DDT - DiRienzo's Deep Thoughts - Promposals

Who know that asking someone to a high school dance needed a budget?

March 29, 2017

On January 25, 1998, I was a high school junior, watching the Broncos and the Packers play in Super Bowl XXXII, which I explained to everyone who would listen meant that it was the 32nd Super Bowl. 

(High school junior me was the king of Roman numerals.)

This was a typical high school party for nerdy people like me—pizza and soda, with theater kids everywhere doing skits and scenes from the musical we’d just performed (two months before).  There were two TVs on in the basement family room—one showing the game and the other showing Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Like I said—nerdy.

At the time, I was lucky enough to be dating a girl named Amber, who was everything you’d want in a high school girlfriend.  She was cute, funny, sweet, blonde, and had actually agreed to go out with me. 

She’d been kind of upset for most of the day and I didn’t know why.  Even though we’d been dating for a little more than 4 months, I still didn’t have a clue when it came to a lot of different things about girls.  After a few attempts to get her to tell me what was wrong between her house and the party, I’d given up trying to figure out what her deal was, so I dropped it.

Shortly before halftime, Amber said she wanted a word with me and we went to the one place in the room no one could overhear our conversation.

Under the snack table.  (Why?  Don’t ask these things.  We were 16 and it seemed like a good idea at the time.)  That’s when she told me why she was upset.

I hadn’t asked her to the prom yet.

I had asked her on a date for the first time in October of the previous year.  I really liked her, she liked me, and neither of us tried to date anyone else.  In high school terms, dating for four months meant we were practically engaged.  I wanted to go to the prom with her, but since it was MONTHS away, it actually never occurred to me that I needed to actually ask her in January.  (Besides, I had forgotten to pick up her flowers the night of our Christmas semi-formal, so I was really down on the concept of the rituals of school dances, anyway.)

In the middle of my sophomore year of high school, a junior girl asked me to be her date to the prom.  I said yes, even though we weren’t actually dating.  (That’s a whole different story, for a much later time.)  Even though I’d actually been to a prom before, I had never actually had to ask someone to the prom.  In fact, for the aforementioned semi formal, I didn’t actually ask Amber to go.  I just bought the tickets and asked if she had a dress. 

In that moment under the table, it quickly occurred to me that I wasn’t really sure exactly how to ask someone to the prom.  Did you have to get down on one knee?  Get something in writing?  Did Hallmark make a card for this?  Did I have to ask her mom first?

As was the case whenever I didn’t know what to do, I just said the first thing that came into my mind.

“Oh.  That.  Wanna go to the prom with me?”

She said yes.  Everything was right with the world again.

Unfortunately for her and the other girls in my class, a few weeks after that, there was an unfortunate incident between our class and the Auxiliary Bishop of Scranton, and our principal ended up cancelling the junior prom that year.  One of the drawbacks of going to a Catholic high school. 

That said, I’m glad that when I had to ask a girl to the prom, it came at a time when the most ridiculous thing about the entire process was that it happened a mere four months before the dance.  

Today, prom-posals are one of the hot new trends on social media.  Get ready for a ton of stories about to flood your newsfeed about creative ways that high schoolers are asking each other to prom.  While most are actually cute and endearing, some are so elaborate, it’s a wonder that a generation best known for putting electronic puppy features on themselves in a picture has the creativity and the means to make an elaborate prom-posal happen.

When it works, it seems really cool.  It’s a great story for social media and a memory for both of them for the rest of their lives.  Unfortunately, there are many cases when the answer is no, and if you thought simply getting rejected by your crush in high school was bad, add to it weeks of planning and hundreds of dollars out of your pocket only to be told no.  Personally, I’d have had to change schools.

Of course, this was bound to happen.  It’s an entire generation removed from shows like My Super Sweet 16 and Cribs, which helped MTV complete the transition from music television to Al Qaeda’s main recruitment channel. 

It’s also very much a regional thing.  On a recent episode of This American Life, Ira Glass points out that while prom-posals are big in Utah and a few other pockets around the country, for the most part, asking someone to the prom doesn’t need props or a budget. 

It just needs a snack table and two nervous teenagers.