I’m a day late…okay, a couple years late on my PROMPTuesday response (I suck at remembering that Deb does these until Saturday or thereabouts, so I inevitably don’t do them), but I do have a story to tell. I may have already told it, but I’m okay with repeating myself repeatedly. (Yeah, yeah…it was intentional. Intentionally intentional.)
I only went to prom one year. It sucked. It shouldn’t have, but it did. And I still hold it against the guy who took me.
His name was Bill Powell.
Being the dorky classic movie freak that I’ve always been, I gave him far more credit as a human being simply because “William Powell” starred in movies I’d loved*. I was certainly no Myrna Loy, but again, he was also no William Powell. He was simply Bill Powell. (* Apparently I learned nothing after dating a “Fontaine” and imagining myself marrying him… [I really was a dorky classic movie freak with stars in my eyes and dream in my heart].)
Also, in a tuxedo, with his walk, he was all too penguiny. For anyone’s taste (except maybe a real penguin, although with his behavior that night, no penguin in their right mind would want to be associated with him).
But before prom night and the terrible disappointment and disgust I ended up feeling, I was your typical teen girl who imagined prom to be a magical event and was completely caught up in the dream of what it might be. But, without the budget of my wealthier friends and with self-esteem issues, I don’t know why I thought I’d miraculously look like a princess or how I’d end up with a prince of a guy.
I’d spent a lot of time looking for a prom dress. Our neighbor worked in a bridal shop so, of course, that’s where we ended up looking (first and, eventually, finally). I tried on many gowns, liking nothing. Of course, it had more to do with me not liking how I looked. I was a very typical teenager who bought into the whole “I’ll never be pretty or perfect enough” idea that young women still fight to this day. I didn’t see that I was actually of a nice build or that I had lovely hair and teeth or that I could actually be considered “cute”. Or I worried because I came from a working class family with a loud, grumpy father. I wasn’t the most popular in the school. I knew plenty of the popular kids, but I wasn’t OF THEM. I spent far too much time believing that guys asked me out because they were half blind and probably only liked me because I was funny in a self-deprecating manner.
Anyhow, after visiting several stores, my mom and I ended up back at the first shop and I settled on a white sleeveless gown with a scoop neck trimmed with ruffles and a ruffled hem. We did away with the white sash at the waist and chose, instead, a semi-wide sea green ribbon to replace it. For some reason, I wanted a Gibson Girl hairdo, but ended up going with slightly-more-curled version of my standard feathered hairdo because nobody in high school ever needs to do their hair in a Gibson Girl unless they’re in a play.
Bill showed up in his dad’s sedan. Don’t recall what kind, but I remember it being a lovely metallic blue that sedans of the day often were. I had his boutonniere ready to go and he had my corsage. My parents took pictures as we were getting ready to leave and there was still hope in my heart that the evening would be fantastic.
Off we went to Quails Inn for dinner. We’d be dining with mutual friends. And, my dear readers, is where everything quickly turned to absolute shit.
The people with whom we sat noticed another kid from school who was in band, played the tuba, and who also happened to be overweight. Now, deep down inside, I still considered myself a fat kid (I wasn’t, but I was sensitive to my past weight and the weight issues others suffered [or not suffered in their minds]). These kids I sat with, these kids I’d known for several years, these kids who’d also been in band (or still were) began talking about this young man. Loudly. Loud enough for him and his date and everyone else in the room to hear. I was getting upset. I tried shushing them. I told them they were being rude. I tried pleading with them to just stop. To no avail. I turned to Bill and quietly asked him to do something, but he only laughed along with the others and jumped into their conversation. I got up from the table and spent a good 30 minutes in the bathroom wondering who these people were. How could they be so cruel? Should I go apologize to the young man? Should I call my parents and beg them to come pick me up? Finally, I headed out of the bathroom, making quick eye contact with the boy who’d been the object of my tablemates’ mean mouths. He smiled at me and nodded. My cheeks were burning and my heart was pounding. What would happen? By the time I’d got back to the table, everyone but Bill was gone. He said something stupid about me being away for so long, but had nothing to say for himself when I asked why he said such awful things about someone I KNEW he had been friends with at one point in his life. I also said I would sit at the same table as everyone else at the dance over my dead body. He could sit with them if he wanted, but I wouldn’t be by his side.
Leaving the restaurant, we headed out to Camp Pendleton. Yep, our prom was on a Marine Corps base. A fairly long, foggy drive on a weekend when not only are adults drinking and driving, but most of the kids are, too…just what every parent dreams of!
Once at the dance, I saw two of my dearest friends in the world: Rich and Susie. I made a beeline toward them. Rich knew something was wrong. Susie knew something was wrong. It was kind of hard NOT to notice given that I practically ran to them and my date went in a different direction. Having grown up with both Rich and Susie, I felt a huge sense of relief in knowing that they’d understand, and you know what? They did. They insisted I stay with them for the rest of the night, Susie even sending me out on the dance floor with Rich more than once. The only song I recall us dancing to, though, was “Stairway to Heaven”. They wanted to take me home, but I couldn’t impose on them to that extent. I’d have to face the nasty little penguin boy at some point (and who would possibly ruin what might have been planned for her friends on prom night, right?) so I said my goodbyes and found Bill.
In the car, he acted as if nothing had happened and chattered about a big party everyone else was going to afterwards. Did I want to go? Uh…no way in hell! Disappointed and without a shred of understanding why, he angrily drove me home. It was a long, uncomfortable drive in the fog — that of the weather and in his self-deluded notion that I’d somehow thank him for the super fun evening. As he pulled up to my house, he leaned over as if to kiss me and missed by a mile as I was already out of the car and halfway to my front door.
We never spoke again. When he’d see me at school, his face would turn bright red, his walk would become even more waddly, and he’d stomp off. And of all the other kids who were at that dinner table, talking trash about a classmate, only ONE of them approached me after and apologized for her behavior. My only comment to her at that time was that I was not the one who needed an apology and if she couldn’t muster up the courage to ask for mercy from the person she hurt then I had no room for her in my life.
Thinking back on that all these years later, I’m struck by a couple of things:
1) I was an idiot as a teenager, but not the biggest idiot in the world.
2) I had more backbone than I gave myself credit for. I wish I had known it was there and used it more often.
3) I’m so glad I never have to go through that time in life ever again. Kids can be shitty assholes of the highest magnitude. That ANY of us survived high school in the 80s (or at any time) is a damn miracle.