“I remember my prom. What a night… Changed my life… Never forget it.”
Lisa’s mother fussed over Lisa’s hair and reminisced. Tonight was Lisa’s prom.
Expecting another pointless story, Lisa tuned her mother out. Recent conversations with friends carried more weight. Matthew, her date, would be there soon.
‘This is prom night! Why so gloomy?’ She had too many mixed feelings.
Her friend, Hannah, knew why prom was the biggest social event of the year. Simplified, both boys and girls believed sleeping with their date was the prime reason for prom night. Only not much sleeping would take place.
So wide spread had this attitude become, most accepted it without question. Contrary opinions got labeled ‘terminally unhip.’ No one wanted to be ‘old fashioned.’
Some believed the boys invented this mandate. Being clueless about human relationships, boosting their sexual self-esteem became the priority. The momentary pleasure would add colorful sprinkles to the sponge cake of their male egos. A prom night conquest would cinch bragging rights for the rest of their hormone addled lives.
Many doubted their brains were the organ employed when hatching this plot.
A contingent of girls in Lisa’s class felt they’d suffered through too many sex-ed classes. Theory lacking hard data sunk into empty rhetoric. The time for experimenting had arrived. Girls are the future, after all. They held the power and were ready to wield it. Describing one’s self as ‘fierce’ had become all the rage.
Lisa wondered how ‘prom’ and ‘fierce’ would reconcile.
Hannah proudly stated, “Girls have control. I have what he wants. He’ll beg like a puppy for a treat.”
Lisa always imagined prom being a Cinderella night of dancing with a beau. Had that myth been shattered, leaving stark reality atop the rubble? Or had they been sold a bill of goods? Had a sexual power-play replaced a romantic ideal?
When younger, Lisa spent happy hours playing with her Barbie and Ken dolls. Choreographing scenarios, she sensed how difficult such liaisons could be.
Logistics could not be ignored. Intimate locations for two at a public event? Ease of access, and timing…? All needed planning. Spontaneity wouldn’t do. No cake walk, these challenges began looking more like a Mission Impossible episode.
Lisa had questions. “What are the chaperones doing all this time?”
Unfazed, Hannah responded. “You expect the counselors and parents to care? Just another boring night to them. They’ll be flirting and out smoking cigarettes.”
“But where? The rest rooms…? How romantic. Yuck…”
“You’ll be back before the next dance.” Hannah yawned. “Anyway, that’s plan ‘B.’ Eddie’s planning a ‘picnic’ under a tree in the cemetery. No one goes there at night.”
“Of course! And that’s what back seats were made for…”
“And beds of pick-up trucks!”
“Don’t make me itch. Nothing like pulling alfalfa out of your three-hundred dollar dress.”
“The well-heeled will take limos. Bubba’s handing out condoms to his buddies.”
“So, it’ll be a group grope. Like a Chinese fire drill. Take a number. Four chairs, no waiting? A barbershop quartet in a limo?”
“The drivers will stand watch outside.”
“While whistling the theme to the Lone Ranger.” Hannah laughed. Lisa continued, “It’s a pissing contest. Guys are so full of themselves.”
“That’s their weakness. And our edge. They’re dancing to our tune.”
“I forgot it’s a dance. There’ll be dancing?”
“Of course. As a backdrop. The song list is mainly hip hop. The main event is off stage.”
Lisa balked. “I want romance. I’m not going to break dance in my dress.”
“Don’t worry. Plenty of old stuff too.”
“It’s like a horse race… no intimacy, no romance… no love.”
“You’re copy of Miss Manners must be dog-eared to death…”
“What’s the winner get? Extra points for speed? Duration?”
“Lisa, you’re getting it backwards. They can distract themselves all they want. Let them bring graphs and tape measures, stopwatches, calipers… who cares about stats?”
“They’re using us, Hannah. 1st base, 2nd base, 3rd and home. What size is his bat? Oh, no! Heaven forbid there’s a strike out!”
“Focus, Lisa. You’re forgetting we’re in control.”
“You know the story. Rub the lamp and get three wishes…”
Lisa didn’t know what to think. Matthew acted normal, as usual. He asked what color her corsage should be. His parents were loaning him their car so they could ride in style. ‘With a bigger back seat?’
