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Thursday, September 28, 2006

THE RUNNING OF THE PROM

First, thank you to all who sent me words of encouragement during my Scissor Sisters crisis. It is now resolved, and Ta-Dah comes out of every appliance in my house that plays music, and a few that don’t.

When I last left off, I was telling you about the Amazing Breast Size Guessing Nun, and how we were the Freshmen of Death. I’ve explained why I am actually a stinging insect, and Sister Mary Wookie’s theories of the social system. And I’ve told you about my sophomore and her involuntary suicide pact, and exactly how pliable and obedient I was to anyone who had a leather jacket with fringe.

And now it’s time to talk about the prom.

Ah, the prom. If you haven’t had yours yet, do you think about it? Are you planning on getting that massive issue of Seventeen Magazine with all the dresses? If your senior prom is behind you, do you still keep the photo and remember the good times?

In Devilish, the senior prom gets hijacked by something called Poodle Prom. It’s the climax of the story, so I can’t say much about it. But what I will say is that my senior prom, while not as bad as Jane’s night, was not exactly a picnic.

See, our prom was about rules. It was about obedience. It was about training. And they started us early.

From our first days at school, we were taught that as formless, breastless freshman, we were way too clueless to be allowed to wear things like heels. There was a complicated order to things relating to yearly dances, and each year it was reinforced in our heads. It went like this:

FRESHMAN YEAR

NOT A PROM. A freshman dinner dance. Party dresses only, knee length minimum. Heels at a maximum of one inch. No limos. No tuxes.

SOPHOMORE YEAR

NOT A PROM. A Soph Hop. Slightly more fancy party dresses, knee length minimum. Same heel height. No limos. No tuxes.

JUNIOR YEAR

A PROM. Tea length dresses permitted, knee length minimum. NO FLOOR LENGTH DRESSES. Two inch heels. No limos. No tuxes.

SENIOR YEAR

THE END OF THE KNOWN UNVERISE. THE KING OF PROMS.

Now, it got complicated.

Floor length dresses were permitted. Tuxes were permitted. Limos were permitted. Heel length remained constant at two inches.

The main thing to know is that we weren’t permitted to wear strapless dresses. No way, no how. That went for any dance, and this fact was drummed into our heads on every possible opportunity.

However, every year the faculty actually voted on whether or not seniors could wear spaghetti strap dresses. This was such a huge deal that it merited a yearly discussion.

It was vetoed for our year.

We also had, like I mentioned previously, prom classes. This is when our senior year religion class was taken over for a week or two, and we were taught things like plate settings. This is when we had the mysterious Kleenex discussion, and when we were told not to get out of the car until our date opened the door.

And we also learned the schedule of how our prom was going to go down, just in case we were even thinking of having any fun.

Our arrival was to take place between 8 and 8:30. NO EXCEPTIONS. Failure to show up by 8:30 could result in the holding of our diploma.

Really.

Departure could not be before midnight, but could not be after twelve thirty.

The school brought in a “beauty expert,” a truly odious woman who taught us things like an exercise to keep our chins from getting flabby (slapping them) and that the cure for acne was more makeup. She was so insidious that at least two of my friend managed to walk out of the assembly, which was no minor feat.

I bought a white satin dress for the prom. In retrospect, this was a strange choice, as I am pretty white myself. I am the color of porcelain and whole milk and daisy petals, if you’re romantic—and like someone in need of a transfusion if you’re not. Put me in a white dress with long white gloves and lean me up against a wall, and all you’ve got left is some brown hair and a blotch of lipstick.

But I loved my white dress and white gloves. It had tiny cap sleeves just cupping the shoulder. Every measurement was perfect, and yet, I still loved it. My dresses for the other years had all been a bit tragic, but this one, this one I loved.

A group of us all went off to the prom together, after driving from house to house and picking everyone up, getting 200 pictures taken. Then we divided up into cars. I got into the one with one of my best and closet friends in the whole world. Because everyone in my blog gets a new name, she will be called Betty Vox. (Except now it’s Dr. Betty Vox.) We left in plenty of time to get there by 8:00 or 8:30.

Betty’s boyfriend was driving us. She was up in the passenger’s seat, and I was in the back with my date. I remember it being a fun ride, right up until the time we got stuck in a massive traffic jam at 8:10. But we weren’t that far. We still had more than enough time.

Except that we hadn’t moved at 8:15. And not really that much by 8:20. Or five minutes after that. By now, Betty was getting seriously, seriously nervous.

“Re,” she said, leaning into the back seat. (My nickname is high school was Re. Only people who went to high school are allowed to call me this. It’s kind of a personal rule.)

“Re,” she said again, drawing me back from my own parenthetical interruption. “It’s 8:25.”

I looked at the clock on the dashboard. She was right.

“Well,” I said. “How far are we?”

“About seven or eight blocks,” her boyfriend said.

“We’re almost there,” I said to her.

“Yes. But we’re not there. And we might not be there in five minutes.”

“We can go seven or eight blocks in five minutes,” I said. “Right?”

