Some thematically unrelated but awfully memorable music.
My older son, showing a knack for interpersonal relationships totally missing in his father, got himself elected to his middle school student council this year.
One of his duties as a councilor is to take envelopes under the table — er, I mean, to take part in planning the end-of-year dance.
It’s not a formal event, as far as I know. The corsages and the limos come later.
Still, since it’s that time of year, we’ve been educating him and his younger brother about what proms and balls are … how the girls get their hair all did, and how they look radiant and grown-up, and how the boys rent tuxes and somehow look even younger and more callow than they do in jeans and hoodies.
Not sure whether the kids are looking forward to these events or dreading them, based on our clashing recollections.
(Like most girls, my wife liked the whole trip. Like more than a few boys I knew, I had no particular use for it; I put in my obligatory spin or two on the dance floor and got the hell out. I had no interest, but if you were dating someone, you couldn’t not go. It was an unwritten rule handed down by … somebody. I blame Mike Love.)
Most of us have one or two prom stories.
But what if the tuxes and gowns could talk?
Your average tux and prom gown get at least a couple spins. Heck, I’ll bet some tuxes go to a prom a week during peak season, over the course of multiple years.
Think of what they could tell us about moments of passion, pain, pleasure and good old-fashioned awkward teenage embarrassment.
They probably sit on the racks, like off-duty firefighters around a stove, swapping stories. (“He thought he’d take her to Taco Bell. Guess who ended up with Zesty Cheesapeno Sauce all over his cummerbund? Ay-yuh.”)
Anyway, three hundred and twenty-eight words later, here we are in April 1968, and my grandparents are turning a couple of used prom gowns loose on the world to share a couple more special nights and pick up a few more stories.
My aunt Elaine is attending college in New Haven, and is in the process of leaving childish things behind. And my grandparents aren’t letting her prom gowns gather dust in the limited closet space of 1107 Hope Street.
I note that this week’s admonition seems to be written in my grandma’s handwriting. It doesn’t surprise me that she should be in charge of closet-cleaning duties.
Now that I’ve started thinking about fancy-night clothing, I kinda wonder whatever happened to my aunt’s prom gowns.
I am charmed by the thought that maybe they went to a family of four sisters, each of whom handed them down in turn. Who knows? Maybe the gowns saw fancy-night duty all the way to the Jimmy Carter administration.
Or maybe they went to one or two more balls, and were then deemed unstylish and unsuitable.
What becomes of an unfashionable prom dress, anyway? It’s kinda like the old song says: “What becomes of the broken-hearted?” Perhaps the broken-hearted gather in a big drafty ballroom and wear 10-year-old prom dresses. It seems plausible enough. There’s probably a big tub of Zesty Cheesapeno Sauce there, too.
Or maybe the prom gowns sat in a closet for 15 or 20 years, at which point everything old became new again, and some free-spirited teenage girl embraced them as charmingly retro instead of simply outdated.
And, given a chance by a new generation, they discovered that teenage passion, pain, pleasure and embarrassment are eternal.