I used to hate the way movies embellished high school as if it were some dramatic experience that was so earth shattering that it required countless melodramas to explain it. Then I went to high school. And after three years of drooling over developing girls I experienced the melodrama to end all melodramas. I went to prom. Now, my prom story is unique because it doesn’t end with me getting the girl. In fact, I’m not sure that I ever wanted the girl to begin with and if I did want her when the day started, I certainly didn’t by the time the night was over.
It was my Junior year around October when I realized that I had a crush on one of the maids. I don’t mean maid in the literal sense of the word, but rather the theatrical sense. Our high school was putting on a rendition of Beauty and the Beast and she was one of the chorus members and was made to dress like a maid (pun very much intended). I would take this opportunity to make fun of her, but I was a candle. After a few weeks of flirting backstage, the play ended and I decided that I should “ask her out.” I use the phrase very loosely in this situation because I didn’t have my driver’s license at the time and so there really wasn’t a way for me to take her “out.” Either way, by some strange incidence we became boyfriend and girlfriend and it was fun and casual and everything one would expect from a relatively superficial high school relationship. Now what happens next I’m not proud of, but in order to accurately depict the events that occurred later in the story it’s necessary that I show how much of an ass I really was.
There was another girl named Heather who happened to be one of my best friends (a.k.a. a girl I really wanted to date but never “asked out”). We’d always maintained a very flirtatious relationship, which had been fine in the past but now I had a girlfriend. Well as it turns out, this particular girl happened to like me much more after I got a girlfriend.
Lesson #1: Girls like boys they can’t have.
That was the first of many lessons to come. After weeks of being flirted with by Heather, whom I should also mention was Bell in the play, (way cooler than a maid) I gave in and broke up with Suzie (the maid) in order to date Heather. So yes, I flirted with another girl behind my girlfriend’s back and broke up with one for the other on the same day. I’m a bad person. Did I mention that all of this happened on Christmas day? Well after a few weeks of dating Heather I realized how much of a terrible decision I’d made. She hardly paid attention to me and broke up with me on a trip to a thespian conference after flirting with gay guys in front of me all week.
Lesson #2 (for Heather): Just because he’s gay doesn’t mean you can grope his muscles in front of your boyfriend.
Fast forward to January. Feeling lonely and humiliated, it didn’t take long for me to realize I’d made a mistake by breaking up with Suzie (the maid). She was, after all, sweet and pretty and most importantly– interested in me. So I began an effort at regaining the ground I’d lost with her. We started talking a little bit and things seemed to be going well. Thinking that a reunion between Suzie (the maid) and I was imminent and hoping to undo at least a little bit of my idiotic behavior I did the only natural thing for a guy in my situation to do. I asked her to prom. That was, as it turns out, a very bad idea.
Part II: Euphoria
She said yes. At the time I believed our rapid rebound into mutual adoration had everything to do with my smooth talking as well as the idea that we were destined to be together. I realize in hindsight that these principles should, by all means, be mutually exclusive but I was sixteen. Those few weeks were a very brief moment in the montage of this story where I was truly happy with my situation. After initially ruining things with both Suzie (the maid) and Heather (the Bell) I had somehow managed to recapture the heart of the maid I had initially adored. Sure she wasn’t exactly the most mature girl I’d ever met and my friends didn’t exactly like her, but what did I care? I had a date to prom.
But the euphoria was short lived. It took me all of three weeks to realize that I’d made a terrible mistake in asking Suzie (you got it) to prom in January. Our prom didn’t actually happen until May, which meant I had asked her a good three months too soon. This wouldn’t have been a problem had it not been for the fact that Suzie and I became more or less strangers over the months before the dreaded dance. Tension started building between the two of us because we seldom talked and when we did, the conversation was short and always about the specifics of our prom plans. This continued right up until the night before, which was a terrible mistake on my part because I had essentially dismissed the wishes of her parents who had required that we ride in a limousine. For some reason, they didn’t trust me to drive which made no sense to me considering I was a newly driving 17 year old who had talked to them twice and broke up with their daughter only months before. Also, limousines were expensive and my friends were adamantly against them because they denied us the freedom to go wherever we wanted whenever we wanted. Unfortunately for me, pretending a problem doesn’t exist doesn’t actually make it go away.
Part III: I Have to Do What?
It was the night before the dance. I was driving into work. My phone beeped. I had a text message. I opened the blue-lit device to find a string of characters so littered with four letter words that the intentions of the author were obscured almost beyond recognition. I soon realized I had actually received a string of texts which read something to the affect of “You don’t f***ing deserve Suzie! She’s too good for you! You shouldn’t even be allowed to take her to the prom!” and things of the sort. Naturally, I did the cool and reasonable thing and ignored all of the texts and was the bigger person about the matter… yeah right.
At first I was just trying to figure out who in the world cared enough about the situation to text me like that, especially the night before. Then I remembered that Suzie had a very outspoken best friend who was not very fond of me at all. Case solved. Realizing I was being attacked not only by Suzie’s friend but by the date herself, I vaguely remember responding with my own string of choice words. All in all, the conversation was short lived but it did its damage.
After work I returned home to find my parents sitting in our re-finished garage waiting for me. This is of course the worst thing that can possibly happen to a teenager. On my way inside my dad uttered those despicable words, “hey son, can I talk to you for a second?” Although I knew that nothing good could come from this conversation, I was still unsure about the contents of our soon to be heart to heart. While scanning my brain for all the wrongs I’d done over the past couple weeks it wasn’t until my dad said, “so Suzie’s parents called us” that I started to realize what was happening.
