Sunday, March 9, 2008

Twelve Really White Girls, One Tan One

All over the country, high school girls are going ga-ga over the idea of prom. At the first hint of spring everything inside them goes all gooey at the thought of crinoline and taffeta, of boys in tuxes and wing-tips, of limos and a DJ who blasts classic slow songs.

I know this because I went ga-ga and gooey myself when I was a senior. That was the year I had the good fortune of having a boyfriend, which meant my fate was much different than the year before. While the rest of our grade was partying it up at our junior prom, my two best friends--Patty and Amy--were sitting with me in my living room. We were busy feeling sorry for ourselves. No boys loved us. We didn't have pretty dresses. No one had even thought to ask us to go to prom with them as friends. We weren't even good enough for the friend-date.

My mother, feeling sorry for us, arrived at home after work with three pints of Ben & Jerry's. She handed them to us, and we padded back into the living room and put in the one thing that was capable of making us happy in that moment: Footloose. While we were knee-deep in Ben & Jerry's (passed around in a circle whenever one of us called Switch!) and Baptist repression, my mother rounded the corner with one more treat: three flutes of champagne. She handed them to us with a look that said, Here you go. You earned them. Oh, we earned them alright. We were positively beautiful in our misery.

But what a difference a year can make. The next year I had Keith, and even though he was a college drop-out by this point (somewhere in between funneling beer and sleeping it off, he'd managed to rack up a 1.98 GPA before being ejected from school as a freshman), I told him he needed to get used to the fact that he was going back to do some high school stuff. He was going to do prom. He was going to do the tux and limo and corsage and awkward fast-dancing. He said sure, sure, he would do it. This amused his mother and sister so much, and they even made the trip out to my house on the night of prom to take pictures and heckle Keith. They thought it was hilarious that he put on a tux and was ready to do his white-boy shuffle on the dance floor next to all his girlfriend's friends, who hated him. And their hatred was serious. Serious enough that it would make the night uncomfortable. Had he and I both known he would eventually win them over--well, eight years later--then maybe the night would've been less stressful for both of us. I was afraid to leave him alone, and he was afraid to be left alone. Still, even though it was stacked with the potential for failure, it didn't turn out to be half bad.

And I started thinking about prom and all of that today as I looked through a CD of pictures my father had recently found and scanned for me. This CD held all kinds of gems. There were pictures of me at all ages, but the ones that really caught my eye were the prom pictures--especially the one that showed our group of friends all crammed together.


There are so many things I'm in love with in that photograph. First, I've got to admire the photographer's complete lack of regard for the composition of the picture. You can totally tell she was already sick of the gig, that she wanted to score a plate of mashed potatoes from the buffet, that she was ready to go to the bar and drown in a large glass of gin. She could have cared less about lining us up in a fashion that made sense. She could have cared less that our bodies spilled out of the glittering streamer background. She could have cared less that she made some of us (including me--a tall girl) kneel in front of some of the shortest girls.

I'm also crazy about how none of us seem to be wearing lipstick (except for Becky, whose older sisters had probably slipped a tube for touch-ups into her purse before she waltzed out the door with the man she would eventually marry). I don't know what came over me with the lipstick. I'm sure I was wearing some at some point. I sure hope I was. Because--and let's not lie--I look sort of dead. And tired. And uncomfortable. My dress is too big on me, too. I look like a girl who doesn't know anything about her body or what suits her best. The color is sort of rubbish on me. Like I need anything to play up how pale I am.

But you know what? None of that matters. I look at that picture and I see the things that are wrong with it, sure, but I also see just how cute we all were. I mean, my God. We look so bright and happy and hopeful. We are sure things are going to go our way. We are sure that our dreams are going to come our way. We are sure we are going to be friends forever. We are ready to start the rest of our lives. We are so, so ready we are almost out of our skins with anticipation.

It makes me want to do it all over again.

1 comment:

cornshake said...

i heart this post. i almost fricking cried reading it. so adorable and so *true*. i am such a sap.