Ah, that rite of passage, the high school prom. Back in the 1970s, when I was a senior in high school, the prom (still known as “the” prom back then) was a very big deal, and not having been asked was an equally big deal, at least in my mind.
Seventeen magazine filled its pages with pictures of prom dresses, prom makeup, prom accessories, and tips for a wonderful prom night. The girls who were invited (this was a time before girls invited boys – oh my), were all abuzz about what they’d be wearing and when the limo was picking them up and how their dates’ tuxes (yes, boys still wore tuxes to the prom then) would match their gowns (and girls still wore gowns). Whispers and giggles about post-prom activities – midnight parties at the beach and the like – abounded.
I quickly learned that being voted Most Intellectual, while perhaps a nod to my academic prowess, certainly was not prom bait, and so, regretfully, I didn’t get to attend. I did go out that evening, though, with a bunch of other girls – all lovely, all smart, all more than perfectly acceptable prom picks – and I do remember us having a good time. But going to the prom is something I (still) wish I had done, another hopefully fond memory to have added to the bank.
To those of you familiar with the story of B. and me, yes, we had met by then, and yes, we went to neighboring high schools, but no, we weren’t dating at that time, and yes, he went to his prom. I’ve even seen the official prom picture – he in his powder-blue tux (hey, it was the ’70s), his date in a matching gown with corsage, of course. And even though he has admitted to me that he wishes now that he had asked me, I still flip past that photo pretty quickly in the photo album (remember those?).
He: “It would have been amazing if we’d gone to the prom together.”
He: “I just don’t get how no one asked you.”
Me: (shrugging) “Too shy, too bookish, too quiet.”
He: “But adorable.”
Me: (playfully dramatic sigh) “But not enough for you to ask me.”
He: (having the grace to blush a little) “We weren’t in touch very much then.”
Me: “That’s true. You’re off the hook.” (pause) “Besides, I’m not sure I would have wanted to be seen with you in that baby-blue tuxedo.”
He: “Maybe you didn’t get asked because you were too much of a smart ass?”
Me: (grinning) “Yeah, that too.”
One Saturday a few weeks ago, I arrived home after running some errands only to hear 1970s music playing the instant I opened the door – the band Chicago, specifically.
And there, of course, was my always-meant-to-be-if-things-had-been-different prom date. No baby-blue tux, thankfully, but looking irresistible in his sweats and Nikes with a huge smile on his face. “Want to dance?” he asked as Color My World (a song I probably hadn’t heard for decades) began. “I know it’s not the same as going to the prom but – ” His words were cut off by my running into his arms and giving him a huge hug.
I guess at some point I’d mentioned missing the prom, and B. had realized that, despite everything, I really, really needed – somewhere inside – to have been invited. His asking me to dance at that moment – to a song that evoked the prom in both of our minds – was the perfect touch.
“You know, I think I might still have my old high-school ring around here somewhere – if I can find it, do you want to wear it?” he joked.
I laughed so hard – the same way he’s been making me laugh since the day we met.
“Let’s dance, Prom Queen.”
After 25+ years of marriage, we were officially going steady.
©2023 Claudia Grossman