Back in the last century I was in high school. In 1986 I was senior and around this time of year, I was invited to go to prom.
The boy who asked me was the captain of the football team. He was the president of the athletic boys’ service club. He was a nice boy and over the four years of high school we experienced at the same time, I barely knew him. So I was a little surprised he asked me, but flattered nonetheless. He had a sterling reputation.
I remember the occasion, we were in the senior hall. I was probably late to class or something and the hall was quiet; I even think it was after school.
He asked me with a note. Like a piece of looseleaf paper folded with letters in pencil that formed words on it.
I suppose I was an intimidating person back then?
“No! You were definitely never a ‘glass half-empty’ person, you were always upbeat!” my friend said to me today, as we compared notes about the situation.
But what this is showing me as I remember it, is that this boy really didn’t know me very well either.
I got along with everyone in high school. I didn’t belong to a clique, I sort of hovered in and out of groups. If anything, I was likely most in alignment with the “preppy” crowd, simply because I loved cotton. I knew athletes, I was funny, I knew a few of the vo-tech crowd, some of the super smart people thought I fit in with them. I would say overall, that my high school class was pretty inclusive or not very cliquey…? I suppose I will be corrected, but I feel like by and large, we all got along.
My nickname was “Buffy” because I wore a Buffalo Yacht Club crewneck sweatshirt often and because well, I was from Buffalo and I guess because I was preppy. But that was how you dressed in Buffalo. Button-down collars, turtlenecks, Levi’s, khaki skirts or pants, loafers, and fair isle sweaters. Because I came from the land of snow, I had LL Bean clothing up the giggy, and I did a lot of sailing, so I think I was already preppy by default.
I didn’t know a thing about Jordache jeans or Sassoon clothes or Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. The school where I came from had a uniform: you wore a hideous plaid jumper every freakin’ day with a yellow or white blouse with a Peter Pan collar. Every fourth Friday we got to wear pants. While I utterly hated that uniform, it spared me from years of serious wardrobe missteps however, I had a hard time adapting to the idea that you didn’t wear the same thing every day for the rest of your life. I am sure I suffered some style bruises. In short, I was a style dork.
That this particular boy invited me to prom, was interesting. He was not flashy in the least. He reminded me even then as an older man; his stride was awkward and stodgy. Our coupling would be most unpredicted, and possibly entertaining.
If there was any scuttlebutt about his asking me beforehand, I had no clue. I had a major-league, like the kind you read about, crush on his best friend, one that I’d had
since the dawn of man for years, and so by simple crush-anxiety-association I knew this individual. I was pretty good friends with his best friend though, the kind of “heyheyeah!how’reyoudoingi’mgoodyeahokherecomesBipsysookbye…” good friends that left you running home in tears from the bus stop or punching the hell out of a pillow imagining it the girl he preferred instead.
I’m good. I’m good.
In laughing our collective butts off /reminiscing about those days today with a good friend, I can say with certainty that if I had one class with this person, maybe two, it was Senior Art (which was so much fun) and / or Senior English. My issue is not so much that I don’t remember now if we had a class together then, it’s that I didn’t remember then if I had a class with this boy then. My friend laughed and said, “Wow, you really didn’t really know him very well…”
So no… we didn’t spend much time together at all.
I have harbored this story for 30 years.
I’m not bitter about it anymore, but it’s time I shared it. After all, what’s three decades? Thirty years. 360 months. 1,560 weeks.
We have a ton of mutual friends on Facebook but he knows to not even bother asking me anything again.
There are handful of people whom I suppose know about my prom night. This boy,
whom I will mostly consider gutless, me, my parents (one of whom is dead), possibly his parents (and they should be ashamed of themselves), a couple friends I told in frustration and tears about what happened, and possibly one more person.
So back to “The Ask.”
I call it “The Ask” because my own son has asked a girl to prom. His “ask” was themed after a film set because he and his date met in film class. Their arrangement and situation is very much as how I constructed mine for prom:
- nothing heavy-duty,
- everyone’s leaving for college in three months,
- let’s not fall in love or even try, and
- can we go as friends?
