The senior prom fiasco was perhaps the most dramatic of all four high school prom disasters. It is a story that involves three Goodhue farmboys, two proms, and one red dress.
Senior year was kind of my big "rebel" year...both in high school and in life. I had gotten my heart smashed in by Gabe Hillebrand at the end of August, dated my first older and wildly inappropriate boyfriend (Scott, who was 21 to my 17...yeah. My parents loooved that) and was pretty much your typical angry, sad, and super depressed teenager. And when you're a super depressed teenager, you start skipping a lot of school, you start smoking a lot, you start drinking a lot at parties, and you stop caring about who you hurt and why.
Kind of like me, during senior year.
(more after the jump...)
It was late fall/early winter when I started hanging out more with the Goodhue crowd by way of Steph Voth. I had started to get to know the Goodhue crowd back in junior year, but during senior year a new crowd of friends formed - Greg Carlson, Steph Voth, Michelle Anderson (and her sister, Emily, after her and Greg started dating), Dustin Betterly, Megan Hutchson (and her boyfriend, Brian Sander, who had graduated but was still in Red Wing), Sayge Bluhme, Tim Schilling, Melissa Ladsten, Heidi Gilles, Jason Bee, Angie Wolpers (and her boyfriend Donnie Ritzman, who had also graduated but was still in Red Wing...now that I think about it, there were a lot of guys who had graduated the year before that hung out in that crowd), Jessica Gernentz, Katie Carmine, and various other underclassmen who lived and socialized in between the borders of Red Wing and Goodhue (and Katy, when she could stand going to Dressen's, which wasn't a lot ;).
The main hang-out spot was Dressen's Saloon, which was a bar on a winding country road that you had to travel on in order to get from Red Wing to Goodhue (or vice versa); thus, it was the perfect place for Red Wing and Goodhue kids to meet up at. Dressen's had a dim pool room in the back that was perfect for all of us to hang out in; it had a jukebox, two pool tables, and it was concealed enough from the rest of the saloon patrons to allow us to sip from beers that someone had smuggled in. On Friday and Saturday nights, we'd either hang out at Dressen's or would congregate there to find out where the night's party was being held.
|A photo that's sure to make my parents proud: Me and Steph at Dressen's.|
One night, a bunch of our friends were hanging out, and Steph asked if I wanted to go out to Dressen's with her. She was going to out there to see if she could track down Skids, this guy that she had a crush on...so we went out there, and sure enough, Skids was there with a bunch of friends. A bunch of friends that happened to include a tall, lanky, blond boy with blue eyes and an infectious grin. I asked Steph who he was, and she told me that his name was Adam Callstrom, and that she and him had practically grown up with each other. I caught eyes with him a couple times before he, Skids, and their other friends invited us to come with them to this hunting lodge..."hunting lodge" meaning an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere. It was owned by some kids' uncle, who gave the kid and his friends permission to go there to drink or do whatever you could do in an abandoned house. Agreeing that it could be fun, Steph and I piled into Adam's truck so he could drive us out there. I ended up being squished in beside him since we had to fit five people into his truck cab, and since his truck was stick shift, I had to sit with the stick shift in between my legs in order to allow him to shift it. And yes, it was almost unbearable to not make many hilarious comments to him about this, but I kept my mouth shut.
As teenage hangouts between members of the opposite sex usually do, hanging out at the hunting lodge basically meant, "You guys sit over there and we'll stand over here and we'll all drink beers and awkwardly laugh when someone gets enough courage to makes a dumb joke." Finally, the tension eased, and Adam and I started flirting with each other. At first it was just making eyes at each other from across the room like we had done at Dressen's, and then it progressed into actual conversation. Next, I did that dumb girl thing where I snatched his hat off of his head, and he pretended to be mad at me for it, but really it was just a good excuse to kind of "play wrestle" each other, and I think by now you understand that, even in high school, I had some straight-up slick moves.
The next week at school, I saw Steph in the hall while walking to class and she laughed and told me that Adam had called her, asking her for my number. I got a call from him later on in the week, and he asked me out on a date for that weekend.
If you'll let me just be slightly poetic or misty-framed about it for just a moment: On our first date, I watched from the front window of my house as his truck pulled into my driveway. I went out through the garage, and I as I opened the door and walked out to meet him, I found him leaning up against the front of his red truck, waiting for me: the headlights glowing, lighting up the thick snow that was falling around him, his hands in his pockets and a huge grin breaking out onto his face as I walked up to him.
