Of course, this end-of-an-educational-era ritual is a watershed event. For most guys, the prom is the first time they'll wear rental pants. For girls, it's a rare opportunity to wear their hair "up," a style that announces to the world in no uncertain terms "I am a woman. With a clean neck."
As one might expect, with all the importance attached to this one evening, young people have great anxieties about it. There's pressure to do things "right" and "properly" and "untraceably." So, in an effort to help today's teens through this major life passage, I've put together a brief but comprehensive Guide to the Prom.
Making the Date
Guys: The hot chicks already have dates, the babes are out of your league, the cheerleaders don't know who you are and the cute girls are going with college guys. The solution for the average male teen who doesn't want to ask out the geekette with the bad skin who plays oboe in the school band is a mail-order prom date from Russia or the Phillipines. (On the form, specify "virgin" or "virgin, wink-wink.")
Gals: Don't accept the first offer you get. In fact, it's an excellent idea to wait for an unexpected phone call from an unknown man -- not a boy, baby, a man -- a writer, say, who knows how to treat a woman in the flower of her youth and who might have enough frequent flyer miles to whisk the both of you to a foreign land, one that's far, far away from the provinciality of a childish prom as well as the disapproving glares of your family and the law
Guys: Tux all the way but: 1) Do not rent a tuxedo that carries the odor of a medicated cream or ointment. 2) Do not rent a tuxedo in any color but black or white; cummerbunds may be black or red; pastel colors, plaids, paisleys, etc., scream, "I am in this country illegally," and could see the INS interrupt your big night. 3) Prepare for hidden costs -- in addition to the tuxedo (jacket, trousers and cummerbund) you'll also need to rent a shirt, tie, studs, cuff links, braces, shoes, shoestrings, socks, underwear, cane, gloves, eye patch or monocle, silk scarf and formal "satin-striped" nose breathing strip. 4) Decline fire, theft and snag insurance; accept liquor and vomit stain coverage.
Gals: Anything long and beyond your parents' means. Tradition also dictates it should fit loose enough in the bosom so that you spend the evening constantly tugging upward at the bodice.
A corsage is de rigueur. And, fellas, if you want the evening to go well, you won't skimp here. Orchids and gardenias are excellent choices; pictures of orchids and gardenias that you've torn out of magazines are not.
Hiring a limo with a gang of friends is still the way to go here, but be advised: With the epidemic of obesity in American youth today, the average maximum capacity per limousine is now 4.6 students, down from 6.8 in 1985. Fewer passengers, of course, means a higher cost per person. Tip: Getting the extra cash should be no problem for the clever teen who can figure out a way to get paid for sitting on his/her broad ass watching cable.
You can't be shy tonight. Everyone will want -- and should get -- your picture. (Little known fact: The average prom has so many shutters snapping and flashbulbs popping that it's a common occurrence for Jesse Jackson to show up.) Try to smile and look your best, because one of these photos will be the one they use on the news if anything bad happens to you over the next two or three years.
You're on your own here. This part of the evening is so utterly unremarkable you'll start forgetting it the minute you walk in. By the time you leave, you'll feel like an amnesia victim.
Here's where the fun really begins. No curfew, private parties with your friends, wall-rending music, drugging and drinking in earnest, sex, and not even a single fleeting thought about school or learning. But it would be a mistake to think of this mindless, reckless, hedonistic explosion as the magnificent culmination of your high school years. Instead, think of it as orientation for dorm life.