Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Red Wing Wednesday: (The Re-telling of) Geekatron Prom

Imagine, if you will, a girl...a girl who has finally thrown off her braces, her big ol' thick glasses, and has finally learned that big-barreled curling irons are the key to taming her 'fro. She still has some baby fat, is now a cheerleader as well as a Knowledge Bowl athlete ("The sport of the mind!"), and while she hasn't quite yet learned the trick of maneuvering her obnoxiousness into socially acceptable behavior, she's slowly passing out of El Geeko status.

It was around February of my freshman year that Wade "The Wall" Dewall asked me to prom. I had been hanging out on the porch of my youth group house (some kids only got a room for their youth group. We got a whole house. ST. PAUL LUTHERAN RULES, EVERYBODY!) with the other driving-license-deprived kids while we waited for our moms to pick us up, and I had struck up a conversation with Wade about prom.

You see, in Red Wing, the murmurs of prom began in February when the Prom Committee announced that it would begin to meet to plan that year's prom. Even though prom usually wasn't until the end of April, us Red Wing Wingers liked to be prepared for events such as this.

I had asked Wade if he had gone to prom as a junior, and he had replied that no, he hadn't, which had kind of made me sad. Wade was a Really Nice Guy. The kind of Really Nice Guy who got pushed around by guys sometimes and got ignored by girls all the time. The kids in our youth group were really, really tight, and we all liked Wade, not in small part because he was the kind of guy who deserved to be well-liked, but instead felt like he had to try really hard to get people to do that. He was kind of like the Cowardly Lion that way...this big football player (hence his nickname "The Wall") that you just kind of wanted to protect, you know?

I asked him if he planned on going to his Senior Prom, upon which he told me that he didn't have a girlfriend and therefore, probably not. We continued to make small talk for a while, and just as my mom pulled up, Wade blurted out "So do you wanna go to the prom with me?"
I was already walking towards my mom's car when I realized what he had said. I thought for a moment, turned around, and asked, not-so-subtly, "Just as friends?"
"Yeah, just as friends."
"Okay, yeah...that'd be fun."

(more after the jump...)
The next few weeks, as word got out, I found myself fending off questions about prom and Wade. My youth director, Lisa, told me how sweet she thought it was that I was going with him...she shared that, after I had gotten into my mom's car the night he had asked me, Wade had jumped off the porch and excitedly said "There's no way I'm missing my Senior Prom!" But then she followed that up by asking me if I was sure that Wade knew we were going just as friends, which kind of worried me. You would think that laying down the line about going just as friends before accepting a date to the prom would squash any doubts as to my intentions, but alas, the subject just kept coming up..

I liked Wade. As a friend. I wasn't going to prom with him because I felt sorry for him... I was going to prom with him because he was my friend and I didn't want him to miss out on what was still to my eyes (just wait. This changes in the next few years) a pinnacle of the high school experience. And also... I was actually kind of excited to go to prom as a freshman. For girls, prom is something you dream about in elementary and middle school when you watch prom episodes of 90210 or witness your older siblings attend their proms. It's like a dress rehearsal for being a bride, and when you're entirely wrapped up in a romantic fantasy world courtesy of totally dumb YA romances like I was, it's also the perfect stage for True Teenage Love. 

Until you actually go and realize how dumb it all is. 

But more on that later...

"People talk about the girls who go to prom as freshman, Amber," my friend, Sarah, a ridiculously gorgeous and smart junior, divulged when I told her that Wade had asked me to prom. Sarah was friends with my older brother, Kris. Kris was funny, athletic, popular and - according to other people - hot. I had already learned to brush off most of the girls who pretended to be nice to me in order to impress my brother - wouldn't work, I wanted to tell them...he doesn't even like me, so he's definitely not going to like you for being friends with me... - but Sarah was different. She actually seemed to like me just for me (though I wasn't quite sure why).
"Yeah, but...I'm not going with a Senior as a date. I'm going as friends."
"Yeah, I guess that's different."
"And I'm hardly the girl that people would talk about like that. I haven't even had a real boyfriend yet."
"Yeah, but you're a cheerleader," she teased. "So same diff."

