so I will not get into it here, but suffice it to say here, the entire event just seemed like a huge waste of valuable money (I admit that I do not like spending money – some may call me “cheap” – so that may color my view here).
My wife, who tends to be more optimistic than me, told me that I should perhaps take note of, and focus upon, the fact that this couple had family and friends who loved them so much as to spend money on, plan, set up, attend, and hold this event for them. That seems true too and I guess that is a positive to take away from it all.
I love my sons, and I hope they enjoy their proms if they decide to go, but if they expect me to shell out the money for an event remotely like this one, I think they’ll be disappointed. I guess, as history unfolds, we will see how these developments in the prom tradition fit into the development in our culture. I just hope it is for the good.
More on this sort of stuff here and here and here and here.