I am definitely not a person who is into cliques. As a result, I’ve never been much of a joiner of clubs, groups, or anything that labels. I even resisted junior proms and senior balls as a teen. I don’t think at 16 I was thinking that I was being ‘true to my authentic self’; I just knew that something didn’t feel right, and prom wasn’t the place for me to be.
As a middle school teacher and survivor of the teenage years I know the damage kids can do to each other by labeling, stereotyping and making exclusive groups. As a mom, however, I was really pleased to be nominated as the “cool” place to hang out and prepare for the junior prom. As it turns out, kids in our town don’t need to have a date in order to go to the prom-what progress since my high school days! As a result, I had ten sophomore girls arriving to my house in waves to primp, polish and prepare for the first big dance of their young lives.
With iPod speakers blaring the young ladies began to polish toes and fingers in anticipation of the slightly tippy, strappy sandals most would be wearing, despite the 30 degree weather outside. It was an amazing sight to see that their texting ability wasn’t slowed down a bit by wet paint on their fingertips!
Next, the hair. Straight locks are out this season-with coordinated teamwork worthy of a football playbook, one after the other the girls strategized the curling process to result in Taylor Swift-worthy tumbling tresses.
Then, the food. In-n-Out was the request-what girl doesn’t need a big burger and fries before dancing the night away, right? Washing it down with sparkling cider served in my great grandfather’s tiny crystal wine glasses surely added class to the menu!
Dresses? Can anyone say micro-mini? Sheesh…these girls tugged and pulled to ensure no accidental wardrobe malfunctions! Some of the dresses were very, ahem, sophisticated.
The boys arrived next. Surprisingly there were a few ‘dates’-the sophomore boys seemed to wait until the last minute to ask the girls. Were they building up courage, or hoping that their last minute plea would be desperately accepted? Maybe they were just traditionalists trying to do prom the old fashioned way. Regardless, there didn’t seem to be any problem with only four of the ten girls having escorts-aside from the fact that none of the girls really knew how to act or entertain them while they waited. Standing awkwardly in their new suits, squeaky shoes and fresh haircuts, the boys waited patiently in the living room for the ladies, while mamawolfe acted as a human buffer between them and the hallway to the bedroom.
Finally, the photos. With flashbulbs that would challenge any paparazzi, the girls dazzled in a variety of photo combinations. Yes, there were the awkward groupings of those with dates, those who had been friends since elementary school, the whole group, and the shoes to show off the pedicures.
After all the memories were captured and we all piled in cars to drive to the high school, one of the girls commented, “Wow, you must feel really popular, mamawolfe, to have everyone want to hang out at your house tonight. It’s the place to be!”
Her comment stopped me cold. Popular? Not the word my adult brain would use. Special? Definitely. Recognized? For sure. Thrilled? Absolutely.
For me, this year’s prom night was so much more than all the pageantry. Sure, watching my little girl transform into a young woman before my eyes was beautiful. Feeling the excitement, the anticipation, and the energy was contagious. But what prom night really taught me this year is that belonging happens in many different ways. The girls learned that they don’t need to be joined (literally or figuratively) with a boy to have fun. The boys realized that if they ask, they have hope. And now I know that I don’t really need to join anything to be important in my daughter’s life – by being myself she and her friends feel comfortable. Actions speak louder than words. My house really is the place to be.
What more could a mom ask for?