I Did It For The Dress: A Prom Memoir

I couldn’t really tell you what I was like in High School—I pretty much existed in my own bubble of super self-consciousness. I was a decently smart kid who spent a lot of my time running, simply because Cross Country was a sport that required a lot of willpower, but very little coordination. I had crushes, but I didn’t date. I didn’t expect to be asked to Prom, but never for a second did that mean I wasn’t going.

I didn’t expect, by some miraculous twist of fate, to be named Prom Queen nor did I harbor a conspiracy theory that everyone secretly hated me and were going to douse me in pig’s blood, Carrie-style. I didn’t party and despite what I’d seen on some TV dramas, I wasn’t interested in getting laid, or like, having a baby in a toilet. I didn’t imagine I would lead the dance floor in some Disney-esque choreographed routine (or better: Thriller). I didn’t have high expectations.

I did it for the dress.

Just as soon it was reasonably close, I begged my mom to take me to the Betsey Johnson boutique in Newport Beach. I knew my dress was there. I refused to go anywhere else.

And there it was–a relatively simple white dress, with red ribbon lining and red and blue flowers. It was almost a little informal for Prom, but it was me. It was mine. I had to have it. My mom bought it for me and I felt like I had transcended to another level. I took it out of the bag every day to pet it and stare at it. My pretty, pretty prom dress. I adore thee.

Then I had to work on completing the look.

I couldn’t walk in heels to save my life, so I got a pair of Adidas, and coincidentally found a little red and white Adidas backpack to go with it. Since I obvs wouldn’t be able to fit my make up cavalry in a clutch. Psh.

I was then, as I am now, mildly obsessed with Gwen Stefani’s style, and was completely transfixed by the way she did her hair on the Tragic Kingdom tour. I took all my clippings and photos of her to the stylist at Carlton in Costa Mesa for a consult. She said it was go. I just had to bring in colored bobby pins the day of the event.

I bought very fine glitter (like the kind you decorate easter eggs with), tiny blue and clear rhinestones and some sparkly blue eyeshadow. I found a shade of red lipstick that I liked at the Origins counter. I bought red ribbon that matched the lining for a necklace, cuz’ that was about as far as I was going with jewelry. I was more excited to get ready for prom than anything else.

About a week or two before the dance, my friend Adam broke up with his girlfriend, so he needed a date. I was like, sure. He was a Senior, I was a Junior, and we’d been friends since junior high or something like that. Solid dude, even if he did try to trashcan me on my first day as a Freshman at Kennedy.

I could lie to you and tell you I remember very little about Prom, but the truth is the guy I had a crush on for like, 4 years was going with another girl and I was not pleased. He was my first love at first sight. I was just incredibly shy.

But, if I may be so bold as to say, I looked awesome. And I felt awesome. As a teen, I rarely felt at home in my own skin, but that night, everything felt right. The look was mine. You know what I mean?

I never knew what the deal with Justin actually was, because instead of dancing with our dates (neither of us liked dancing) we sat at a table together and talked most of the night. It was magical in a forever-unrequited and sort of torturous way.

(he’s cute, right?)

After hours of not dancing, talking, and blowing bubbles until I almost passed out. Adam and I decided to leave. And Justin asked to come with us. We let him. Did I steal someone else’s Prom date?

Regardless, nothing ever happened with Justin and I. I saw him about 4 years ago at a friend’s party and felt all those strange, squishy, dizzy feelings again… then, after talking to him for a few seconds, realized he’d become sort of thug life Eminem wannabe. Oh, and he showed me that his daughter’s name was tattooed on the back of his neck.

I swear, that actually occurred. It was like swallowing a cannonball. Oh.

Ah, but the dress. The dress was perfect.

And I actually wore it again a year ago to the Prom party I threw for my friend Kevin’s grad party (with the slightly obvious intention of making the event happen so I could go on a date with my then-crush, now-boyfriend.)

I suppose 17 is far too early to find the love of your life, anyway.

But the dress and I, we got the job done the second time around.