My son’s invitation was cleared a few hours before he did the formal “promposal” (bullshit that kids have to put themselves through these days) based on a movie set theme because they met in film class junior year. Regarding “promposals” I read somewhere that the average budget for a promposal is somewhere between $75 and includes tickets to Beyonce and $500. UM… FOR AN INVITATION TO A FREAKING DANCE… People… save the money for college. Prom will never have a high return on investment, trust me, I know.
My son’s budget was $22.19. We spent the majority of the money on movie theater candy and white pen markers. They are going to go and have a marvelous time. Mostly because they’ve known each other for about two years and there’s no weirdness.
Back to My Story
That my “The Ask” was written in pencil should’ve been a sign. I feel like I’m 80% sure that the “invitation” was multiple choice… as in:
Molly, Do you want to go to prom with me?
A) FUCK YEAH! LET’S GO! AND VEGAS AFTER?!
B) IS YOUR BEST FRIEND GOING WITH US TOO?
D) WHO IS THIS?
-the boy who shall not be named… yet
If I know me, and my sense of humor and my treatment of other people those years ago, I’m pretty sure I would’ve added a choice which would’ve been this:
F) “F” is for going as “FRIENDS,” right?
I was just beginning to have an interest in another boy who was also completely interested in me and was very clear about his interest. This boy would walk me to class and he would wait for me after mine. It was all very sweet, and new, and I liked the attention. The prom date boy was much more subtle, shy and not nearly as invested in me. If there’s any data to the contrary, I’d love to see it.
So while we were alone in the hall this one afternoon, I do remember seeing him in person and we talked about it. I had not yet really dated anyone for more than a couple dates at our high school. I had dated other boys from other schools. Most of the boys I knew were friends. I had two brothers and my relationship with my mother was often conflicted, so my “girlfriend time” was reserved for a few select girls, most of whom shared energies similar to my mother’s (as I later learned in psychotherapy) so those relationships were sort of conflicted too.
I had major crushes on boys in our school, and I was on the market for a date or a beau, but nothing like that had materialized. I actually thought I was invisible to boys for a very long time.
Anyway, I said yes, that I’d love to go to prom with this boy and I wanted to be very clear that “we were going as friends,” and he nodded (denoting comprehension and agreement) and even said something along the lines of, “Sure! Totally! Easier that way… I get it.” To me, asking someone to prom, which was about four weeks (three days, seven hours and 32 minutes) away from the invitation was hardly a first date. It was the expression of interest in HAVING a first date, at least by prom. Plus I had that other guy online.
Look, I can’t imagine the pressure to ask someone to prom. So from that regard, we handled it well.
The next weekend we went to a movie, I want to say it was “Nothing In Common” (HA! That should’ve been a sign) starring Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason. And in the dark, he leaned over to me, reached into his pocket, and asked me to hold his …
Asthma inhaler. No joke.
I did. For 90 minutes I held his asthma inhaler. After the movie we went to an ice cream parlor. I am sure we chatted about the film as he drove me home. I didn’t write about any of it in my diary.
I’m sure we talked in the halls at school and I recall a few phone calls. We may have even gone to a party together or met up when we got there. I’m sure it was confusing to him (even though I was clear about it) that the other boy who newly held my romantic interest was lurking about.
The weekend following the movie, I brought him to a crab feast at a scrappy and established rowing club in Georgetown. My dad and mom were there as was one of my brothers, maybe even both. Putting a 5’10” asthmatic football player amidst a squad of 6’3″, 230# or stronger GodhelpmewhatwasIthinkingbringinghimtoallthatwhenIshould’vejustgonealonesoIcouldogle oarsmen was awkward for him I’m sure, but it was a social occasion and I was making an effort to include him in things, to get to know him better, and to do what I could to ensure we’d have a fun time at prom.
To me, I was reciprocating, doing everything “right.”
The next day, I went with my mom to a dress shop or the dress section of Garfinkel’s, a really nice store here in D.C., which had a “no-formal returns” policy, and I selected a lovely dress that was off-white / soft pink and reminiscent of the flapper-era (and being even then an F Scott Fitzgerald devotee I was all too ready to pay homage to my one true love) gown. It consisted of two parts: a sweet silk camisole-sheath dress beneath a gorgeous lace overlay with fringes and pearls. The buttons were covered in silk and went down the back. I had a nice pair of bone pumps to wear and my mom said I could borrow her string of pearls.