I get that one moment, in my dating life in high school. That one...I get to keep.
We were solid after the first date. He was a heady combination of wild and sweet; he and his friends were definitely a fun and slightly crazy bunch - their favorite leisure activity was going "roading" (a recreational term for drinking while driving on back country roads), but he also loved to take me out for a backroad drive to look at the stars (and make out, of course). He loved it when I sat on his lap at parties, and I loved it when he held my hand whenever we walked in together somewhere.
Partying was a big part of my senior year. I didn't drink a lot - I think, at the most, I might have downed two whole beers at a party, at the most - but I did go to a lot of parties. And there were tons of parties in Goodhue - if nobody's parents were gone for the weekend, we'd head out to some cornfield or back road and set up camp there. It was a lot of country music and Bud Light, and there was always some kind of drama at every party - if not a fight (guy or girl), then someone was breaking up or hooking up.
And it was just fun. It was fun to get caught up in the excitement of both having a boyfriend like Adam - someone who was sweet and fun and super cute - and be hanging out with this new crowd of friends. Steph had started going out with Skids around the same time that I started going out with Adam, which was also super fun.
However, who I was at the time...didn't really deserve Adam. I was pretty heartbroken and bitter about my break-up with Gabe, and even though Adam tried everything he could to sweep me off my feet, I just wasn't having it. Looking back, I realize how messed up I was that year - cutting class almost every day (my wildly inappropriate ex, Scott, later became our school's parking lot monitor, which was convenient because 1. we had broken up long before he landed the job, which was a relief for me, especially when, later, he began spiraling downhill, beginning with that job 2. we somehow maintained an amicable relationship and he never reported me when I skipped), fighting with my parents on a regular basis, and hating the thought of even getting out of bed. Even though Adam was the one thing in my life that made me happy (besides my friends), my unhappiness tended to spill over into our relationship, and I was kind of a bitch to him at times.
This was not a good thing when Adam decided to "take a break." His stupid friend Wayne (who straightened out when he went out with my friend Heidi, but this happened before he started dating her and so at this point in time he was still an ass) had convinced Adam to take a month off from hi relationship with me so they could have "guy time" - i.e., get drunk and do stupid shit. Adam came to my house one night to tell me this. We had decided a few weeks before that we would go to prom together - he would go with me to mine, I would go with him to his. He told me that even though he wanted to take a break, it was just a break - not a "break-up" - and that he was still really excited to go to prom with me.
At first I was upset because I thought that I had brought this on myself. I thought about all the snarky things I had done or said to Adam, and I realized that if the "break" was just a prelude to a break-up, then it would be all my fault. The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that Adam had realized what a bitch I had been to him and that he was just waiting to break up with me. I saw him the next week at Dressen's; we barely spoke, and it was obvious the everyone else that we weren't there as a couple that night. Miserable, I went outside to cry. He followed me outside, hugged me, and told me that breaking up was the last thing he wanted to do; he just wanted some time with the guys without me getting upset or hurt (kind of the wrong way to go about that...but okay).
That calmed my fears for a while, but after a few weeks, I started to get pissed. I started thinking of all the "if he really liked me then he wouldn't do this and this" stuff that girls sometimes think when we're hurt and emotional (and also, 18 years old). The more I thought about the "break", the more pissed I got.
It didn't help that I had started hanging out with this guy, Jared, who was also a Goodhue kid and good friends with Nikki, another friend I had in Goodhue. Jared was hot. He was a couple years younger than me, but he was the kind of underclassman that was so hot that the age difference didn't really matter. Jared often hung out with me and Nikki at her house or at Dressen's, and for some reason, we started talking on the phone. At first it was just friendly conversation...but then Jared broke up with his girlfriend. Then Jared started telling me little things that Adam had said about me that were not the most wonderful or flattering things. Next came the "Why are you with him? You deserve better..." speeches whenever Adam's name came up.
And I ate that shit up.
When you're hurt and upset at your boyfriend and some hot kid is filling your head with this kind of stuff, it gets to you. It's stuff you want to hear, and here it is, coming from a guy that you already think is hot, and obviously thinks you're so great that you don't deserve some guy who obviously doesn't, right?
