Chances are, if you’re anything like me, this is the time of the year when your Facebook news feed is swamped with so-called promposals. A person (usually a guy) asks another person (usually a girl) to the school dance, often with flowers, chocolates, and a large sign that may or may not utilize a terrible pun. You might just be one of these individuals, and maybe are contemplating asking someone out or accepting someone’s proposal.
Of course, prom asks can be as low key as a simple, “will u go 2 prom w/ me?” typed on a glowing screen or as ostentatious as skywriting, but the fact remains that a culture has developed in which high school students–seniors, in particular–feel obligated to attend what is often lauded as one of the essential events of the high school experience. Even disregarding social media, prom and school dances in general are just ubiquitous in pop culture. Chances are, if a piece of media takes place in a school, there will be a dance of some kind. Half the time it will be during the climax of the novel, television season, or film.
This is not to say that there is anything wrong with prom or its attendees (be they couples, a group of friends, or even those who prefer to fly solo). Nevertheless, The Prospect writer Christine Fulgham states that “People are pressured into it mainly because it’s a cultural norm and a fomo (fear of missing out) is perpetuated.” It is, therefore, not that prom itself is bad–rather, what’s potentially harmful is the idea that an individual has to go in order to feel included or “complete” as a high school student. You could argue that there are positive aspects to this atmosphere: attending prom not only allows you to spend precious time with friends or have an excuse to ask out that guy or girl you’ve been eying since freshman year, but it also can help encourage school spirit.
But for some individuals, there can be multiple reasons why going to prom is less than desirable. For one thing, tickets for dances like homecoming or prom can often be expensive. At my school, they usually cost around forty dollars, but then you also need to factor in the price of a dress, tuxedo, corsage, or anything else you plan on wearing. Also, maybe you’re an introvert, and the idea of being surrounded by lots of people for hours into the night is draining in and of itself. Maybe you hate whatever regulations your school has for dances. Maybe you dislike the convention of the guy always asking the girl. Maybe you’re busy that day, or maybe you just don’t want to go.
Each and every one of these is a perfectly legitimate reason for not wanting to go to prom. Yet all too often people with these concerns end up on the dance floor anyway, for better or for worse, because they feel like it’s necessary part of the high school experience. They might have a great time or a not-so-great one. In the end, I think that while there’s nothing wrong with going to a dance, it shouldn’t be exalted as highly as it often is. There are ways to spend your years as an upperclassman that are just as valuable. The night of the dance, you could plan a get-together with close friends or even dedicate an evening to celebrating yourself. Furthermore, The Prospect writer Anabella Tourkaman says she wishes she had attended “more sport events and volunteering events in the school and community” during high school.
Ultimately, though, the cheesy truth is that whether you attend prom or not, a few years (or even months) later, you’ll be busy with other things and it won’t matter that much. Still, the choice of “to go or not to go to prom” should be yours and yours alone.