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April 8, 2015

Prom-Posals and Other Nutty Trends

ScreamFree_Nov_2014_0048It’s April, the time of year when many high schools hold their proms. You remember prom, right? That dance where she would put on a long, fancy dress and he would wear a tux. They’d buy each other a corsage or a boutonniere, go to a nice dinner, and dance the night away.

It seems like proms are not so simple anymore. In fact, they’ve become quite the production. There are even new words invented just for the drama surrounding them. Here’s one I just learned: prom-posal…as in, how the boy asks the girl to the prom.

At the risk of sounding old, let me sound old. In my day, here’s how my boyfriend asked me to the prom:

Boy: Sarah, do you want to go to the prom?

Me: Sure!

That was it. Exciting, eh? Today, that’s lame.

Here’s a sampling of how boys are asking girls:

Scenario 1: Boy rents an airplane pulling a banner that says, “Christy, will you go to the prom with me?” and flies it over the school where he just so happens to be hanging out with Christy. Of course, she says yes. How could she not!?!

Scenario 2: Boy arranges for friends to lie down in the school parking lot, spelling PROM? with their bodies. He then takes girl to the top of a building where they can see the spelling from high above.  Anyone feeling pressured?

Scenario 3: Boy convinces girl’s parents to let him sprinkle rose petals up the stairs and into girl’s bedroom where he has placed on her bed a teddy bear holding a sign asking her to the prom. Sound a bit romantic?

I’m not making these up. Believe me, I wish I were!

Now on the one hand, I have to give it to the boys. Their creativity is impressive. Here’s my concern, though: how do you top that? What’s left for the marriage proposal? Flying her to Paris?

We seem to be living in a world where good is not enough. It must be spectacular, over-the-top, never-before-seen. There is a sense in which kids are skipping the simplicity of childhood — and adolescence — and running headlong into the adult world. When prom dresses nearly cost as much as a wedding dress, SOMETHING IS WRONG. When the cost for a couple to go to the prom is more than most people make in a week, SOMETHING IS WRONG. When we play a giant game of Topper, SOMETHING IS WRONG.

So where have we gone off the tracks? Have you noticed kids’ birthday parties? Now before I go further, let me say this…I love a good party, and I’ve been known to throw some creative ones, but have you seen the extravagance that some kids’ birthday parties have become?

My son was invited to a party several years back, and it went something like this: I drove him to the birthday boy’s house, where he and about 15 other boys jumped into a HUMMER LIMO and rode to a hockey game, where they watched the game in a luxury suite, complete with pizza, drinks, and cake. Then the limo drove each child home. Sounds pretty cool, huh? Guess how old the birthday boy was!?! Seven. SEVEN!!! Good heavens, help us! What do his parents do for his 8th birthday? How do they make his 16th special?

I’m certainly not a social scientist who can fully explain why our society has been sucked into this drama, but I do have a few thoughts on the consequences of such behavior.

First, I believe that the root of these trends is often found in trying to “one-up” someone else, in the need to feel better than another. This creates a competitive atmosphere that brings division. I wrote about that competitive spirit regarding parenting in this blog post, and quoted Teddy Roosevelt: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When we compare ourselves to others, we are robbed of joy in one of two ways. When we find ourselves to be “better than” another, we have a false sense of superiority that can pressure us to prove ourselves even more. And when we find ourselves to be “less than,” we ignore our strengths and gifts. Comparison robs us of the joy of being ourselves and pits us against one another.

Second, this constant need to outdo one another (or even ourselves) can lead to a serious lack of contentment with ordinariness, and frankly, much of life is ordinary. If we are always searching for a spectacular experience, a new high, we are going to be miserable. So much of life consists of the mundane—going to work, making meals, driving here and there, cleaning up. Not very exciting, yet the bread and butter of life. I believe those moments can still be enjoyable without having to be spectacular.

Finally, there is nothing wrong with creativity, with celebrating special moments. And there’s nothing wrong with financial extravagance…at times. What becomes problematic, however, is when every celebration becomes spectacular, because in the end, nothing is spectacular. And when everything is over-celebrated, then the events that truly need to be celebrated are minimized.

So here’s my proposal: let’s celebrate, let’s be creative, let’s enjoy life, and, as we do, let’s understand the difference between nice and nutty.

6 thoughts on “Prom-Posals and Other Nutty Trends

    • Hey Val! Believe it or not, my oldest is old enough but isn’t going this year. Amazing how quickly time passes, huh?

  1. Read your bio and I also earned my Master’s in Professional Counseling at GSU and attended PSI. 🙂 Enjoyed the article!

  2. Great article, Sarah! We are–all of us–out of control. Who paid for the airplane? Probably mom and dad. In the moment all we can see is how wonderful it is that our child wants to do this thoughtful, special, unique thing and we will do anything to help our child be happy. And that, I think, is one of the places where we trip ourselves up. We can’t make someone else happy. Throwing money at it creates that upward spiral you mentioned. When we do that it makes it difficult to recognize the good and the joy of the regular times. And life has way more regular times than exceptional ones.

    • Thanks, Rhonda! Yes, we are often certainly a part of the crazy and need to recognize the long term consequences of not changing the dance!

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