Here's what really did it, though -
It was the weekend of the state hockey championships, and since Red Wing dominated when I was in high school, we went to state and we won. That Saturday night, a group of us decided to go to this club in Minneapolis called TNT.
Yeah. You might remember that club, and you might also remember that it was a skankfest...I practically lost my virginity just trying to walk through the place.
Anyway - here's what I remember most about that night - riding in Brian Sander's car, listening to "Da Dip" by Freak Nasty on repeat on our way up to Minneapolis, running into my friend Jeff Halverson and his super cute girlfriend, and thinking about how I could probably never take Adam to a place like this because he would feel so uncomfortable and out of his element...but Jared would be a different story.
So I broke up with Adam (because as you can see, my decision-making that year was impeccable). And three days after I did so, Jared asked me out.
Jared asked me to his prom a week after we started going out, and we also planned to go to mine. I had bought a dress and everything that went with it when I was still going out with Adam, and I was relieved that all my prom plans weren't going to go to waste. My dress for the senior prom topped all dresses - if I had liked my junior prom dress, then I was in love with my senior prom dress. I had even told my mom that if I got married, I wanted to dye the dress white so I could wear it at my wedding. Senior year's prom, in general, promised to be amazing; a huge group of my friends were all going together - I think there was at least seven couples in our group - and afterward we were going to party at my BFF Kimmy's house, which was complete with an awesome basement, hot tub, and supa-kool parents who were going to let us drink to our hearts' content (but only if we handed over our car keys and stayed the night).
For the next couple of weeks, Jared and I did the usual Red Wing/Goodhue thing...Dressen's, parties, making out in his truck...only it wasn't anything fantastic or great. To tell the truth, I missed Adam, and more than a few times I wondered if I had done the wrong thing by breaking up with him. I had heard through the grapevine that Adam had been hurt and upset about my breaking up with him, and I had also heard increasing rumors that Jared was now on Adam's hit list.
This is how we did stuff in high school, guys! Remember?! Remember how we used to talk about who was going to beat up who or go after who even though no one had ANY intention of being brave enough to do anything about it? Awww! We were so adorable back then...
The rumor that Adam was going to go after Jared turned out to be true, however. It was settled at a party one night when Jared and I were walking toward the party house from his car, and Adam met us out in the yard. Jared told me to go inside and stay there...so of course, I stood out on the deck and watched. They started talking, and I couldn't really hear what was being said. It didn't come to fists, but whatever was said made it clear that Adam and Jared were going to keep their distance from each other. I found out later that night that Adam had found out that Jared had been talking to me on the phone while I was still dating Adam and that he had been telling me things about Adam that might have contributed to me breaking up with him. Which wasn't untrue. I liked Jared and I had made my choice, so all of that was on me...but that was the first time I remember wondering if maybe I had been played. Adam wasn't really the fighting type - he was so even-keeled and naturally happy, and just didn't get involved in the petty gossip and bullshit that other people in that crowd did. The fact that he was upset at Jared enough to call him out on it...something about it really bothered me.
But obviously not enough to trust my gut and break up with Jared!
So two weeks before prom, Jared and I went to a party at someone's house in Goodhue. It was a big party - tons of people, lots of beer, people making out in every room, and even some pot that was passed around. (Which was like, whoa, for me. Like I mentioned before, I drank a little in high school - sorry, athletic honor code contract for cheerleading, but I did - but not a lot, and pot was like...holy shit, you guys! We're in the big time at this party! People have POT!). At one point in the night Jared was busy talking to his buddies, so I headed downstairs to the basement to see what was happening down there. There was a handful of people hanging out down there, and one of them was Billy.
Billy was the younger brother of Skids, was pretty hot, and had a rep for being a total player. He was the kind of friend I loved running into at parties, because our banter was harmless flirting, but always fun. So we hung out for a while downstairs...after a while, I noticed that everyone else had gone upstairs, but thinking nothing of it, we stayed down there for a while longer, joking around and gossiping, and then went upstairs when we were both out of beer.
It had been so casual and unimportant that when Jared called me on Monday to ask about it, it took me a while to understand what he was talking about. Apparently, a rumor had been going around Goodhue High that day that Billy and I had gotten it on at the party while we were at the basement...and Billy had apparently not done much to deny the rumor.