The next day I told him all about the dress and he nodded (denoting comprehension and agreement) and even said something along the lines of, “Sure! Totally! Easier that way… I get it.” (Yes, I used the same words as above because why not….)
Then either that same week or a week later, again by looseleaf paper, but this time in pen, was another note… the likes of which I will exploit because it’s my memory and my blog and while the wording might be off, the intention is on point:
I am a classless shit and I have no guts. I am turning tail and will not take you to prom even though I asked you three weeks ago, you said yes, we had an understanding, and you’ve bought your dress which is non-returnable. Instead, I will take someone else I asked the other day. She goes to another school, so you don’t know her. She said she would go with me and so I am an asshole. #sorrynotsorry
Can we still be friends? Please circle your answer:
Sure! No hard feelings. go to hell
I am a little hurt right now, but in time I will understand. I want you to have a good time at prom. go take a flying leap you asshole
Wow, this is awkward! Sure, have a great time! Love ya! go fuck yourself
and just for good measure I added one:
D) go fuck yourself.
I was humiliated. It’s not that I considered myself above him or better than he was, but who does that?! I mean really: who the hell does that?! Did his parents know he was such a shit? I never met them. Did he even care about what our mutual friends thought? I did.
All the boys with whom I was friends had dates already. The boy who I eventually dated around the time actually did take me out, but we couldn’t stay out too late. He took me fishing. Not exactly ideal and I couldn’t wear my dress, but I wasn’t alone crying in my soup. He was a nice boy and we dated for another six months or so and I cared for him a lot. It wasn’t meant to be and that’s OK, but he treated me well and took care of me that night. We are still in touch albeit virtual and very high level.
When I got home later from fishing (I still smirk at that), a good friend who had a limo and who’d dropped off his date due to her curfew picked me up and we went to a few of the afterparties. So I had lots of the fun and none of the pressure to put out, to get married, to HAVE A GREAT TIME NO MATTER WHAT!? or to leave. Vindication: the boys I hung out with later on said they’d had a better time with me and all our friends than they did with their dates. It was all just hanging out and I’m A FUN PERSON, DAMNIT!
So I didn’t go to my actual prom. But I was asked! And I said yes! And we had an understanding! So while I didn’t make a big stink about it, I didn’t keep it totally private. I was pissed but above all, I am a lady. I wanted to key his fake Mach 1 car. I didn’t. I wanted to booby trap him near his car so he’d step into a bag of dog shit and get it all over the inside of his car and it would stink for the trip to the prom, but I didn’t. I just ignored him…
I knew the girl he took instead. We’d met a few times over the year at games, parties and other events, months before he asked either one of us to the same event. I knew her through mutual friends. She was very funny, engaging, and outgoing. She didn’t (and still doesn’t) strike me as the kind of girl who would have said yes to him (or anyone) if she knew he’d already asked someone, especially someone she knew, who had said yes and who had already bought a dress. I know I wouldn’t have done that.
I may have some generalities confused and maybe some social events backwards or even not included, but I know for certain that he asked me to go to prom with him. I know for certain I said yes. I know for certain I held his “asthma puffer” during a movie; I know for certain I bought a dress and really loved it; and I know for certain he creeped out with about or less than two weeks before the event.
So when my own son asked his date to prom a couple weeks ago, I told him, “You better not welch on this deal. You take her no matter what. You take her. If she becomes a nun between now and then, you take her. If she falls in love and gets married, you still take her. If she confesses undying love for you even if you can’t reciprocate, you take her. If she asks you to hold her asthma puffer when you take her to a movie, you hold that puffer and guard it with your life. You take her. You still take her. DO YOU HEAR ME????????”
My son heard me. He will take her. She’s lovely. He’s classy. This is what you do. You don’t welch on a deal like that.
I’m not bitter. Anymore. Writing this was a little hard; I didn’t want to sound like a brat, but writing it brought me to I realize that I did nothing wrong. I have sort of been holding on to this concept that I caused it to happen, when I know I didn’t. Catharsis can be fun!