As Sarah tried to warn me, I did learn that going to prom as a freshman has its downfalls. For social reasons, going to prom with someone just as friends when you're a freshman is almost worse than being the kind of girl who'd gladly break in a hotel bed at Treasure Island Casino (legend has it that the majority of Red Wing Wingers who lost their virginity in high school most likely lost it at Treasure Island Casino & Resorts, a popular prom after-party destination. So if you ever spend the night there, most likely you're sleeping on the same bed that a disillusioned 17-year-old girl slept on after she had the worst and most short-lived sex of her life). Secondly, you're not really on the up-and-up when it comes to those subtle prom traditions that you wouldn't know about unless you had already observed prom or had past-prom-goers to advise you. It kind of made me feel like I was back at my first day of middle school all over again: What if I get a gown and everyone else is rocking cocktail dresses? What if I wear my hair up and everyone thinks it looks stupid? And what's all this shiz about matching the boutonniere and the corsage to my dress?!

It was freaking stressful, you guys (as stressful as something can be when you're 15). Nothing would have been more humiltating to me than to have all the uppperclassman laugh and throw mocking glances at me for looking stupid or doing something dumb at their prom. Because really, that's what it was - it was their prom, not mine. Thus, I kind of felt like I was an I just wanted to be an imposter who blended in as much as she could.

Somehow, I managed to get the basics covered - a simple black cocktail dress, heels, sparkly accessories (I still have those, actually), and a hair/makeup consultation and appointment scheduled at my regular salon.

It's a good rule of thumb to have a consultation a few weeks before prom with the stylist who will be doing the hair/makeup for your prom. This is to work out any flaws, kinks, or problems otherwise with your vision of how you want to look on prom night. I had scoured as many magazines I could get my grubby little hands on in search of just the look I wanted to achieve, and when I finally found it, I brought a picture of it to my consulation. I was going for subtle but glamorous...Veronica Lake-like hair, red lips, that type of thing.

To me, being specific and clear about what you want is good. So I made sure that my stylist knew exactly what I wanted; I even asked her if she was sure she could make my hair and makeup match up exactly to the picture I had brought in, because if she couldn't, I told her, I would find something else to do with my hair/makeup. She stated that yes, she could do exactly what I was asking for, and it would be perfect.

As the day of prom got closer, I started getting more excited. Wade had informed me that he had taken care of the corsage, tickets, dinner plans, afterparty, etc, and that all I had to do was be ready at 4:00 p.m. that day. I had also helped the Prom Committee Advisor, Mrs. Orr (who was also my Knowledge Bowl advisor, just in case you care) pick out the song list for the DJ to play at the dance, so I knew that at the very least I would get to show off my moves (I spent most of my middle school years practicing dance moves by myself in my room. Those were lonely years...but they paid off by ensuring that I can now win friends and admirers with some super slick and sweet moves anytime a song by C+C Music Factory comes on).

The day of prom arrived. I had my whole day planned with activities designed to make me into a beautiful, sophisticated prom-goer; ate some Cheerios and toast, watched some MTV, flipped through the newest Teen Magazine, practiced a cheerleading dance routine to a song by Ace of Base...and around noon, changed out of my pajamas and slipped into a flannel shirt and jeans in time for my hair and make-up appointment.

I had just sat down, my trusty picture in hand, when I heard my stylist say, "You do know that your hair isn't going to look exactly like that, right?" My mind starting swimming with fear...What? I thought wildly. I asked her if she could do my hair just like this, and she said yes! Oh god...

I had reason to worry. When I left the salon I kept my head down and I darted from one dark corner to another, just in case any fellow high school classmate happened to be around. My hair, instead of being the smooth, wavy page-boy I had desired, now looked like a bad Dolly Parton wig (brunette, of course). My makeup was not "subtle but glamorous" fact, the first thing I thought when I saw her finished product was Oh no...I look like I belong in the Broadway production of "Cats"!

As I gratefully slipped into the passenger side of her car, my mom, ever-the-subtle-one, asked, "Did you want to look like that?"
Um, if I was planning on turning tricks for the rest of the night, yes, I wanted to reply. But for prom? No.
Yeah...that was about the point when I started crying.

When I got home, I washed my face, brushed my gigantic "It's a Smokey Mountain Christmas" hair down, and set about doing it all over again.

