When I finished secondary school, in the dim and distant past of both the last century and the last millennium, we had a School Leavers Disco. A couple of times, over the last few months, I’ve heard Emma talking about going to her Prom when her exams were finished. I thought that ‘Prom’ was just the current word for ‘Disco’. But, no; in Britain, it seems secondary schools have proms now, in the style of American TV and film.
While, maybe, I should have spotted the signs, I do wish that this had been made clearer to me, before I was about to drop Emma off to hers!
Our School Leavers Disco involved a mobile disco being set up in the school hall on a Friday evening after the exams had finished. We all turned up, and hung around, shouting over the music, with the people we’d spent the last 5 years at school hanging out with. There was a buffet and an assortment of soft drinks available.
To be honest, I have no idea if any of the above paragraph is true. The event is so unmemorable for me, that my only clear recollection is, of me standing outside the school entrance, watching a group of guys I knew walking down the hill. Colin was wearing sunglasses and was clearly drunk. All of them were wearing fashionable (which is to say horrible) 80s suits or shirts and ties. That’s it! That’s all I remember…
My assumption had been that Emma’s Prom would be in a similar vein. Which is why I was somewhat perplexed that tickets to the Prom came in at £35. I just assumed that this is why schools have proms now; to run the event at a profit, by way of a fundraiser. While cheeky, this didn’t seem like a bad idea, as the school is always short of money.
I was wrong about that, too.
The American idea of Prom, it seems, has arrived at our shores. Well, sort of. While schools do have proms now, it’s a British interpretation of what we think is the American idea of Prom…
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with traditions we’ve imported from America.
Fast Food has annoyed me for years. I’ve been to Florida and California and in these places, the fast food chains serve you something that actually approximates food. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not healthy. But it is hot, fresh and tasty. Over here, a franchise from the same chain will take twice as long to serve you something that is cold, wilted and bland. Oh, and it’s still not healthy.
Black Friday is a more recent one that I find infuriating.
Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a harvest festival that celebrates the anniversary of that time the Native Americans sat down with the Pilgrims and had a party. Do you know why we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Britain? Because we stayed here! As for Black Friday, there are a number of theories as to where it came from but what matters is: that it’s the busiest shopping day in America, and; that it marks the start of the holiday season in America. And do you know why this doesn’t apply in Britain? Because we’re not America!
Besides, we already have a Black Friday; it’s the last Friday before Christmas. It’s when everyone goes and gets drunk, resulting in lots of fights and black eyes, hence Black (Eye) Friday. Now, that’s British!
So, yeah; Black Friday annoys me a lot.
The American version of Halloween, on the other hand, I find irresistible. I simply love doing the house up in ghostly tat, and throwing a fancy dress party. It lets me do a bit of baking and come up with cunning plans to scare the visiting children so much they cry. What’s not to love? Oh, and the plans I already have lined up for this year are going to be epic!
And now, it seems, Prom is here too.
According to Wikipedia, ‘Prom’ is short for ‘Promenade Dance’, and is described as, a semi-formal (black tie) dance or gathering of high school students. According to the Collins Concise Dictionary (my server is going through its nightly strop, but, yes; I still have a dictionary!), ‘Promanade’ means, a leisurely walk, especially one in a public place, for pleasure or display.
The Prom, then, is a dance for teenagers who have finished their school years and want to be seen in all of their finery… This couldn’t sound more like a mating ritual if it tried!
It’s probably just as well I didn’t know that, before I dropped Emma off.
And I did drop Emma off, because she’s decided to go and, whether I knew it or not, schools have proms now. To my mind, there had been some uncertainty on this matter because Emma was one of the Boffs. The word ‘Boff’ has undergone some changes in meaning, over the years. When I was a teenager, ‘to boff’ was slang that meant, ‘to have sex’. So, hearing Emma referred to as a Boff initially led to a raised eyebrow. Apparently Boff is now being used as shorthand for Boffin, which is to say; someone clever. In the intervening years, it took on the meaning, ‘to vomit’, or ‘to barf’. The first time I experienced that version was when I was on holiday with a mixed group, in America actually, and I heard a female friend declare, “Oh my God, I’m going to Boff!”
I looked over at her husband with a definite raised eyebrow, thinking; “Oh, it’s going to be that sort of holiday!” But he just ignored her and wandered outside. It turned out that she’d just opened a new pair of shoes and loved them so much she thought she would throw up. The meaning of words changes with time. Emma being a Boff was entirely acceptable to me, so she could go to the Prom.
If she could find a dress she liked…
Who knew there were that many dresses in the World?! The local shops all had lists of their available dresses, by colour. Once a dress was bought, a note was made of the school the girl attended, so no two girls would arrive in the same dress. These shops know that schools have proms now, and they’ve raised their game.
