Picture prom and you’ll most likely conjure the images of colorful dresses – ordered months in advance – and ill-fitting tuxedos. Yet despite the enhanced aesthetics and appearance that one sees on the dance floor and photo-booth printouts, prom culture at SAS is gilded. Behind the rhinestones and picture-perfect smiles is the anxiety and stress that infect students during prom season.
Prom culture, especially at SAS, has been built up for years and has placed expectations on both girls and boys. One such expectation is going with a date. For junior girls, this is one of the most stressful parts leading up to prom.
“I think people get really stressed out beforehand about who they’re going with,” junior Zoe Adamopoulos said.
Going stag to prom has been stigmatized such that girls go so far as to scout out prom dates for their friends and have a list of “backup dates.” In addition, if a girl wants to go but doesn’t have a date, it is looked down upon for her to prompose. That adds pressure on girls who feel they have to wait and on the boys who have to be the one to make the move.
However, those aren’t the only issues students have when trying to find a prom date. For junior Emily Fisher, it has more to do with the dynamic of a pre-prom group.
“All of my friends have dates,” Emily said, “so if I were to go alone, I wouldn’t have a group of friends to go with.”
Emily isn’t the only person concerned about her pre-prom group. After an established date, the prom-goers have to consider who they want to get ready with, take pictures with, and dine with before arriving at the ball itself.
Junior Michelle Phan is most worried about “who [she’ll] be getting ready with, and the plans before prom.” She said, “It could get really messy…if your dates and friend groups aren’t compatible.”
Despite the amount of pampering girls have to go through to look their best, stress doesn’t only emerge in girls.
Senior Craig Dudsak recalls his promposal to Izzie Riant as the most stressful part leading up to prom last year.
“You want everything to go well, and if it’s public, it’s obviously stressful because you have to rely on other people,” Craig said.
Another major concern for girls is the dress.
“It’s the one night for juniors and seniors to get dressed up and everyone feels special,” Zoe said.
The dress has become such a central part to the night that there has been a tradition of creating a private Facebook group to claim or reserve dresses. For a few, the Facebook group helped filter out options and reduce anxiety.
“[It is] really useful,” Zoe said. “[You] claim the dress that you want [and] know what not to look for. People know what your dress is and won’t look for something similar. [It’s an] effective way of having everybody have their own specific prom dress.”
Unfortunately, the Facebook group also increased the stress of getting ready for prom.
“Shopping for a dress is stressful, especially because everyone was posting their dresses on the Facebook group and you had to work really hard [and] fast before someone else takes it,” Emily said. However, it was “also helpful because I almost bought the same dress that someone else bought.”
Ironically, the more students try to make prom the most unforgettable night of their high school career, the more likely they are to taint its intention.
Senior Sophia Law said, “Our community is so appearance-centered. Everything that we post defines us. [Prom] is about pictures that we post online.”
Other students agree that the preparations and appearance has become more important than the event itself. “The best part is getting ready, photos, and everyone looking all dressed up,” Zoe said.
Even with the stress, anxiety and astounding cost, many students still recognize the excitement of prom. Junior Emily shared that prom is “a really big deal for me, because it’s something my parents did… it’s a long line of tradition.”
As senior Craig Dudsak said, “Prom is worth it in the end.”