Memories of an old-fashioned girl’s prom

Jitters attacked me.  It was the night of the junior-senior prom at my American high school where I was an exchange student. The grand ball of the year, where high school seniors and juniors swept out of their ostentatiously decorated cars in their best gowns and tuxedos, where girls became ladies hanging on to the genteel arm of their handsome escorts, where boys turned gentlemen opening car doors and pulling chairs for their ladies.  It was a splendid night of putting on the ritz.  The opening event was a march of the voted homecoming king and queen and their royal court.  Having been voted by the school population as third runner-up for homecoming queen, I was thus designated as a princess of the court.  That night, I felt like a pampered princess in a lovely apple green machine-embroidered cotton gown sewn by my American host Mom.  My escort, blond, blue eyes, six-foot tall and all seemed like a prince.  The prince, however, was terribly shy and barely spoke 30 words that night.  He could have been a frog.  If he croaked, I would have jumped in sheer delight.  Bring two bashful youths together, and the game plan is a disaster … though now, quite quirky and funny to me.

That was my first and only prom.  My host family came to watch me march with the royal court, and went home when the dance started.  I wished they had stayed, so I could at least have been entertained with normal conversation.  So how did that nice young man become my escort?  It was my host Mom’s doing.  She acted quickly to solve the problem of my having a handsome and “safe” escort.  You see, I was placed with a conservative Pennsylvania American family where everything was prim and proper.  The unspoken concern was that I would get partnered with a rowdy boy who might shatter my good image of American youth.  Besides, I came from a convent school for girls and an old-fashioned family that did not encourage partying with boys.  The exchange program probably decided I was perfectly matched with this lovely family.

So there it was, a project that Mom happily took to herself.  God bless her heart, she approached the mother of a best friend whose brother was a year younger than me and outrageously shy.  He seemed to be in the throes of puberty, perhaps a little too late.  But he was so cute and frustratingly quiet.  We consumed the time listening to the live band’s music which was great, with all the current Beatles songs and middle-of-the-road rock music. It also was amusing to watch dancers on the floor and mentally take note of new dance moves.  Besides, the hors d’oeuvres were fantastic.  Don’t get me wrong, I had a fabulous time.  Yeah, right!

Not sure if Mom felt bad that days after she asked my friend’s mother to lend her cute boy, I got a call from the school’s AFS exchange student to Brazil, scheduled to leave in three months.  Much to my chagrin, I said I already had a date for the prom.  That boy was just too slow.  Or, was he afraid to ask, since I hadn’t been friendly to him?  My fault!  Or, my loss?

The prom was a grand affair.  Formally donned boys and girls were at their handsomest and prettiest.  The king and queen’s processional around campus preceded the coronation ceremony in the auditorium.  The students’ families and friends were the appreciative audience on the route.  Eager applause and cheerful yelps filled the air — also fed our young egos.  My escort was quite gentlemanly; always made sure his arm was up for me to hang on to, so I won’t trip on the stony path.  But of course, every male in the royal march did that for the lady partner, and that was splendidly elegant and special.

The crowning ceremony was brief.  Families and friends piled into the auditorium that reverberated with applause and cheers.  Nothing was sedate about the audience, even if the court on stage maintained a royal and poised demeanor.  Then came the dance.  I wondered if my reticent escort danced.  I never really knew.  One slow waltz and that was it.  I was longing for the twist which I danced at a party once, back home.  His sister and her partner sat at our table. They provided the liveliness of the evening with their light banter and silly jokes.  I was extremely grateful.  The jokes got better and sillier toward the end of the night.  A sip of champagne, that’s all I had.  But, I wondered what else they had.  Or what my escort didn’t have.  But again, I was stupendously thankful for the sister’s and partner’s company.  My handsome frog stayed a frog

That was my grand prom, a gossamer dream that was just as it was, a passing dream.  I never talked to that boy again.  The month after the prom, the exchange students left their host families for a few weeks of travel across the country, before finally going home.  My first secret crush was during that road trip cross country.  The German exchange student never knew … though I suspect he guessed just a teeny pinch … I’ll whack out that bit later.

Linda P. Jacob

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