by Liz Locke, cinemasips.com
Hey guys! (That’s YA-speak for “pay attention to this thing I did online”)
If you’re like me, you probably skipped your high school prom in favor of sitting at home with a stack of VHS tapes and a pint of Cherry Garcia. Back then, I believed a real-life prom could never measure up to a movie prom. Without Blane waiting to kiss me in the parking lot, or George McFly looking at me like I was his Earth Angel, I’d be destined for failure, right? Better to live in a fantasy world than one full of disappointment. But in a strange twist of fate, I got a second chance at this teen milestone when my husband (aka. “the sexy art teacher”) got assigned to chaperone his high school’s prom. With one apathetic promposal text, this thirty-five-year-old was finally getting a do-over à la Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed. The following list reflects what I learned on this bizarre journey.
Prom Lesson #1- Adults welcome
Look, I’ve seen the films about “teenagers” attending prom. There is NO WAY these leading men are still in high school. They clearly have mortgages and bank accounts and maybe even baby mamas. Therefore, I assumed nobody would care if I wasn’t in my teens anymore. And you know what? They didn’t! These kids were already so amped up that the mood was one of overwhelming inclusivity. Teen queens came over to compliment my outfit and hair, my husband compared style tips with a boy in sequined Vans, and one special-needs girl was busting a move with the school police officer. It. Was. Adorable.
Prom Lesson #2- Ladies first
I’ll admit, my fella looked pretty great in his Andrew McCarthy-inspired tux. However, we all know that it’s women who steal the show on prom night. I saw sequins, a lot of thigh slits, and backs cut down-to-there, but also some red-carpet-worthy looks that were classy AF. My own dress was a Cate Blanchett-inspired jumpsuit/gown hybrid that was the only one of its kind in the Marriott ballroom. I credit the ladies of I Saw it in a Movie for helping me realize that on prom night, you want to be comfortable, and you want to stand out. I felt like a million bucks walking into prom, and I guarantee you every other girl did too. Especially the one in the kick-ass bolero outfit!
Prom Lesson #3- Drinking is a given
The teens at my husband’s school had a kegger planned on the outskirts of town, but since I’m of legal drinking age, I didn’t have to settle for warm beer in a plastic cup. I got to enjoy some pink champagne while I prepped, a cosmopolitan, and something called “The Duckie” at dinner (it’s like the restaurant knew I was a Pretty in Pink fan), a virgin Diet Dr. Pepper at the actual dance, then more champagne at home. Movie proms usually show some pretty terrible alcohol choices—real life was a lot better.
Prom Lesson #4- #Squadgoals
While you were watching teen villains get defeated and all those perfect couples finally kissing, you might have missed the fantastic friend squads. I’m thinking specifically of the The Denominators in Never Been Kissed, The Pink Ladies in Grease 2 (they were definitely nicer the second time around), and hell, even The Plastics in Mean Girls. At my own prom, I witnessed a group of girls trying frantically to help someone with a broken dress strap, tired feet getting massaged by sympathetic hands, and a ton of really cute group photobooth shots. I would go as far as to say that prom is more about camaraderie than romance. Dates come and go, but when you find the kind of friend who will tell you when you’ve got lipstick on your teeth, you hold on tight.
Prom Lesson #5- DJs are everything
I’ll let you in on a secret—the person providing the music is the real king or queen of the prom. With one perfect track, they can bring the mood up or down, make you want to boogie or head to the bathroom. The ultimate cinematic DJ was Usher in She’s All That, who inspired an epic Fat Boy Slim-fueled group dance. My prom DJ did a fair job of spinning tunes the kids liked (which in Texas is apparently 90s-era Garth Brooks and Tejano music), but he also managed to flummox the elected prom king and queen with a fast track instead of a slow jam. We can pretend that the most important person is the one with the best dress or the best date, but really it’s the DJ who holds all the power. I can’t decide if that’s good or bad.
Prom Lesson #6- Throw out your expectations, and you might just have fun
Movies have the unique ability to inspire both hope and dread. This is especially true with the concept of prom, which has been depicted as either a happily-ever-after fairytale or a horror show of embarrassment. The truth is somewhere in the middle, between Carrie’s buckets o’ blood and Heath Ledger surprising you with the lead singer of Letters to Cleo. There are fun moments, there are boring moments and there are annoying moments. But aside from all of that, there are moments when you look around and realize that everybody just wants an excuse to feel special for a night. To slip on a fancy dress or tux, pose for some pictures, and be the star of their life’s movie. It may have taken me an extra seventeen years, but I finally got to be a leading lady.