Did you go to your school prom?

The good Cappy has a new video up in response to a question from one of his readers. The young man wants to know whether or not he should go to his prom.

Cappy’s response is what you would expect. But I found it interesting in relation to my own school life. In Australia we call it the ‘school ball’, and back when I was a lad in the 80s you would go to three of them as the final three grades in high school were all allowed to go to the school ball.

I went to none of them. It wasn’t because I was a social outcast at school. I sort of straddled the line between the popular kids and the not-so-popular kids. I could hang out with both groups quite comfortably but I wasn’t in the elite group of kids who dominated the school social circles.

Even at the young age of fifteen I just felt that it was a complete waste of time. It would have cost me a lot of money that I didn’t really have, I would be forced to wear a horrible outfit that had been worn by thousands of sweaty teenagers before me, and I would have to pretend to know how to dance.

But worst of all I would have had to ask a girl to go with me. The task of asking a girl to the ball was rife with pitfalls. You had to carefully select someone who was at your social level or just slightly below. Because the whole night was about who you went with. For girls particularly this was of crucial importance. It was imperative to them that they go with someone above their own social standing at the school. For example, if a girl who was of medium social standing went to the ball with the top guy in the school then she would see a dramatic rise in her social standing post-ball. The next week at school she would essentially be hanging out with a different group; a better group. Better only in the sense of a higher social standing.

Even in my complete cluelessness of girls at that time I still knew enough to know that I wanted absolutely nothing to do with this game of social bargaining. I casually watched the hoops my friends had to jump through as they agonized over which girl to ask, for if you asked a girl and she refused to go with you then that went around the school faster than a bad dose of head lice. I also took some pleasure of playing the ‘I don’t know if I’m going’ game as girls maneuvered around me in a big to gauge my true intentions.

Every year I skipped the ball and it got easier by the year. The first year I felt some apprehension at coming to school the next week as everyone would be telling their ball stories and I would be left out. But the stories were lame, the drama was pathetic and the astounding thing to me was that there was almost a majority agreement among my peers that the night had not been worth it. The only ones who had a great time were those at the top of the social pyramid, and that was to be expected as they needed to make the most of the only time in their lives that they’d mean something in a social sense.

And I learned a few things too by watching those around me. Because when the ball came around again the following year, those same students who had apparently had a terrible time the year before jumped through the same hoops to go to the ball again. It was as if the previous year had never happened. And they had a crap time. And then the next year they repeated it again. By that stage I was watching their antics with some interest. I was learning how people repeated the same actions in the hope of getting a different outcome. I was observing a mild form of insanity.

The next year we were all adults. That says something right there.

I get along very well with Cappy. Thus it is no surprise to me that he didn’t go to his school prom either. The ability to think for oneself manifests at an early age.

4 thoughts on “Did you go to your school prom?

  1. I was lucky. I had a regular girlfriend and so didn’t have to deal with the “who do I ask and will I be humiliated when she says no” game.

    At the end of the evening, however, she broke up with me. So there’s that.

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  2. I remember it as the annual festival where the whole school community, including parents, faculty and administration, would remind me what a loser I was and gently suggest that I find a way to remove myself from the planet without inconveniencing anyone more important than me, i.e. anyone.
    First year I didn’t go. My mate took along a girl I fancied. By the end of the night she was kissing another guy for all to see.
    Next year some female friends suggested I bring their friend from another school so they could hang out with her. They knew I wouldn’t have another option. I didn’t go. That year my mate was prevailed upon to accompany a teacher’s daughter to her ball. This was the girl who, rumor insisted, had once been raped by a clown at the circus. Apparently she stared at him all night.
    Final year I went alone. It was okay.
    Advice to my former self: forget about it. You’re too immature. Focus on getting fit, saving money and doing cool stuff. If you build it, they will come.

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