Friday, May 13, 2011

Why I Am Not Attending Prom

The last few months of Senior Year are supposed to be the least stressful. Classes are winding down, the college hunt is coming to an end, and graduation is near. Grades don’t matter. It’s time to celebrate with our friends by letting our hair down and having some fun together before we all go off to college. That’s right, it’s time for…mini-golf. Or a Movie Night. Or fishing. Or a bowling excursion. Or clubbing, I don’t care what it is, so long as it IS NOT SENIOR PROM!!!

That’s right, I hate prom. I hate thinking about prom. I hate stressing over prom. I hate wondering who I should ask to prom. Once I’ve decided who I’m going to ask, I hate wondering how I’m going to ask them. Once I’ve decided how I’m going to do it, I hate actually doing it. I hate figuring out what table I’ll be sitting at for prom, what limousine or party bus I’ll by riding in to prom, and with what other couples. I hate getting dressed up for prom, and once I’m dressed up, I hate having my picture taken in my dressy clothes. When that’s over, I hate driving to other people’s houses to congregate and have my picture taken again. I hate deciding when to start dancing at prom, how to dance at prom, and when to stop. I hate identifying which types of dance are socially acceptable at the time and are being practiced by my peers, and once I’ve done so I hate trying to imitate it. And most of all, I hate the incredulous look people give me if I tell them I’m not going to prom.

The whole concept is just silly to me. I can understand why people like to dance. I can understand why people like to dance with their girlfriends and boyfriends, or the urge to “get some” with a stranger you find cute. And I can even understand how people might like to do this as a celebration with their peers, and how the school might have eventually formed a tradition from this hobby. But when along the line did it become a social obligation? When did it become customary for people to ask people they hardly even know, just because awkwardly shuffling around with a stranger for a few hours is deemed less odd than not attending? And when someone expresses reluctance to embrace this tradition, why are they looked at like they have three heads?

When I informed one (anonymous) girl that I didn’t plan to attend, she seemed utterly unable to comprehend this notion. After incredulously gaping at me for a few moments, she somehow managed to blurt out “But it’s your Senior Prom!!!”

During our administrators’ semi-annual warnings of the dangers of drugs, alcohol, sex, dancing at an angle below 45 degrees, or some combination of the above, one is wont to hear them reason “Come on, do you really think it’s a good idea to get wasted before you go? You don’t want to screw this up--after all, it’s your Senior Prom!”

A student council member once implored me to “Come to the Chick-fil-A Night fundraiser! All funds go to Class of 2011--don’t you want it to be good? I mean, it’s our Senior Prom!”
Even my Mom, when informed of my desire to stay home, pleadingly whined “Oh, but Andrew, you have to go, it’s your Senior Prom!”

While I would like to thank each of these people for kindly reminding me that it is, in fact, my Senior Prom, I fail to see how repeating this mantra makes it any better of an idea. The concept of a Prom has become so socially glorified that universal attendance is just assumed, at least assumed among all people who are not reclusive hermits. When confronted with someone who is not attending, people are likely to become so confused by this aberrant behavior that they merely assume the subject is a dorky social reject.

But this is an unfounded assumption; that I happen to be a dorky social reject is purely coincidence. If these people were to temporarily forget their incredulity and ponder why they themselves are attending prom, they might come up with two primary reasons: that it is fun, and that it is a social custom. But the first is subjective, and the second is not a reason to do something, even for a perfectly sane, popular, attractive, and normal person.

The first contention, that prom is fun, means simply that prom should be attended because it is an enjoyable or pleasant experience. That Prom has elements which some people find fun is without question: some people love dressing up, others like to dance, still others savor the gossip, etc. But I would bet a far lower proportion of teenagers actually enjoy these specific activities than the proportion which attends prom. Also, when choosing whether or not to partake in most activities, we examine not merely whether they are fun, but several other variables as well.

For example, I imagine that hang gliding is rather fun. I presume that getting hammered and having crazy unprotected sex with total strangers at a college party is fun as well. But I will be doing neither of those things on May 13th. Why? Because there are downsides to those activities which, to most people, outweigh the upsides. I do not own a hang glider, nor do I have the expertise to use one if I did, nor do I know of a place where I might hang glide. Acquiring these things would cost more money and time than I am willing to spend pursuing the fun of that activity. Similar (but more complex) cost/benefit analysis might dissuade the college party event (but maybe not, it’s up to you!).

So it is with prom: to me, the downsides outweigh the fun. Isn’t there a fair amount of stress from worrying who to ask, how to ask them, what to wear, how you look, if you’re on time, and how to act once you’re there? Between the ticket and the attire rental/purchase, isn’t there a high cost to attend?

And aren’t there other activities which are even more fun with less downside? There are many things I would rather be doing on Saturday, May 13th which, to me, would be more fun but less stress than Prom at a lower cost. These include:
  • Watching a baseball game
  • Reading a novel
  • Talking about politics
  • Hanging out with your friends at any of the destinations I mentioned in the first paragraph
  • Playing video games
  • Pondering the nature of eternity, time, and existence in general
  • Cutting the grass
  • Watching that freshly cut grass grow back again
  • Doing jumping jacks
  • Pogo-Sticking
  • Learning Arabic
  • Watching Seinfeld reruns
  • Memorizing a Thesaurus
  • Blogging!

