Monday, May 10, 2010

The Yin and the Yang of Prom

WESTON, CT - The year is 1974. It is a week before high school graduation and the night of the Weston High School Junior-Senior prom, held - ironically, as it will turn out for me decades later - at Waveny Mansion in New Canaan. The prom planning committee has chosen to be decidedly 1970's rebellious, declaring the attire for the event as semi-formal, thereby sparing the boys from adorning powder blue tuxedos with wildly wide lapels and shirts as frilly as a pirate's. It also means that the girls are free to wear dresses that will be decisively un-gownlike (my own frock was a full length, midriff bearing polyester number featuring garish red and blue flowers on it; my date wore a brown-and-white checked blazer, chocolate brown pants that matched a ridiculously broad chocolate brown tie topped off with a tie-clip fit for a grandpa). As it is 1974, the legal drinking age is 18. Pre-prom cocktail parties are thrown by someone's parents, and after sipping on an alcoholic beverage, the prom goers drive (!) to restaurants for dinner in neighboring towns. My group went to a popular steak house in Westport where we proceeded to order at least two pitchers of beer and one of sangria. And then drive to New Canaan, no questions asked, no adult eyebrows raised, nary a parent questioning the behavior. There was no alcohol served inside the prom venue, although booze was easily available in virtually any vehicle parked in the Waveny lot. The teachers and parents chaperoning prom occasionally troll the parking lot and around the grounds, but to the best of my recollection, no incidences are reportable or reason for punishment. Now here's how you know it was really the early, free-spirited 70's: at one point, my boyfriend and I were standing outside the mansion chatting up a favorite teacher. And the boyfriend and our teacher shared a joint; true story! But that was then, and this is now. My daughter, a junior, had her prom last month. The price of her prom dress was pretty much equal to my own high school clothes budget for the year. She had her hair professionally styled. Due to unfortunate sunburn marks from spring break, she had to have a spray tan. Thank goodness we wear the same shoe size, because this whole deal was costing unfathomable amounts of coin, therefore I insisted that she sport the same heels that I had worn to my high school reunion last October; there was some poetry to that. Nine girls got ready at our house, and then their dates and assorted parents came by for pictures and refreshments. We did not serve alcohol to the parents, and - obviously - not to the kids. But I did hear the girls chatting about a post-prom party ostensibly being hosted by one girl's parents at which alcohol was to be served to the teens in attendance. I was stunned as I heard the details. Allegedly the guests were going to be sleeping over, thereby avoiding any drunk driving exploits. That tidbit hardly made the whole thing sound like a good idea. There were several of my classmates who didn't remember, still can't fully recall, exactly what occurred at the end of our prom night, and even some moments during the dance, due to the booze consumption. Which is really too bad. The prom, especially the inaugural one, is one of those special rites of passage during high school; beforehand you envision the magical-ness of it. Even if it doesn't live up to one's rose-colored projection, it is still a fun evening. Or should be. Lacing it with drugs or alcohol can often veer the experience into unfortunate and decidedly un-fun territory. I am glad that NCHS employs a breathalyzer at the prom door. You never know when the proverbial few bad apples might ruin the night for a few good eggs. As I watched my daughter and her white-tuxedo- clad date (with tails, no less!), I was at once wistful and tearful. Happy tears laced with the expected "I-can't-believe-she's-so-grown-up" mantra. And she was going to remember her prom. My wish is that your teen stays safe on Senior Prom night. Oh - and in fashionable attire as well!

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