‘Was she supposed to be surprised? Or feel taken for granted? Had Matthew benefited from Bubba’s ‘generosity’?’
‘Is this what prom had always been? Should she get with the program? Or get her dreams?’
Her mother handed her a mirror. “What do you think?”
She couldn’t believe it. “Wow! How do you do it, Mom? It’s perfect.”
“You take after me, so I did for you what I do for myself. Time to get dressed.”
Yesterday, Lisa asked Matthew his plan. He said, “To have fun, fun, and more fun. You like dancing? We’re gonna tear it up.”
‘What did he mean by that?’
The ‘here and now’ returned when her mother said ‘doofus.’
“I’m sorry, Mom. What?”
“I said, ‘he was a doofus.’”
“Doofus? Wow, Mom. Pretty strong language from you.”
“You should have heard what others… Everyone said he got his cummerbund in a knot.”
They both cracked up.
“I already… Is your head in the clouds? Oh, you’re preoccupied… I just rambled on about the doofus turning up at my prom. Nothing important.”
“I’m sorry. What did I miss?”
“Such a magical, beautiful night. Thousands of butterflies filled the air. Everyone stood in the twilight watching them dance when this… fool runs by in the altogether. Like a ‘Midsummer’s Nightmare.’”
“What? You mean the doofus?”
She nodded. “Guess he thought he’d impress us by streaking the dance.”
“Were you impressed?”
“Some things you just cannot unsee. I’ve honestly never seen such an ugly bottom. And hope never to again… Not that I’ve seen that many…”
Lisa couldn’t stop laughing. She’d never heard her mother talk like this.
Her mother handed her a tissue.
“I just finished your make-up. Don’t let it run.”
“Thanks, Mom. I can’t get the image out of my head.”
Her mother shook her head. ”Some things are private… never shared.” Lisa tuned in. “You know, I sprouted early. Taller than everyone. Kids called me Gulliver.” Lisa nodded. “My Dad always said, ‘don’t slouch.’ My prom date, who later became your Dad, joked about my height…”
“I let him know it hurt. And his response said it all. He made me feel precious. We barely knew each other. I liked him, but didn’t know how he felt.”
Lisa had never heard this.
“It turned into a storybook night. Your father made me feel cherished, honored, seen, cared for… He didn’t conquer me. He won me.”
“I felt we were the only ones in the ballroom… I wasn’t a trophy, or grabbed from a bag of chips… Didn’t want the night to end.”
Starry eyed, her mother looked off.
“The band played so many favorites. We adopted songs for themes, which we sang for years.”
“I love hearing you and Dad sing. It’s so cute.”
“The world stopped that night... Those were Gidget years.”
“A coming of age movie. A girl goes surfing… That’s the backdrop for the real story… A time of innocence and mystery.”
Her mother began tidying.
She said, “We had good times… Still do.”
Lisa stood before the mirror. “How do I look?”
Her mother beamed. “Perfect!” Then she made a little frown. “Wait! I almost forgot…”
She left and returned in a moment. Standing behind Lisa, she secured a delicate silver necklace with a tiny mother-of-pearl heart pendant.
“I wore this to my prom.”
The doorbell rang.
“Get your shoes. I’ll answer it.”
She opened the door to Matthew, who held a small corsage box. He smiled and bowed.
She laughed. “So cute! That’s what my prom date did.”
“Is Lisa ready?”
“Soon. Come in. You look great. Have a nice time.”
“Take care of my baby…”
“Of course. Always…”
Lisa made her entrance. Mouth agape, he blinked.
“My God, you’re even more beautiful than usual.”
Lisa grinned. “You look great, Matt. Wear the tux more often…”
He helped Lisa pin the corsage, a perfect match to her dress. A little clumsily, he kissed her cheek and beamed at her.
“You look the perfect couple…”
He took her arm. “May I have the next dance?”
“We’d better go.” Lisa hugged her mother and whispered, “Thanks, Mom…”
“Have fun, kids. Bye…”
Lisa’s mother waved as they walked to his car. He held the door for Lisa. They laughed together as she got in.
Wistful, she watched them drive away.
It was a magical night.