I had just zipped up my dress when Wade arrived. I walked down the stairs, trying to cultivate that slow descending-down-the-staircase walk you see in the movies...and realized that it's really hard to do while wearing heels, because I tripped down the last two steps. Wade then tried to pin the corsage onto my dress without inadvertently copping a feel at the same time, which is a really fun thing to experience in front of your parents. My mom took a few pictures, and we were off.

First stop - Wade's house for pictures. We posed for about an hour, because his mom and sister couldn't stop crying at the sight of Wade in a tux and "with a girl" (which, honestly, made the whole thing kind of worth it). Then we had to go to the local More-4, a grocery store that Wade worked at, where we had to pose for a polariod picture that, at last check in the year 2005, was actually still hanging on the staffroom board (we went to prom in 1994, just for the record).

Then it was time for us to dine at a Klassy Establishment known as Weinerstein's in Miesville. If you've ever been there, you would understand our fellow diners' amusement at the fact that a prom-going couple chose that particular restaurant for their prom dinner of choice. In fairness, Wade probably had as little clue about prom activities as I did, so I tried to think of all the good points of the place - beer steins as water glasses, flashing beer signs as decor, the excellent fried shrimp basket, and of course, the lovely napkins depicting beer wenches with ample bosoms. I did feel better about this a few years later when I heard that a fellow classmate, Laurel, had gone to Hardee's with her prom date (but then as soon as they arrived at the prom, her date was arrested for statutory rape - being that he was 35 and she was 17 - so maybe I didn't feel that much better).

At Grand March, Wade and I walked out hand-in-hand in front of the audience in the auditorium. My family has preserved this particular walk in their video archives, which depictes me tripping and Wade suddenly changing his mind about whether we should walk the full length of the red carpet or if we should turn back and go the way we came.

That video shall continue to provide entertainment and amusement for my family for generations to come. 

When it was time for the dance, Wade informed me that he was not a dancer. And at least he was honest and could admit this...but not only was Wade not the type to break it down on the dance floor to the beat, he was highly unskilled in the art of slow dancing. Some of you may remember reading about my nightmarish experiences in middle school concerning slow dances...the fact that I couldn't even get a good slow dance at prom with my date did not give me much hope for my slow dancing future.

However, Jake, my sophomore friend whom everyone suspected would come out of the closet after he graduated (he did) was present at prom, and his date was also not a dancer. Wade encouraged me to dance with Jake, saying that he just wanted to sit and talk to his buddies, so Jake and I proceeded to have a dance off for the rest of prom. Dancing with Jake was the best part of the evening: He was one of those people whom, even you two are the only ones out on the dancefloor, he makes it fun and totally awesome instead of awkward and weird. We made up our own version of swing-dancing, and he totally got my whole "I'm a chick in a ZZ Top video" mock-dancing. We also thoroughly enjoyed purposely bumping into upperclassmen in the middle of performing throat examinations on their dates during slow songs. 

Speaking of tongues, let us now go to the prom after-party...

I think it was my junior year when Red Wing parents got lame and decided to have Prom After-Parties at the YMCA to cut down on the possibilites of drunken sex-fests that are otherwise known as prom after-parties. During my freshman year, however, these drunken sex-fests were still a thing. And it just so happened that Wade and I had been invited to one.

While I expected, in my 90210 mind, to have to push through throngs of people while loud bass music played on the stereo and people made out in hallways or drank until the keg ran dry, this was not what the after-party was like. At all. 

Instead, imagine a senior boy's (I can't remember his name for you Red Wing High readers...I think it starts with J, though? He was a senior, a drummer in the high school band, pretty cute, shaved head, and at the end of the year he had dumped his long-time blond and petite girlfriend and prom date in favor of this fellow senior girl Angie whom I used to live next door to and didn't like. And my last memory of them was that they had gotten those matching graffiti t-shirts that had each other's names on them and wore them to school, which cemented the fact that Angie was lame - because it was obviously her idea - and he was lame for going out with her) basment, complete with a pool table, TV, and various couches. Everyone else in attendance are senior couples, so pretty much the main activity is pool games and boob grabs, while I, dorky freshman who hasn't even french-kissed a boy yet, blushes and tries to pretend that the velvet paintings on the wall are the most fascinating things on earth. The liquor is flowing, but again, I am a freshman who also signed a sportsmanship code of honor, so while everyone is adding to their collection of empty beer or liquor bottles, I'm sipping on my can of Shasta and trying really hard not to say anything completely lame or tip over anything like a gun cabinet or a lamp, since that's the type of stuff I usually end up doing when I'm nervous. 