At first I laughed it off, but Jared was not so casual about it. I swore to him that nothing had happened, but he wouldn't believe me. He declared that too many people, including Billy, had told him it was true... and that we were over. Then, as his parting shot, he came clean about the fact that everything he had told me about Adam was a lie (he had framed this as some sort of proof that if it was easy for him to convince me of that stuff about Adam, then obviously I was the type of girl who would cheat on my boyfriend with another guy at a party).
Later, I would piece together that that was why Adam had confronted Jared that night at the party...that from stuff that I had told my friends that Jared had said about what Adam had said that my friends told other friends that got back to Adam, Adam had surmised the fact that Jared was filling my head with stuff about him that wasn't necessarily true. And that was probably the thing that bothered me the most out of everything - not that Jared was an asshole, not that Billy had lied, not that other people believed I would mess around on a boyfriend...it was that Adam knew Jared had lied to me about him and that I had believed him. Total punch in the stomach. I don't think I've ever felt so badly about hurting someone like that.
But back to that night: After I told Jared to fuck off, I called Billy and demanded to know what the hell was going on. Billy confirmed the rumor about us hooking up, agreeing that it was crazy and out of control. Then he started joking about how, "if there's a rumor about us anyway"...which made me completely furious, and suspicious as to whether it was really him who started the rumor. I called him on the fact that he hadn't denied the rumor when Jared asked him about it; Billy denied denying it (if that makes sense), and then asked if Jared and I had broken up. When I told him yes, he apologized and told me that he would try to clear the whole thing up.
I spent the next two days in a fury. I was pissed off at Jared, pissed off at whoever had started the rumor, pissed off at myself...just generally pissed off. Then word filtered in that Billy had tried to squelch the story, but some individuals (some individuals being the girl we called her Goodhue Steph - my friend Steph was Red Wing Steph - this was another Steph, hence, Goodhue Steph. GET IT? - who was now going out with Adam, and her friends) were still insistent that it had happened (which, I mean, since Billy and I were the only ones in the basement and they weren't there to see us hook up, of course they totally knew what they were talking about!) and that Billy was only denying it so he could gain bonus points from me and later ask me out (Lie. Billy was not the "asking out" type). At this point in time I knew that all I could hope for was for some big-ass bitch fight in a school parking lot to give the gossip-mongers something else to talk about so that this whole thing would blow over (which, ironically enough, did happen. Angie Wolpers decided to kick Paula Puppe's ass in front of about 50 people at a party one night because Paula had slept with Angie's boyfriend Donni a day after Angie had broken up with him...but Angie had gotten back together with him a week later, so suddenly Paula was the skank instead of Donni. Thanks Angie!).
Sigh. This stuff is exhausting just to write about, much less having lived through. And, the best thing about this story - all of it could be untrue! NONE of this could actually have gone down the way that it was related to me. You know?! He said, she said...all that bullshit. I love it. It's so dramatic! I don't ever wanna be in high school again!
So once again, there I was, a week before prom, with a full prom ensemble in the back of my closet, tickets to both the Red Wing and Goodhue proms, and a missed opportunity to spend my senior prom with my crowd of friends. I was miserable. Not only had I stupidly broken up with Adam, but I had been the subject of a juicy rumor that had resulted in an embarrassing and infuriating dumpage from Jared. And now I had to be suspicious of Billy, whom I had originally really liked as a friend. Sucked all around.
I tried to make the best of things, however...my editor at the town newspaper (Red Wing Republican Eagle, REPRESENT!) asked me to write an article on what seemed to be a curse concerning prom and me, and it ended up being one of the only articles that he commended me for (my article about how our new school's track and field "totally sucked" did not, surprisingly, make that list).
My buddy Sayge (who was also prom-dateless) and I went to see our friends gather for picture-taking at the St. James Hotel, and even posed for a few pics (which look awesome, since as you can see from the photo at the top of this post, our friends are all in formal gowns and we're in jeans and hoodies).
