Teachers share their favorite stories from their own proms

By Hallie Underwood, ’19

As overrated as some may view it, there is no night like prom night. Teenage girls spend their entire day doing their hair and applying makeup. They devoted their entire weekend to finding the perfect, most flattering dress hanging in their closet, ready for the occasion. As they gaze in the mirror, they see an archetype of the modern prom attendee: simple and elegant.

She meets her date at the bottom of the stairs. He is wearing a tie that matches her dress or her eyes. He stutters, making small talk with her dad, and accepts his firm handshake. He had came to her door weeks before with a decorated sign and a much celebrated question.

Of course, the boutonniere is difficult to pin to the pocket of his black suit, but laughter always makes the best photos. As her mother snaps pictures on her phone, she realizes that from behind the camera lens, prom looks very different from when she was attending. When her daughter returns, her feet will be in pain from dancing in heels and she will describe a night to her mother that differs little from a prom attended years ago.

The fashions seen at prom and the music students enjoy is ever-changing, so no group of students will have the same experience, despite being in the same dimly lit, theme-decorated venue.

Although prom fashion has transformed greatly over the years, the core traditions stay the same and the stories, as told by a select group of teachers, remain timeless.

Language arts teacher Michael Donelson memorialized tradition in his time by devising a prom proposal like no other. In his English class, he asked his classmate by telling her to look over his set of index cards. Buried inside quotes and bibliographies was a three by five proposal to the famed school dance.

While Donelson has good memories about asking his date, Tracy, to the prom, he later experienced a moment that was also noteworthy. When his AP Chemistry teacher, who Donelson describes as quite the character, asked Donelson, “What stupid, ugly girl would go to prom with you?” Tracy verbally attacked the science teacher, leaving his cheeks red with embarrassment. “Tracy was in the class; she was standing right there… She just let him have it,” Donelson said. “Had it been any other situation where a student had talked to a teacher the way she had talked to him, she probably would have been suspended, but he knew he had stepped over the line.”

Sporting a light blue tuxedo, Donelson fit in with the scene. Although he doesn’t remember exactly what music was blaring when he entered the crowded auditorium, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” from the movie Dirty Dancing, was popular. He said he and Tracy went with a group of friends and attended the school sponsored after-party. He enjoyed the unity of his peers, even if it were just for one night.

“I think the best part of [prom] was that people came together, a lot of people that generally didn’t hang together,” he said. “It was more unifying than most of our other events.”

Giving advice for those attending the prom this year, Donelson said students can have a blast on prom night whether or not they have a formal date.

“I would suggest students go to the prom … with a friend, have a good time … I think people move too quickly into exclusive dating relationships. I would suggest more social dating. A group of guys and a group of girls go out together, not necessarily paired off, but just get to know each other and not to feel so pressured,” Donelson said.

History teacher Kim Brown also remembers her high school prom. She remembers dancing to “Time after Time,” by Cyndi Lauper, and wearing a pink dress. Style was a big part of prom back then, and it continues to be a priority for students now.

“Matching was a big thing then. I told my date to wear what he wanted, and he wore a black and red tuxedo,” she said. “People came up to us all night, asking if he could take their order. He looked like a waiter.”

History teacher Joe Endres also has fond memories of his prom, though he said extravagant prom proposals were not in fashion at that time.

“We just sort of asked [dates],” he said.

Endres said he remembers feeling like an adult at the dinner before the dance, and he remembers the waiter calling him “Mr. Endres” as he sat down to his dinner at a high end restaurant. Above all, Endres remembers the good times he had with friends and the memories he made.

People across the country can relate to the prom experiences of others, no matter their age. For years, sloppy, hand-written, but lovingly creative prom proposals have been nervously expected.

Groups of anxious high school teens have gone in groups of friends so they wouldn’t be as awkward with their date. Teenage boys have worked up the courage to ask their favorite girl to the dance, whether it was with a poster board, candy or a deep breath and a conversation containing the simple, but much anticipated question. Young boys will untie their ties when the night is through and their parents will wait patiently to hear the stories.

Teenage girls will wash their face and pull bobby pin after bobby pin out of their hair, laughing with their friends as the experiences are still fresh in their minds. At its core, there are striking similarities between the memories of those from decades ago and stories that have yet to be made.

High school prom attendees have always returned home with stories to tell. Of course, students can learn from teachers in the classroom, but as they look at their teachers’ grainy prom photos containing poofy prom dresses and colorful themed backgrounds, they might realize that they each remember their prom nights years ago and can learn that we are all either high school students or former high school students, with stories to tell and new memories to cherish.