I asked some people to reflect on their prom night (or semi-formal, as it is known throughout much of Canada). For many, it wasn’t a magical rite of passage, optimistic musicals to the contrary. As it turns out, the evening usually falls somewhere between a glorious dream and being covered in buckets of rotting pigs’ blood. How was your prom night? Tell us in the comments below!
It was an all-girls school in Montreal. So all my friends invited their fucking parents, so I had to invite my parents too. It was Catholic school. Both sets of parents came and you would sit with them. There wasn’t much dancing. Nobody got hammered. You just wear a pretty dress and smile for pictures. The more sexually mature girls brought guys. But essentially, the majority brought their parents. Some even brought their dates AND their parents. My parents just sat there and talked to other parents and took pictures. I couldn’t not invite them. Since all my friends invited their parents, mine would be VERY offended if they weren’t. I had a pink, poofy, spaghetti-strapped dress — like Gwyneth Paltrow when she won the Oscar. Oh, I also had braces. It was that pathetic.
My prom involved boredom, Winnipeg and half-assed rebellion. At our school, it wasn’t called prom. It was called “semi-formal,” which made it sound semi-illustrious, but in reality, it was exactly what you’d see in a high school movie.
Or at least that what I imagined it was like, since I didn’t end up going. I went to “Anti-Semi-Formal” instead, which was supposed to be this night of ridiculous Sid & Nancy-style escapades across Winnipeg. We, the organizers, hyped it up to anyone who would listen.
In the end, it turned out to be a pretty typical night: five dudes driving around in a shitty car, smoking weed, and sticking our heads out the windows to yell at pedestrians, only this time we were yelling “Anti-Semi-Formal!” In general, Winnipeggers don’t react to drive-by shoutings with more than a shrug, unless they’re also rowdy teenagers, in which case they’ll chase after your car. None of that happened that night, though. It was in either ’99 or 2000, I can’t remember. Maybe both? Maybe we had two Anti-Semi-Formals? Semi-formal wasn’t just for people in Grade 12, so we were allowed to go for like, four years in a row. Never went to any of them, never regretted it.
~S. Toronto, 31
All of high school was a lesson in humiliation. I never got asked to go.
~A. Orillia, 26
I went to semi-formal in a long, tacky dress from Le Chteau. I had to try and convince my date to dance with me, but he flat-out refused because dancing was “stupid.” I then retreated to the hotel rooms upstairs to party with the rest of the rejects. I ended up lying by myself in an empty hotel bathtub smoking a ridiculous 12-paper hash joint. Somehow, eventually, my friend and I were escorted home by the cops. They had mercy on us and didn’t drop us off right in front of her parent’s house. They let us out of the car down the street so we wouldn’t get caught. Those cops were pretty swell.
I remember jazzing up my outfit for the next formal I went to (with a relatively tame lace-up bodice and gothy floor length black skirt) and got called a ‘streetwalker’ by the pious Mormon girl in my class. The best part of the night was tooling around in my friend’s car before the dinner, and stealing a large, stuffed toy banana from a car dealership display. The owner of the dealership spotted us and ran out, hurling rocks at our car as we roared away. The rest of the night was sort of anti-climactic.
~Tiffy, 32, Toronto
I spent months preparing for my prom. I even had a trial run with my hairdresser months before the event, to ensure that she could do my hair just like Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias.
My prom date was my older brother’s friend. I was so pumped to show up with this older, mysterious guy who drove this really nice truck. Before he even picked me up for prom he ended up getting drunk and his mom had to drive us to prom in her station wagon. He was sitting up in the front with her, and my friend and her date (one of HIS friends) rode with me in the back. We all squished in the same row. I was mortified.
I remember skulking into the banquet hall, hoping nobody saw us emerge from the station wagon. Not at all the entrance I was hoping for. He drove a brand new, big, black Chevy truck, which was part of the reason I wanted him to take me to prom in the first place. There were no flowers. I remember forgetting his boutonniere in the house, because at that point, who really cared anyway! The night was terrible. He had a flask of whiskey that he kept in his jacket pocket. We danced once, the rest of the night I pretty much ignored him. I stayed on the dance floor with my friends, and he stayed at the table with his flask. After prom I sent him on his merry way, I think his mom came back to pick him up.
It really is just a bunch of teenagers playing dress up. Your personalities don’t suddenly morph into these super mature, super sophisticated, versions of yourself. There’s a lot of hope put into that night, and I think for a lot of people it’s a disappointment.
~M. 30, Edmonton
I decided to bring some MDMA and ten hits of acid to my prom. I was supposed to hit up this rave afterward. I was wearing bellbottoms and a 70’s ugly polyester brown shirt with that looked like it had an oil painting of a horse-drawn carriage on it. I didn’t really have money for a tux and I guess I was just trying to be funny. I went with my girlfriend at the time who was wearing this clean, white normal dress, nothing super-fancy – but nice. The dinner was like, normal convention centre banquet food. Everything was going along great until I went in the bathroom with my friend to do the MDMA (I guess two guys going into the bathroom together set off the alarm bells). The security guard followed us in and started banging on the bathroom door. I yelled; “I’m taking a shit!” He said; “I see hash oil!” He was lying – I only had the MDMA and the acid. He tried to peek in as I shoved everything into my pocket. When I came out, “I was like, what’s your problem?!” He just reached right in my pocket and pulled out the baggie. He took the drugs (for himself, most likely) and dragged me by the scruff of the neck to my table, made me pick up my name tag, and kicked me out. My girlfriend followed behind, pissed.
