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prom ‘97

... or doing things right

My mother just gave me a bunch of her cocktail and formal dresses that she wore when she was young. Floor length dresses, usually with some beadwork, all really spectacular, unique formal dresses, and I thought, wow, these are really great, I’d love to wear these dresses, and then I thought, wait, I have nowhere to wear these dresses, and then I thought, wait, no one I know of would have any place to wear these dresses, these are dresses that look like they should be worn to award ceremonies in southern California and there’s nothing like that going on around here in Chicago and if there was, I’m sure I couldn’t afford to go to it. So then the thought struck me, like a sequin that caught the light and glared into my eye from the shoulder of a floor-length one-shoulder satin dress with matching stole: I could have a formal party. Host it in my living room. Decorate the whole place. Well, then, since it was mid-May and and I couldn’t get a limo rented for a friend’s birthday because they were being used by a bunch of sleazy seventeen-year-olds wasting their parents’ money, it occurred to me that ten years ago this year I went to my own prom, and then the vision struck me with even more clarity. I was to have a prom party.

Prom ’97, it was, I had to decorate and make it prom, except more fun, because we’re older now and probably have a better idea of how to actually have fun. So, where to start, where to start. Needed streamers, hanging down from door frame to floor in every door way. Needed lighting... Got my white christmas lights out from storage in the basement and strung lights all around my living room and dining room, on the tables, on the walls. Needed balloons, so I got 75 large silver balloons, blew them all up and let them cover the floor. Bought a crystal punch bowl, made a punch that would force people to eventually have fun, got a ton of food for the buffet, sprinkled glitter and streamers and confetti all over the place, even got a disco ball.

Needed to make favors, remember at formal dances you’d get little booklets with the name of the prom and the location and the theme song and the class president? Well, had to make those, and they should match the invitations, and come to think of it, there’s usually a photographer with a backdrop in the corner of the dance floor so you could get your portrait taken... Hmmm... I’d have to borrow the grey portrait backdrop my sister made by painting over one of those maps they have in elementary schools, that roll down over the chalkboard like a projection screen and put it in one of the bedrooms so my friends could have their portrait taken.

And my friend Brian was even coming into town for this party, because in high school nine years ago I asked him to prom and he turned me down and we’ve always sworn that if we could do it over again, we’d go together. So I thought I’d surprise him, and since I sing I got my four-track recorder out and taped my voice over a slow George Michael song, kissing a fool, because we were both dorks in high school and both loved George Michael, and anyway, I sang over this song and was going to have us dance to it together.

So people start showing up for my party, and I’m playing big band and swing music, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Harry Connick Jr., The Glenn Miller Orchestra, because you see, I have taste now and wouldn’t play the kind of crap you’d hear at say, your prom or a wedding, like “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Michael Bolton or “At This Moment” by Billy Vera and the Beaters or “Truly” by Lionel Ritchie or Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston or Natalie Cole without her dead dad’s voice in the background. And people are complimenting me on my punch, that it tastes really good, but I don’t dare tell them that it’s absolut vodka and absolute citron and rum and banana liqueur and a little whiskey and some left over red wine from my last party, all with a splash of orange juice and Ne-Hi fruit punch soda. And Scott is already starting to spill his drink on the floor and bump into people and it’s only like eight o’clock so I’m thinking, this is going to be a good party.

And then Helen comes in with Steve, her fiancee, and she’s got a new eyebrow ring, and I say, wow, did that hurt, and she said no, it hurt more to look in the mirror and see this big metal circle piercing through the flesh above my eyebrow, but no, when I got it done it didn’t hurt at all. And minutes later I hear my roommate talking to her, saying that there’s a theory among psychologists and such that if someone gets into multiple piercings or piercings in unconventional places or tattoos, that’s a sign that they were abused when they were a child. So my roommate is asking Helen, “So, were you abused as a child?”, and I try to cut in to halt this social faux pas, and Helen responds with “No, not really.” So I think, okay, I need to know what that means, so I ask, “What do you mean, not really?” and she answers, “Well, my parents were Columbian and I went to a Catholic school. It’s a wonder I’m not a serial killer.” And I think, okay, maybe Helen’s fiancee won’t try to start a fight with my roommate after all, maybe things are actually going to be okay.

And more people start showing up, Rachel strolls in wearing her old prom dress, and her and her friend made wrist corsages out of broccoli and spinach leaves. And Dave shows up, that sweet thing, with corsages that match a few of my dresses for me, and I decide to change into dress number two, I mean, there are only so many occasions where I’d have the chance to wear more than one formal dress to a function, I might as well take advantage of it, and everyone seems to be having a grand ol’ time, and we start taking pictures and then I decide that Brian, the prom date that never was, should dance with me.

So I turn off all the Christmas lights so that all that’s going is the disco ball and I play this goofy George Michael song and start dancing with Brian, and he’s laughing hysterically that I remembered that he liked George Michael all those years ago and that I actually sung over this song, and we’re dancing together, and then the says, “Oh, wait a minute. If this is supposed to be prom, I better act like I did at prom,” and then he pushed me away and acted all stiff and started doing the box step and stepping on my feet, and it just made me laugh harder and harder.

And then I decided I needed to have everyone vote for a king and queen of prom, so everyone whispered in my ear who they thought should win, and I picked two women and two men so it wouldn’t be such an elitist thing, and one of the kings won only because he got nearly as many votes for queen as he did for king. So when I tallied it all up in my very drunk head, all while wearing dress number four, I picked up the Burger King crowns I picked up last week just for this occasion and crowned the winners, and told everyone we should all dance.

So by the end of the evening we changed the music in the stereo so we were listening to the Bee Gees and Abba and Duran Duran and old early eighties crap that we could just thrash around to, and we were singing to all the songs and jumping around, and it was two in the morning, but we didn’t care, because we were all at prom and having a perfectly good time.

And I thought about Brian dancing the box step and stepping on my feet, acting all stiff and scared because the high school prom was a time for awkwardness and uncomfortableness, and I thought, yeah, we really are more comfortable now. Everyone should have a prom when they’re old enough to enjoy it.

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