At the hotel in St. Cloud on Friday, I saw two high schoolers in prom attire headed toward the restaurant. The girl had chosen a red sequined dress and there was a corsage pinned on it; her date was in a tux with a matching corsage.
As I passed them, I smiled a friendly smile and said to the girl, “You look so pretty. Have fun, you guys!” She beamed and her date stood up a little straighter. I know how pretty she felt and also how awkward they both were. A compliment couldn’t hurt.
When tell you I went to prom all four years of high school, that should not in any way lead you to think I was so exceedingly popular or pretty the boys in high school were counting the days until I entered Winterset Senior High School so they could bum rush me and fight for the opportunity to take me to the dance. That was hilariously not the case. It’s just that my freshman year, one of my closest friends was a junior, and he was gay, and he needed a date that year. (Our prom was open to juniors and seniors.) I accepted his cordial invitation that year and the next year, too; he was still gay and he needed a date again. We goofed off and had fun with the rest of the choir kids only he had a cummerbund and I curled my hair weird.
My junior year was the only year I nabbed a hot date: Jed. I have no idea how that happened. Did I ask him? I think I did, actually. Jed was more popular than me. Tall. Funny. Cute. He could’ve gotten another date; I must have caught him at a weak moment in choir practice. (Clearly, high school choir is the place to get a prom date.) I got lucky twice that year (not like that!!!) because someone at the town paper, The Madisonian, decided to do a story on a couple going to the prom that year. Who do you suppose they picked? Me and Jed. I couldn’t tell you why on Earth they did, but in the 1996 Madisonian archives is a picture of us in full prom attire on my mother’s staircase, me smiling so hard my teeth are about to break. Jed didn’t kiss me, by the way. I know!
But my real senior prom was the best. I went with my girlfriends Annie, Leia, and Jennifer. I got my dress at the Goodwill. It was mint green polyester with embroidered flowers at the neckline. I wore a hot Uma-Thurman-In-Pulp-Fiction wig, except it was red, so it went great with the dress. We danced like crazy to Abba. We monkeyed around for the photographer. We defied the entire “Who are you going to the prom with?” protocol by refusing everyone and going with our dang selves.
Now that I’m thinking of it: when did prom start happening this late in the year? Maybe those kids on Friday were on a real date. If kids that young are going to charity balls or black-tie political fundraisers in St. Cloud, MN, I need to reexamine what I thought I knew about St. Cloud, MN. Whatever they were doing that night, I hope they behave themselves.