I still went to the rave after and had a great time.
~R. 35, Toronto.
I never cared about prom, but the majority of my friends talked about it since grade school. Girls love getting dressed up and for privileged girls, there are certain important dresses in their lives: communion, prom, marriage, second marriage for most, child’s wedding. Growing up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, there were a lot of movies coming out about prom, with the under lying theme of: If you miss it, you will be unlucky in love forever. So I had to go.
I never cared. I was a tomboy. I was liked but not ever looked as pretty or a love interest, just one of the boys. I also never thought would have been asked and really didn’t care either. I focused on other things instead like playing music and throwing dish soap into City Hall’s fountain. However, I wouldn’t dare miss my prom, my anxiety wouldn’t let me.
Picking out my dress was very hard. I was poor and wouldn’t dare ask my mother. I knew she would have done everything she could to buy me one but she wouldn’t be able to. I also didn’t want to ask my other family members either because I didn’t want to seem like a charity case, even though I knew they wouldn’t have looked at me like that and would have jumped at the chance to buy me such an important dress. I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone to calm my anxiety. Even my best friend’s mother got wind of the possibility of me not being able to afford a dress, so she offered to alter a gown she had bought for a cruise she was going on. I declined. I knew it would work out somehow, even if I had to Molly Ringwald a dress and go looking like a pink tube.
The first dress I saw was at Fairweather. It was yellow with gold sparkles on it, strapless and to the floor. I laughed and made fun of it, and walked to the next rack. I wanted Hunter Green. I thought, that wouldn’t be popular and I was right. No hunter green anywhere. I spent weeks going through rack after rack, looking at the steep price tags and ugly colours. It was getting bleak.
I went back to Fairweather a week before prom and saw the gold-ish dress I made fun of. Turns out no one liked it and it was aggressively reduced. So I tried it on. It fit my body and the colour was very nice on me. There was a bit of crinoline on the bottom that gave it a nice flow when I walked. The saleswoman told me no one had tried it one once. It was mine.
My hair was black and cut into a bob with baby bangs. I got a black tiara, gold bangles and black dramatic eye makeup. Since I couldn’t be Scarlett, I thought a Cleopatra vibe would be just as good and beside I knew it wouldn’t be pointed out as I went to a Catholic school and since Jesus and Cleo didn’t cross paths, no one would really make the connection and teasing would not ensue.
I went with my boyfriend and other best friend and her date and we drove in my boyfriend’s car. We almost got run off the road by numerous limos on the way there. We parked and walked in.
It was a sea of curls and pink dresses. Some of the “popular” girls even wore wedding dresses because they were insane like that and needed the attention. Little did they know that when they grew up, they would probably be wearing a few wedding dresses. I saw a lot of black, pink and blue dresses, a lot of repeats and even one maternity dress too. I didn’t think her going to prom would have improved her luck but I was happy she was trying.
Everyone looked at me and complimented my dress and most of them were sincere but some weren’t. I didn’t care. I came! I was here, I won’t be alone forever and unlucky in love! I broke the curse!
We had a dinner which is usually left out in the movies, so right after I went to go wash my hands.
In the bathroom, I pumped the soap from the counter dispenser. It was that yellow industrial soap. As I was checking out my hair and rubbing my hands together I noticed that the soap wasn’t lathering. So I tried it again. It was very watery and didn’t have that familiar lemon smell. It had a different smell. At that second I froze and thought; “couldn’t be…”
It was. Some maniacal son of a bitch replaced the soap with urine. They brilliantly unscrewed the container that was under the sink, peed in it and then put it back. I was known for pranks but this one got me. Got me good.
I stood there with my hands covered in piss with more denial than all my religion teachers combined. I snapped out of it to realize there was no actual soap to clean them with. I busted out of bathroom to run into the kitchen for bleach and an iron pad, when I was stopped by one of the privileged “Prom Brides”
“Watch IT!” she said as I bumped into her. “This dress is worth more than you,” she said.
Now if it were one of those movies, I would have walked over to her and started wiping my urine soaked hands on her beautiful dress telling her how amazing it was. Instead I just ran for the kitchen while choking back tears.
After a good 20 minutes of bleach and soap, my hands were raw and urine free. I told the teachers and they laughed at me but then quickly ran to clean it up.
I did it! I went to prom. It was boring and gross, and leading up to it was filled with anxiety and fear but I did it and its one curse I won’t have to live with. I am however 29, not married, no kids and have not been that lucky with love. I can, however, rest assured because it’s not because I skipped out on Prom. It’s because I make terrible decisions.