Monday, March 25, 2013

18-Year-Old Bethany's Prom Date Essay

I got all dressed up.
And then destroyed my brother while Bonanza was on.


















Sometimes on a cold evening before there is supposed to be snow at the end of March when there should be buds on the trees and not icicles, I like to go through my old computer files and organize them into folders. That is how I came across this essay I wrote when I was 18.

I've always written from personal experience and pain that I've transformed into something less terrible. In short, I fictionalize most of it. This piece is all about how I couldn't find a prom date. It was SUCH a big deal at the time, and I remember thinking that I was definitely going to win a Pulitzer. Read on and enjoy my misery.


18-Year-Old Bethany's Prom Date Essay

I had been single for seventeen years and was starting to get pretty good at it when prom came around again, and I was expected to find a date. The unwritten law of our school states: If you don’t have a date for prom you are a loser, and your fellow classmates have permission to make fun of your misfortune.

Valentine’s Day marked the unofficial cut-off date for getting a prom date that didn’t have crater zits or ear hair. In my school, if you didn’t have a date for prom by then, you would probably be stuck going alone or kissing up to the president of the Fungus Club. Fungus boy didn’t scare me. ALONE did. Going to prom by one’s self was a pretty bold move for any student, especially a female one. I decided to try some different tactics to get a date. If none of my schemes worked out, I would go ALONE and face potential embarrassment. I decided, no matter what the outcome, I would hold my head high. Nobody was going to give me a guilt trip and get away with it.

I considered putting a want ad in the school newspaper. Wanted: prom date, preferably male, no need to pick me up or drop me off, “corsage shopping” not imperative, only requirement is to try not to get intoxicated until after the banquet.

However, I knew it would take more than just media resources.

On Februrary 15, I launched my plot. The mission? To find and maintain a prom date.

Plan #1: The cave man
One person holds down the victim while the other one beats him over the head repeatedly with a blunt object. Victim awakens just in time to attend prom. Mission accomplished.

Plan #2: Poison the water hole
Contaminate drinking water of men’s varsity basketball team with experimental, mind-altering drugs. Does he really need to be able to dress himself for the event?

Plan #3: The Undergrad
Disguise younger brother as vertically-challenged college friend. Threaten to tell parents incriminating details about that little “fender bender” that only you, he, and the guy at the body shop know about.

Plan #4: The Cyber Date
Seduce someone over the internet. Bribe him with pirated software. Pack mace.

Plan #5: The Dr. Frankenstein
Create a date using body parts from biology class dissections. A rat liver here, a frog spleen there, a worm’s brain--all dipped in formaldehyde to keep him fresh until prom. (Note to self: bring lots of deodorant.)

By the time I was through writing Plan #5, I knew I was going through severe “I-have-no-date-depression,” a common illness among high school students. I decided to seek professional help.

Upon flipping through the yellow pages, I came across this ad:

ARE YOU PSYCHOLOGICALLY DISTURBED BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO DATE TO PROM? DO YOU SUFFER FROM FORMAL APPREHENSION? DON’T FEAR. DR. U.R. AFAILYER IS HERE TO HELP.

I took a chance and went to see the doctor. At this point, I needed all the help I could get.

Dr. Afailyer was a wisp of a man with a balding salt-and-pepper head. In fact, he looked a little bit like my principal.

“So, what’s bothering you?” he asked.

“Well, Doctor, I don’t have a date to prom yet, and it’s only four months away.”

“Oh my, cutting it a bit close, aren’t we?”

“Yes, I suppose. See, I was thinking of going by myself. It might be more fun than going with someone I don’t really like. Don’t you think so?”

The doctor was speechless for a few moments. Then, he said, “That’s a very brave thing to do. I’ve seen men get away with it, but do you really think YOU can pull it off?”

“Well,” I replied, “it’s worth a shot. Besides, I’m a modern woman. I don’t need a prom date to complete my life.”

“I’m going to prescribe some medication. If you don’t have a date within a week, come back and see me. We may have to consider a brief stay in a psychiatric hospital if your mental condition doesn’t improve. Okay, time’s up.”

I left the office feeling no better about my condition. Prom was closing in fast. I suddenly felt nauseated. The physical symptoms of “I-have-no-date-depression” were setting in. The Fungus Club president was starting to look better every day. I needed advice from a reliable source.

I found that authority later that evening when I came across an advertisement for a psychic hotline as I was flipping through the channels. What an interesting idea, I thought to myself. So, I gave those psychics a call.

“Thank you for calling our psychic hotline. Please hold.”

“The Soothing Sounds of Simon and Garfunkel” began to play in my ear. I held for about a minute before a psychic answered my call.

“Let me guess. You would like a psychic reading.”

“Why yes. How did you know?”

“I’m a psychic. That’s my job. So, what would you like to know today?”

“You mean you don’t know?”

“Well, all psychics need a little information to get started.”

“I would like to know if I’m going to have fun at my prom.”

“Do you have a date?”

“No.”

Smothered giggling sounds. “Then, you probably won’t have very much fun. Okay, lovely talking to you. Buh-bye then.”

So much for my free psychic reading. Suddenly, I started to see spots. Dr. Afailyer’s mental ward was beginning to sound like a rather pleasant option.

I spent much of the next few weeks in bed. I had started to hear voices.

“It’s me, Prom. I’ll be here in a few months, you know. You don’t have a date yet. I bet that makes you feel really, really bad. You’ll never find a date. Never. You’re going to have to go ALONE. ALONE. Wahahahhahahahahahahahahaha!”

ALONE. That word taunted me day and night. I wouldn’t be able to face my fallow classmates ever again if I showed up to prom ALONE.


TWO MONTHS UNTIL PROM

I had begun to count the days. Sixty days until prom. Fifty-nine days until prom. Fifty-eight days until prom. I finally had a dress: a subtle, black velvet garb. I wanted a red dress but didn’t really want to call attention to myself since I was still “date-less.”

“Why don’t you just ask somebody?” my friends began to suggest.

“What? And face rejection and public humiliation? No, sir. Besides, I don’t know any guys who don’t have dates.” It was true. Even fungus boy had been snatched up before February was over.

Two months became a month. A month became two weeks. I prepared myself for humiliation. Finally, the day arrived. I had spent the week before prom in seclusion. I crawled out of bed that morning. “I’m heeeeeeeeeeeeeeere! Prom cackled. “Get ready for public ridicule!”

I was just about to call Dr. Afailyer to get sized for my straitjacket when I was struck with a wonderful and desperate idea.


MONDAY, TWO DAYS LATER

Over the intercom: May we have your attention please. To the person or persons responsible for the flood in the gymnasium. Rolls of toilet paper are not meant to be flushed down the stools in the locker rooms. Furthermore, prom is no longer a possibility because the odor coming from the gym is so atrocious, no one has dared go in there since Saturday. We hope you are proud of yourselves. That is all.

After prom was ruined, I returned my dress, shoes, and jewelry and used that money to take a little trip after graduation.
So, I’ve been here in Aspen for these past eight months enjoying my solitude. I’ve decided that being ALONE is not so bad after all. I heard they gave our would-be prom queen a toilet seat crown and plunger/scepter for graduation, so she could have her fifteen minutes of fame. I say, “Let her have her title to put on her resumes. I’ll opt for skiing lessons with a twenty-two-year-old, Italian instructor.” Ah, if only everyone understood the value of being ALONE.

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