So Sayge-y and I went The Grand March together and then decorated Kimmy's basement afterward. Kimmy's birthday was close to prom, and so Sayge and I decided to also would throw her a surprise birthday party along with the prom after-party. I had made a cake and decorated it for Kimmy -
and Sayge and I had a blast decorating the basement - partaking of a few choice beverages to spur our creativity. Kimmy's party was awesome - a wild night with most of our close friends - and it was one of those parties where, at one point in the night, you just stand there and think "I need to remember this, because I may never have this moment again."
|Donni Ritzman & Angie Wolpers, making out in front of innocent Sayge|
|Greg has his sunglasses on inside because he's cool. Or something.|
|Sayge, laughing at something I said and trying not to blow chips all over the place.|
My bitterness and new hatred of everything Goodhue couldn't overcome my curiosity (and, I wanted to see and support my actual friends who were still going) and so I went to Goodhue's Grand March with a few of my friends. We walked into the school and right away I saw both Adam and Jared. I flipped Jared off when he saw me, but couldn't help staring at Adam - all Angela Chase-like from My So-Called Life - all for a few moments before I went into the gym.
Funny enough, we ended up sitting next to (Nathan) Jaeger, whom you might remember from my sophomore prom story as being Julie's then boyfriend. He had also become one of the Red Wing/Goodhue crowd, and we had hung out a lot that year. Julie had come home from college to go with Craig to his prom, and as Nathan and I watched them walk down together, we laughed and laughed over all the great (read: bad) memories of the first time we saw them walk down a Grand March aisle together.
Jared had taken my friend Traci Gernentz to his prom. This was a little awkward for me, and I wasn't quite sure how I felt about this. Traci knew all about what had happened, but she had been excited to go with Jared. I was pissed that Jared had the balls to ask one of my friends, but I was also a little miffed that Traci agreed to go - it felt slightly disloyal. When they walked down the aisle, I smiled at Traci and tried to completely ignore Jared. I did get some satisfaction when Traci later told me she had had a horrible time with him.
Then Adam and Goodhue Steph walked down the aisle. I tried to smile and not look at Adam, fearing that my regret over breaking up with him would be totally transparent if I did. When they were done with their little walk and turned to walk the rest of the way out of the gym, one of my friends nudged me and told me that Adam had been staring our way the whole time, and that Goodhue Steph had noticed (which wasn't good, since she already pretty much hated me). So again...couldn't help feeling that I had made a complete mistake by breaking up with Adam; I should have been at prom with him, and I had no one to blame but myself.
I know it all sounds kind of silly now, but that whole thing was a pretty painful time. I just felt awful that I hurt someone I had cared about, and had done it out of selfish and stupid motives. It took me a long time to get over that, and to forgive myself for giving up so easily on him and hurting him in that way.
After prom was over, I slowly started fading away from the Goodhue scene. I missed it every now and then, and still went to a couple of parties, but it was never the same as it had been earlier that year. It was literally like staying too late at a party - sometimes it's better to leave when it's at its peak than stick around, hoping you won't miss anything.
I occasionally ran into Billy that summer; he apologized for the whole basement drama every time he saw me and we eventually resumed our friendly banter. I don't remember seeing Jared at all that summer, though... And if I did, I'm sure he was pretty aware that I didn't want to see him.
Adam and Goodhue Steph were still going out when I left for college that summer. They eventually broke up, and I've run into Adam twice in the last fifteen years. The first time was when I was in Red Wing to hang out with my friends over their winter break (they were still in college, and I was at Okoboji by this time), and we ended up going to someone's house in Goodhue for a party. Adam was there (and so was Tim, the ex from the junior prom story), and there was this weird tension. I remember wanting to blurt out to him that I was still sorry for everything that had happened; that if I could do it all over again I never would have broken up with him and that it had all been a huge mistake on my part...but I didn't. I walked out of the party with my friends, looked back, and caught him staring, watching me leave. I saw him again a few years ago at the annual summer festival in Goodhue (Goodhue Days?) and we actually ended up talking for a while. He's married and has a few kids at last survey, and I genuinely hope that he's happier than he ever imagined being.
On the plus side, like junior year, I got to wear my dress to something else other than prom. The summer after graduation, Kimmy and I participated in the Miss Red Wing Pageant. We did it mostly because we wanted to do cool stuff like be in parades and get to know girls in our class that we really didn't hang out with much in high school, but another bonus was that being in the pageant put both my junior and senior prom dresses to great use.
|Me, wearing the dress meant for prom, in the Red Wing River City Days Parade|
That's like dying a virgin. It's such a tragic waste.
To end this little trip down memory lane, here's a little song that helped define that year -
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