“Suzie’s parents called you?!” I was floored.
“Yeah, and they said that you’ve been lying to Suzie and disrespecting her. Is that true?” I was basemented.
Now at this point I could barely formulate words I was so angry. While I hadn’t exactly handled the situation in the most mature of manners I was still the one who had been attacked. I was the one whose prom was about to be ruined by some bitchy best friend. I was pissed. So I told my dad the truth about what happened (besides all the stuff that made me look really bad like why we broke up in the first place) and how I didn’t feel like I’d done anything wrong. I even offered to give her the tickets I’d spent $140 on so that I wouldn’t have to go.
“Son, I know you don’t want to go with this girl and I know she’s been completely ridiculous and I believe everything you’ve told me, but you have to take her to the dance.”
“What??” I thought.
How in the world could I be required to do anything with this girl after all she put me through? I didn’t want to take this girl to the grocery store, much less the social highlight of my high school career! But then my dad told me something that I’ll never forget.
“Jordan, you need to take her to prom because you told her you would and it’s the right thing to do. You have to be a gentleman” he cut straight to the heart of me.
Despite my behavior over the past few months, my desire to be considered a gentleman was still a fundamental stronghold in the fabric of my existence (I watched lots of romantic comedies). And unfortunately, when dad said something like that I knew he was right. Even if I didn’t there was no arguing with him because well, he was dad and I was seventeen.
Lesson #3: Just because you know it’s the right thing to do doesn’t mean it’s fun.
Part IV: The Right Thing to Do
So the resolution of the situation ended up being that I was required not only to go to prom with Suzie, but that we had to be driven to and from every event of the evening by my parents. That’s right, my parents had to drive me and my date to the junior prom. When it came time for us to meet with the rest of the group for the pre-prom, we-haven’t-made-memories- yet-but-we’re-sure-as-hell-about-to pictures Suzie was the only one not present. After all the drama and stress involved with planning this event, she felt the need to add to it by being an hour and a half late for our group pictures. She showed up just as the rest of the group was leaving, (in their own cars) to go to dinner. I took one picture with the group. It was a picture of all my friends standing in couples side by side on a staircase. I was at the bottom… by myself. Eventually she arrived and we took one picture together in the yard. Then we left. Fortunately for us, my father had the hip knowledge to know that being driven to prom in your parents’ minivan by your parents is a lot less embarrassing when the middle seats are taken out.
“It’s almost like a limo!” dad said. Oh the irony.
I still maintain that the van ride from Madi’s house to Nashville was one of, if not the most awkward experiences of my entire life. I’m not sure if Suzie genuinely enjoyed talking to my parents so much that she didn’t notice I wasn’t talking or if she was just covering up the silence, but either way I didn’t say a word. My body was as stiff as cardboard as I tried to keep my facial expressions as neutral as possible.
“So Suzie, where are your parents from?” Dad asked. At least he had the courtesy to help me out even if it was painfully shallow conversation.
“Well they’re….” I tuned her out before the words ever left her lips.
I silently wondered what my friends were up to. They were probably listening to crazy dance music while being loud and obnoxious. I imagined they were all experiencing one of those wonderful moments where teenagers feel both completely young and completely mature simultaneously. Like toddlers in playhouses they were indulging in the fantasies of adulthood without actually experiencing any of the drawbacks. I however, was stuck in a minivan staring at the backs of my parents’ heads. I had plenty of reminders that the tuxedo, the nice dinner, and the formalities were all an act. If they were toddlers in playhouses, I was the kid who got a tickle-me-Elmo for his thirteenth birthday.
Dinner was more of the same. The only difference was that now I had friends to distract me from the reality of my situation. I spent most of the meal talking to those around me and was only reminded of my date’s presence when she was directly referenced in their conversation. However the joy of the group did grow on me throughout the meal and at one point Suzie and I did actually begin to join in with the laughter of the crowd. By the end of the meal I was at least finding small victories. I thought back on how my dad had told me to make the best of the situation. I knew he’d be proud.
But just when I allowed myself to think about the rest of the night as something I might potentially enjoy, dinner ended and I was reminded of the fact that I had to call my parents to get them to come pick us up and take us to the Opryland Hotel. My friends all drove off in the nice cars their parents had let them borrow. Suzie and I stood on the curb. She was in a pink floor length dress and I sported the pink vest that had looked much better in the catalogue. I felt like a joke.
Part V: Strangers
It took all of five minutes for us to separate after we arrived at the actual dance part of the evening. I think I tracked her down once or twice to see how she was doing. By the end of the night we were strangers. She didn’t even go to the after party I’d paid $40 for. I wasn’t angry. In fact, I ended up thoroughly enjoying myself, which had more to do with the fact that the Opryland hotel is my favorite place on earth than my ability to overcome the adversity of my date. Luckily we’d made plans before the evening started for her to leave with her friends and for me to stay with mine and so everything worked out. We walked in awkward and walked out apathetic.
The next day I got a phone call saying she was glad I took her to prom. I imagined her mom sitting in the kitchen watching her make the call. She probably told her it was the right thing to do. That was the last time we ever talked. There are some lessons that have to be learned the hard way. There are also some stories that are so unbelievably funny that it’s impossible to regret the events that transpired. As for this endeavour, my only regret is that I didn’t thank my parents for the ride.