Saturday, April 28, 2012

on prom and dates and what that means

I went to both junior and senior prom.  I did go with dates, two guys that were more friend than boyfriend, but the fun was mostly about being at the dance with all of your friends.  Especially at this time of year, I think back on my two prom experiences and it brings a smile to my face.  I had a good time each year, and I'm very glad for having the prom experience.

High school dances are a right of passage for many kids and prom is the biggest of them all.  At my high school it was for juniors and seniors only, and I remember going to the Grand March to see the dresses and the flowers and was excited for when I would be one of them.

For Amanda Dougherty in Glenolden, Pennsylvania, the experience was much the same.  She was excited to go to her first high school prom, and had even begun preparations several months ago.  She had a dress, dance tickets, flowers and shoes.  She even had a date.

But when her date cancelled on her, her high school wouldn't allow her to go to the dance.  They said that a date was required for admittance to the dance:

The prom is an exciting event for students in all of our Archdiocesan high schools. We do have policies in place to regulate both the junior and senior prom. Unfortunately, not all students are able to attend. We can’t address specific issues with specific students but there are various reasons that a student would not be able to attend. Not having a date is one example. Our high schools offer numerous dances and events throughout the year where dates are not required, but we view the prom as a special social event where a date is required to attend.

No date = no prom.   And to be clear, this isn't a story pulled from 1953.  This is happening today, in 2012 America.

Archbishop John Carroll High School you are wrong.  For a high school to teach impressionable young people that they are not worthy of attending unless they have a date on their arm sends a message that you're not complete unless you have a partner.  In this instance, it explicitly tells girls - one girl in particular -  that she is not worthy of attending an event - sponsored and executed by her high school - without having a boy to take her.

On the Archbishop John Carroll High School website, the heading reads:

Teaching Gospel Values
Molding Character
Achieving Academic Excellence

This kind of "character" is not one I'd want molded in my teen.  What happened to teaching girls how to be strong and independent and not defined by - or beholden to - a guy?  What happened to teaching girls that they are complete as they are?

The fact that this is a Catholic high school irks me.  I know that the church has problems (a whole bucket of 'em if you ask me) but I have always thought that Catholic high schools are supposed to be... special?  My high school is not without critique, but overall, I felt like they got it right - helping people who need it, focus on learning and academics, friendship and faith.   But this high school?  If these are the kind of "gospel values", "character" or "excellence" that you want to teach - then I'll pass.


  1. good for you! I'm with you all the way. We don't need to focus on the kids who have dates (isn't that what Prom does?) let's step up our game and focus on the kids who sit home alone. Plenty of examples of Jesus doing just that.

  2. Remember, that while this happened at a Catholic school, a public school could very well have the (ridiculous) rules in place. This isn't really a Catholic thing, more of a school rule that is not fair.

    1. Thanks for your comment! :)

      I completely agree with you that the biggest issue is that it's a ridiculous rule - but the fact is that this particular ridiculous rule is in place at a Catholic school, not a public one. I think that's what irks me so much - so many examples of things that the Catholic church (and in this case, a Catholic institution) is doing wrong. As a Catholic, it's hard to understand.

  3. My essay would've been titled "The Pain of Prom" as it was such an uncomfortable experience for me (second only to the uneven bars in Mrs. Walton's popularity, er, P.E., class). As a mother, the prom experience still brought me pain...I think Xavier handled it well but the common expectation of the students is that it's an all night event (yes, for seventeen and eighteen year olds)...well I wasn't comfortable then and I'm not confortable now. (Thank you, dear daughter, for not putting me through that.) If I was an adult in the high school community, I would focus on helping the kids without dates...that would be living the that is such an awkward time, especially for girls, if you don't have a date...any date. I had a date to the junior prom and I still feel bad for the way I treated him - I was about as interested in him as I am in rutabaga...but for that night, I was in the "sanctioned" column and I knew it and that was a momentary rush.


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