Wrong. By 8:28 we had gotten about two blocks closer.

“Re,” she said, leaning back again. “This time, seriously. We have to go.”

“Go how?” I said. “We still have five or six blocks left.”

“I know. That’s why we have to go. Now.”

She opened her car door and got out. I followed.

“What are you doing?” I said, following her to the sidewalk. “We have two minutes.”

“If we don’t go,” she said. “They’re going to hold our diplomas.”

“And so, what? We run?”

Instead of answering this question in words, she responded in action. She started running down the street. And I ran right after her.

I’m not sure if you’ve tried to run in heels and a floor-length dress down a city sidewalk before. You probably haven’t. I don’t really recommend it. Especially if you are trying to preserve you hair and makeup and not get anything on your stark while dress and shoes, and if you are carrying long-stemmed roses and a purse. I didn’t spend a lot of time in heels back then. Our days were spent wearing our fabulous and sensible school shoes, so I wasn’t all that steady at normal walking pace. So running on a sidewalk (notorious surfaces on the best of days) was really a lot more than I was ready to take on. Also, we were the official show of all that stopped traffic.

However, bizarrely enough, this may have been the one physical act that my school had truly prepared me for. Since we didn’t have showers, we were always told to try not to sweat in gym. This doesn’t seem like something you can normally request or control, but we had actually learned to do this.

So we ran. We ran because we actually believed that we might not graduate high school if we didn’t. I must make that fact clear. That’s how whipped we were. Betty and I, aside from being the non-Catholics, were both honor students. We weren’t at the very top, but we were far, far from the bottom. And yet, we were still afraid that we might not be able to go to college or ever, ever leave our high school just because we got stuck in traffic.

We arrived, out of breath, at 8:32. Our dates had no caught up with us. We barged into the hall on our own. Our principal was waiting there, clipboard in hand.

“Miss Johnson,” she said. “Miss Vox. Running a little late, are we?”

It had to have been completely obvious that we had just been running. Our hair was all blown around, we were breathing too heavily to answer.

“And where are you dates?”

We pointed at the door, indicating that they were somewhere in the world.

“Girls,” she said, in a warning tone. “You were told when to arrive.”

“We got stuck in traffic, Sister,” Betty said.

Sister shook her head and wrote something down.

“Bring your dates and go and greet everyone,” she said. “Everyone has been waiting for you.”

That last bit was meant to sting. See, it wasn’t over yet. At our school, there was a receiving line at the proms.

“Receiving line?” you ask. “What do you mean by that?”

I mean that you had to walk around and introduce your date to every single faculty member that turned up, and they ALL turned up. An entire WALL OF NUNS. I’m talking about twenty-five or so. Seriously. And you had to say hello to every single last one of them and have your date shake their hand, and if they wanted to talk, you stood there and talked.

And here’s the kicker. The lobby area of the place where we had our prom? Mirrored on all sides. So it looked like THOUSANDS OF NUNS. I think this is the same trick they used in that last scene of Star Wars, when they go and get their medals, and there are millions of rebel alliance fighters all lined up.


Imagine that these are nuns. And that there is no wookie.


And not just thousands of nuns . . . thousands of nuns that had been denied the pre-dinner snacks because Betty and I were “late.”

In a class of 125 girls, having twenty five to thirty dedicated chaperones patrolling the edges of the floor, ready, willing, and able to bust in to any couple making out for more than 30 seconds (the limit) . . . it all makes for a fairly controlled experience. Betty and I spent the whole night not really knowing what had been written on the clipboard, and it was a while before we were convinced that we were in the clear.

Now, if that doesn’t sound like a good time, you don’t know what fun is.

The fact was, we did have a good time. If my high school was about anything, it was about learning to enjoy yourself in the face of insanity. And really, when you think about it, this is one of the most important lessons you can learn in life.

Also, I can run in heels. And not sweat.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

haha, wow... no one commented on this, so I will...even though I have nothing to say...lalalalala!

3:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, wow. That sounds like a cray school. Crazier than mine.

10:20 PM  
Anonymous Maria said...

Exactly the same as my high school! Everything about your high school experience screams my school, right down to the Big Sister/ Little Sister traditions.

10:12 PM  
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh wow Maureen! Thanks so much for sharing, I feel almost as though I was there with you that night trailing behind you and Betty! :-) I am sure that any prom I attend will never live up to the crazy night you had! Nuns have always scared me. I can't imagine walking amidst them comfortably. I applaud your bravery and ability to not sweat! Impressive!

11:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay. I think this definately requires pictures. At least one. Please?

1:01 AM  
Anonymous tamsin-emillie said...

WHOA! And I thought my prom was bad...admittedly it was lacking in every department aside from girls in 6 inch heels that were all bare foot after the first hour. And the the entertainment and food was far from what we expected...not to mention having to pay for ALL our drinks...BUT man, was yours worse! Though actually it sounds more interesting and I do believe that although I arrived in a london double decker bus your wa was way more fun :P

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