Today’s news:

Where in the world is Teen Spirit?

for The Brooklyn Paper

Teen Spirit was dead set against going to his own senior prom. This Smartmom learned the day after she wrote a $350 check to pay for prom, senior breakfast, yearbook and graduation.

“No way am I going to the senior prom,” Teen Spirit told Smartmom. “It’s ridiculous!”

“But I just sent in the check,” Smartmom said.

Teen Spirit seemed pretty unconcerned about his mother’s huge output of cash in these dark, economic time. The bum.

“I hate the idea of prom,” he told her.

That made sense. Smartmom couldn’t really imagine Teen Spirit at a prom — even if it was a groovy prom like the kind they have at his progressive public school, which does just about everything in a non-traditional way.

“I’m sure it’s not going to be a normal prom,” she told Teen Spirit.

But normal or not, he wasn’t going and that was that. As you can guess, Teen Spirit is just not a prom sort of guy — not even in an ironic way.

So Smartmom just mentally kissed that prom money good-bye. She figured the senior committee probably needed the money anyway, and only part of it was for meant for the prom. The rest could go to the graduation ceremony, the senior breakfast and printing costs of the yearbook.

Smartmom didn’t give it another thought until it was time for the prom at her friend’s daughter’s private school.

Smartmom got to “eavesdrop” on that whole adventure. She heard about the girls waiting around to be asked by a boy to the prom, which made her think, “What a throwback. How anti-feminist. How weird.”

Why couldn’t girls ask boys?

She heard about the girls spending boatloads of money on pretty party dresses. That sounded fun. Smartmom wondered if the Oh So Feisty One would enjoy that.

She heard about a group of kids renting a stretch limo to go to the prom in Manhattan.

She heard about the mothers of boys buying corsages for the girls and pre-prom parties where parents got together and took pictures and drank wine.

The whole thing sounded so over-determined. The parents were worried about what would and wouldn’t happen on prom night. Would the kids be safe? Would they drink too much? Would they stay out too late at the after parties?

Would they practice safe sex if that sort of thing was going to happen (and it is happening, you know)?

Smartmom worried for the kids. After the big build up and hullabaloo, what if they didn’t have a good time? Wouldn’t it be awkward — all the slow dancing and stuff? The whole thing sounded like an earlier time when things were more formal and ritualized.

And it seemed like an awful lot of energy and agita for something that was supposed to be fun.

Smartmom thought back to her own high school days. Unfortunately, there was a big hole in her memory where a prom should have been. She thought and she thought and she thought. She tried to summon up a memory a fun festive party, a fluffy prom dress, and a fragrant corsage.

Nothing. Nada. Nicht.

That’s because there was no prom. Graduating from high school in 1976, her classmates (herself included) didn’t believe in such programmed events.

It was the 1970s. Smartmom and her female classmates met in a weekly Women’s Group, where they discussed sexism, sexist high school boys and teachers. They even organized a full-day event for International Women’s Day.

It’s not like she didn’t like parties. Smartmom and her friends went to plenty of wild parties in large pre-war apartments in buildings on the Upper West and East Side, where they drank too much Bohemian beer and made out with boys on beds strewn with overcoats (in that order).

Smartmom even had a boyfriend who could have taken her to the prom.

But they didn’t believe in proms at her progressive, left-leaning private school. Proms were elitist, bourgeois and sexist. Right?

So on the night of her friend’s daughter’s prom, Smartmom found herself envying the kids who were doing the traditional prom thing. It all seemed so quaint and vintage. It even sounded like fun.

Suddenly, Smartmom understood why she had unthinkingly paid for Teen Spirit’s prom without asking him. It’s called magical thinking. She wanted him to go to the prom, so she wished him to go to the prom.

And then her wish came true. A few days after the private school prom, Teen Spirit came into the kitchen.

“Hey, did I tell you, I’m going to the prom?” he said nonchalantly.

“You are?”

“But I’m only staying one hour. One of my friends begged me to go,” he said.

“What are you going to wear?”

“I’ll wear dad’s seersucker suit …”

“And grandpa’s white shoes?”

“Yeah,” he said.

Smartmom was thrilled. It was the first time they’ve been in agreement about anything in ages.

“Should I have it dry-cleaned?” she said.

“Whatever,” Teen Spirit said by way of yes.

So Teen Spirit is going to the prom. Smartmom tried to be blasé, but she was happy that Teen Spirit was doing something traditional to mark the end of his high school career.

And in the process, he was making up for that thing she never got to do. Even if it was elitist, bourgeois and sexist. Right?

Louise Crawford, a Park Slope mom, also operates “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.”
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VLM from Park Slope says:
Just out of curiosity: Why did you pay the money before asking TS if he wanted to go the prom? Wouldn't it make sense to better communicate with your son first before doling out $350?
June 10, 2009, 3:46 pm
Lesley T from Park Slope says:
I love this story, a good gamble to put that money down, you know if his friends are going, he would eventually acquiesce. Whether we like it or not, the prom does bring closure to the whole HS experience. As a seventies child myself, who went to a low key prom, I don't quite get the over indulgence in the current proms, so I like a teen with a sense of humor and questioning approach.
June 15, 2009, 2:16 pm
Louise Crawford from Park Slope says:
I really really wanted him to participate. Magical thinking? Wishful? The school needs the money anyway. And I agree, like it or not, the prom is an end of HS rite of passage.
June 16, 2009, 4:21 pm

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