Then imagine various couples spread out on the couches (there were like, six couches down there. Why so many couches, senior boy's family?!). Some of the couples were respectful enough to cover their groping with a blanket...some of the couples were not quite as demure. To complete the scene, imagine Wade and I sitting on one of these couches, watching the groping in stunned silence. At one point, I think Wade might have tried to kiss me...he turned to say something to me and leaned in a little bit, but I felt so uncomfortable and awkward with the whole scenario that I kind of just jumped up really quick and sat on the other side of the couch. 

Smooth? No. 
Effective? Yes. 

I had never been so thankful to have a curfew in all of my life. 

So to sum up, freshman prom was kind of The Suck. I don't really know what my expectations were...I think at the very least, I wanted to feel a little bit more sophisticated for having gone. But I didn't. I did learn for future reference that girls were supposed to buy a garter to go along with their dress so that they could then give that garter to their date at the end of night, which their date could then put on the rearview mirror of their car (because what cooler thing to do in high school, right?). 

So that was a positive learning experience, along with the other knowledge I had gained along The Prom Way (find a trustworthy stylist for your hair and makeup. Make sure your prom dinner is not at a German-themed restaurant. Rehearse your Grand March stroll. Inform your date on proper slow dance form. Pick your after-party carefully. Wear a Chastity Belt.). But all of that was still not enough to make it worth it when, a few weeks later, Wade had his buddy do the middle school thing and call me on the phone to ask what I thought of Wade...

Wade, for his part, totally became the kind of guy from we all knew from high school who came into his own after he had put a few years distance from those hallowed halls of mediocre public education: He went on to marry what I heard was a very cute and sweet girl, and they had a couple of really cute kids. 

For my part...ever the optimist, I hoped and hoped that my freshman prom experience would somehow pay off in the next few years...that all the knowledge I gained would be put to good use by going to prom with someone I did actually want to kiss.

Did it happen?

Nope! But there's some good stories that I gained instead, which I can now use to entertain you fine people by posting them on the blog.

So in a way, I guess you could say that I'm married to this blog, and that these stories are all my children...

Which you might think is really fucking depressing.

It kind of is.


  1. Pretty sure you need to post some of those pictures in this post.

    1. I don't have any! They all got...burned in a fire...somewhere...

  2. You really ought to offer your services as a guest speaker in high schools before prom every year. Think of all the bad memories (and unplanned pregnancies) you could prevent!

    1. Brilliant idea! It could serve as the cautionary tale. "Hey guys, I know you think prom is going to be the best night of your life like the way it is in the movies, but there's only a bunch of movies about prom because everyone who wrote those movies also had an awful experience at prom."

  3. I just wrote a long-winded super witty reply and then your blog ate it. LOL.

    This was the best thing I've read all week. Maybe all month. I laughed a lot and remembered a lot. I don't usually remember...which concerns me. I have almost ZERO memories of my time in Red Wing. Well, I have snippets and flashes of memories. Of different groups. Of boyfriends. Of band trips. And mean girls. But not really anything concrete that is etched in my mind. You've inspired me to dig into the depths and find some of those memories. Maybe I need to journal and just let my mind wander. Or go to counseling. Or both. ha.
    Will you go to the Red Wing All Class Reunion with me?! We would rock that. xo

    1. These have been really fun to write for the simple fact that I only really remember certain things, but then when I start writing about this stuff, more comes flooding back (and then I post them and, thanks to my classmates and friends, realize my memory is anything but funny and weird how our mind rearranges events and details according to our personal and emotional interpretations).

      There's a Red Wing All Class Reunion?! OMG - we should TOTALLY go to that! That's always been the drag of the class reunions (I say "reunions", even though our class has only had one so far)...I don't get to see half of the people that I actually really loved and liked and crushed on in high school.


Hopefully it will work out in your favor.


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