There are probably a few others as well, but you get the point. And rest assured, I will be engaged in some of them while my peers are off dancing and...doing whatever Prom attendees do.


  1. I enjoyed reading this post so much because I couldn't agree with you more even if I tried. I actually plan on completely skipping prom & having myself a fun filled night of activites that make me happy. If people gave you weird looks when you didn't want to attend prom try being a girl, people assume I've been planning prom night since I was 5 or assume I hate prom because someone won't ask me to go as their date. Is it so wrong that I'm just a girl who wants to enjoy life & not play dress up for a pointless rather boring dance? Off to ENJOY my senior year the right way :)

    1. Thanks for the compliments! I can only imagine the pressure girls are under haha, it must be 1000 times worse.

      As for me, I eventually decided to go to our school's post-prom party (which was free, casual, all night, and actually fun) without going to prom itself. I was very happy with the decision, but it's different for everybody.

      As for you or anyone else reading, please don't take this as me trying to convince you not to go. You wouldn't know it from the rhetorical humor of this post, but truly I've got nothing AGAINST prom; I'm just against the social taboo of not doing it. You should do what YOU like, whether or not society approves. Of course, "what you like" is often affected by what your friends are doing, and there's nothing wrong with going just to chill with them so long as you're doing it because you'll enjoy the socializing, rather than to conform.

      Ralph Waldo Emerson put it rather nicely: "It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion. It is easy in solitude to live after our own. But the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."

  2. I could not agree more! Thank you so much for your post it is great to hear someone with my same opinion especially when you point out how people go just because that is what is expected and. It is such a huge waste of time.

  3. Ok so I found this because I was googling help on whether to go or not (sad, yes. But i am a desperate woman.)
    In the UK we have it slightly different. We have year 11 Prom (i'm guessing that's like junior?) and then Year 13 Prom.
    I don't do dresses, I don't do dancing, i don't do crappy music, i don't do social gushing, and i certainly did not enjoy school enough to want to celebrate it.
    My friends, Boyfriend, and MY OWN MOTHER, all have said " HAVE to come?"
    My usual response is "why?"
    to which they say "It's fun."
    These people knowing about me i ask them what aspect of the evening i will find "fun."
    They think for a moment, then reply "But it's prom!"
    Due to this blog post, i will be answering this comment with "If you want me to come, you need to give me a better reason" and direct them to this blog post.
    World of warcraft is way more fun anyway.
    Thankyou for aiding my decision making process random-person-from-a-year-ago :)

    1. Happy to be of service! I suppose if you have a boyfriend who really wants to go you could humor him for the evening - there's nothing WRONG with going, of course, and I don't want him to be bummed out because of me. But if he's also OK with not going, you could go do something even more fun with him that evening just to spite them haha. Point is you don't need antiquated social customs to have a good time with your friends. Cheers!

  4. Omg this is probably the best prom article I have ever read. So many awesome points! My Prom is in less than a month and instead of repeatedly explaining to EVERYONE why i'm not going I think I'm just going to start sending this link out. Thanks!

  5. Hey, great article. It kind of made me feel a bit better. I just googled "I hate prom" and you were the first pick.

    I'm glad to know there are people who dislike prom as well. But I wonder how many people out there went to prom and hated it? My dad said I had to go to prom, and I did not want to. Of course all my friend said everyone goes to prom and only losers miss out. That's fine with me. I find it funny how people tell me, after I say I hated my prom, they tell me I would regret not going. But they just don't understand that I to this day regret going. It's pathetic, I know, but I regret everything.

    The ticket costs more than my shoes and dress. No one danced, not even to "Thriller". Food was shit, and so were my friends.

    Sorry to unload, but I'm terribly upset.. Thanks again for the great read.

  6. I couldn't agree more. My senior prom is coming up, this week I think. I don't know. I'm not going. I hate the very idea of going. I went to my girlfriend's prom last year and hated every bit of it except for "getting some" later that night. I hate dressing up, I hated the heat, the people, the noise the horrible music, the drama, the horrible excuse for refreshments(tap water), and the dancing. At one point, my girlfriend grinded on me; and, while I love her dearly and am still with her now for nearly 3 years...I felt extremely embarrassed when she did this. She's being forced to go to her senior prom, she didn't wanna go last year but was made to, I came because she wanted me to this one time only.
    The day after it, I made it very clear how much I disliked it despite the happy facade I put on for her. She's not making me go to this one and I'm very grateful for that. Now, when I tell people I won't be going to mine, people get the most confused look on their face like I'm some sort of outcast. Even though I generally have a pretty positive reputation among my class, despite my introverted tendencies. But yeah, I couldn't agree with this article more.

  7. I didn't go to the prom at my school either. This was in 1988. I sort of regret it because I heard Mia stormed out when Katy told everyone her secret--that Tim had got her pregnant! Or maybe I am getting the names mixed up. I certainly can't put names to faces any more. In short, I didn't miss out on much except on the sort of things people who can't move on put in dreary novels and screenplays. I've moved on.

  8. i hate prom too , the reason why is that all you do at prom is dancing and chatting which you can do at home (thank you very much) i just dont see how it is so important to me