Emma. however, got hers on line. From, as it turned out, a manufacturer who used a designer that only had access to Barbie Dolls to get their measurements. Emma’s pretty tall but this dress was designed for someone who was all legs. Even with heels on, Emma couldn’t get the hem off the floor. Not even close. She nearly died when she tried walking in it; the excess material tackled her to the floor. We got it shortened by several inches to give her a fighting chance.
So, at least The Dress was sorted. But then, it turned out, there were The Shoes. And then, The Clutch. And, The Hair. The Clutch, by the way, is nothing to do with cars, it turned out to be some sort of handbag.
Although, to be fair, the amount all this was coming to; it might as well have been a car. Oh, and then there was The Car. Or, at least, the mode of transport for, The Arrival.
You see, when schools have proms now, it’s not actually at the school. Emma’s prom was at Oake Manor Golf Club. And there was a red carpet on arrival. With a photographer. And, as it turned out, about 100 spectators watching The Arrival.
I didn’t know any of this before I joined the queue to drop Emma and her friends off. The vehicle in front of mine was a Maserati convertible. The one in front of that was a tricked out VW Camper Van. I’d seen a stretch Hummer Limo earlier and there was a bunch of lads roaring around on dirt bikes. Now, I’d taken the time to vacuum out the interior of the car, because everyone was going to be looking nice. But no one mentioned photographers or spectators until it was far, far too late to do anything about the car.
I’m not saying I’d have hired a flashy car, because I wouldn’t. I have a Mazda 6 in a rather fetching red, which is a perfectly fine car. The problem was, that not much of the red was visible because of the amount of bird crap all over the paintwork. Had I known about the spectators and the photographer, I would have got the car washed. As it was, the photographer made Emma and her friends back right up against the car, by the red carpet, meaning they cleared off at least some so of the bird crap with their butts.
I finally understood the lay of the land about 10 minutes before heading off to get Emma’s friends, so I did have time to suit up and play the chauffeur. And I did have time get the girls to practice exiting the car in their flashy dresses. We even had time to coach the lad on how to open the door on the other side, on arrival. On the whole, I think we did okay. The car may have been weighed down with half a hundredweight of guano, but Emma and her friends sure looked suave and sophisticated when they stepped out.
And that was it for me. Job done. Apparently, although schools have proms now, for some it’s all about the after party. I’d offered Emma and her friends a place to come back for an after party but she’d declined. This might have been because I’d threatened to present all her males guests with a pack of condoms on arrival… and all her guests a Chlamydia test kit, on departure. Or it might have been too far to come. Who knows?!
All I knew was that I was shattered and decided to get a couple of hours sleep before Emma got back. I’d just snuggled down when she called me. She did want an after party after all. And could I go and get them instead of the other parent, as my car could fit more people in…?
Thankfully, the supermarkets were still open, so I was able to pop out and get some drinks and nibbles. Nothing alcoholic, though, because I didn’t have time to clear it with all the respective parents. A bottle of non-alcoholic fizzy wine and some J20s would have to do.
And then it was back to pick them up. A car park full of parents trying not to do or say anything that would embarrass their respective teenagers. A forlorn task! Emma eventually returned with the lad and lass I’d brought out and two more lads in tow… I’d only been told about the one extra lad! Who was this spare?! And why was he wearing a hat?!
Hat guy couldn’t fit in the car anyway, which turned out to be fine, because his mum just followed me back home and dropped him off. Something I completely failed to notice. Some James Bond/Jason Bourne I am, that I don’t notice a car following me 15 miles in the darkness. Or, I may have been distracted by all these boys Emma was bringing home…
But the boys were all fine. And the after party was everything I’d hoped for her: a chance to sit with her friends and reflect on the Prom. Which, as these things always do, seemed to fly by so quickly. When 2am rolled round, I gathered them up and dropped them home. They all seemed happy. Emma seemed happy. Which meant I was happy.
Prom, it seems, involves hanging around, shouting over the music, with the people you’ve spent the last 5 years at school hanging out with. There is a meal and an assortment of soft drinks available. But it’s at a Club, instead of the school, and you have to pay a damn sight more money to be there.
And, because it’s a British interpretation of what we think an American Prom should be, instead of Prom King and Prom Queen, there was Best Dressed Person. Except, this was chosen by the teachers. There was also an assortment of people voted, ‘Most Likely to…’.
- Survive a zombie appocalyse
- Cure cancer
- Marry for money
- Become Prime Minister
- Become famous
These things were voted for by the students, in the month running up to the event, and were generally considered to be a bit of fun.
But it’s also memorable. And special. And I’m willing to bet that in 30 years time, Emma can remember a lot more of her Prom than I can of my School Leaver’s Disco. So I’ve yet to decide whether I think this ‘Prom’ is a good import from America. I’ve got to go through it all again with Ceri, next year, so I’ll make a decision then.