Monday, June 8, 2009

Special Events Make Me Feel Special

The time has come, the Seventeen magazine said , to talk of many things. Of shoes, and corsages, and sealing the deal, of limo rides and kings.

There are few events that are "important" as prom. Yeah, those quote marks are supposed to be there: prom is important, but not in the ways one might think. In fact, along with weddings, proms are a category of event that could be labeled, "no matter what happens, the fantasy wrecks the reality." I'm not hating on wedding days or prom night; what I am saying is, after all is said and done, there's a buttload of build-up and not a huge amount of pay-off. (Weddings, however, have the added bonus of getting people hitched, so I'm more on-side.)

It's supposed to be a magical night...right? Limos, fancy dinners, the exciting possibility of sex, nice clothes and flowers. It's marketed as a rite of passage, but unlike your first hangover or your first pregnancy scare, prom is supposed to be a classy occasion. In high school, house parties are sloppy and bush parties are sketchy, but prom - hotel-held and fancified - is supposed to kinder, gentler, more adult, and the entrance into a world where getting dressed up for special occasions means a suit or a pair of high heels (but probably not, you know, together).

But it's not. It never is. I used to think - and still secretly do - that my birthday should be a day like no other. I should get free food at restaurants and breakfast in bed, along with well-wishing phone calls and cards in the mail. Needless to say, that never happens. Birthdays are usually days like any other. I rarely get a parade, and truthfully, that always makes me a little sad. Prom is like that too. The buildup - the anticipation of the special - is what can ruin the mood. Plus, the dressing-up and the going-for-dinner (which is pretty standard) and the limo (not) heightens the whole event. The chance that it won't be totally, totally awesome becomes just inconceivable.

But, inconceivable or not, prom is often a major bust. (And not like this.) Vomiting is involved. Police are there. People are smoking outside. Girls cry. Boys fight. There is often relationship drama of the highly intense high-school variety. Someone else always looks way better. The music, in an effort to appease everybody, ends up being boring top-40. You know, high school dances are usually more fun, because they're casual and not attached to a Big Deal Event. Plus, dancing in gymnasiums is pretty terrific.

Prom isn't so bad, and the fact that it sucks isn't so bad. The worst (for me, at least) is the shame and embarrassment I felt at buying into the hype. I sort of suspected that prom was going to suck, but I wanted so badly for it to be amazing. And then, of course, felt stupid when it wasn't. I felt like I had somehow screwed it up. If only I had gone to school...somewhere else! With different people! And was better looking! And more confident! Then I would have had a great time. But I wasn't, and I didn't, so I was embarrassed to admit that I felt lame at prom. Even thought it's marketed as some Ultimate Thing, it sounds weird to cop to feeling, not regret, joy, boredom or delight...but embarrassment.

Seven years later (damn, time flies), prom is sort of a hazy memory. Since there's no wedding in sight for me, I have few Ultimate Things to look forward to and, unthinkingly, over-hype. Somehow, it's kind of a relief. Rites of passage are getting be getting fewer and farther between - but all that means is that I'm more of an adult. The next time I'm at an event where there's a critical mass of drunk women in ugly full-length gowns, it's going to be celebrating the love of two people...not a bunch of high schoolers who have been chugging schnapps and need a ride home. And I won't be required by law to have an awesome wonderful amazing perfect mind-blowing hyperbolic time.

1 comment:

  1. I'm parading to you house on your birthday. I'll throw candy at the pigeons...