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Originally published in The Trouble With Normal, issue 45.  early 2000

     As this issue comes to print, it’s prom season.  That allegedly special night where American high school students about ready to leave in the 11th and 12th grade (or Juniors and Seniors respectively, to those outside the US) get dressed up and take part in a rite of passage that’s hyped to extremes and imposed to be cherished, but to many ends up disappointing in some way.  Still, it’s a tradition that refuses to die in this country.  In fact, some of you younger readers might even be going to your school’s function (Good luck, you’ll need it).  So, since this time of year is hyped almost as much as JonBenet Ramsey and Princess Diana combined, I figured it’s time to tell my prom related story. 


    I know what you’re thinking, “Oh, Boone just had a bad prom night.”  Well, here’s the twist: I didn’t even go to either of my proms.  However, I do manage to have one story related to this ritual.  And it all began with a phone call.


    My (often fair-weather) friend Ben was spending the night at my house that weekend.  It was a Saturday night in the early spring of my Senior year and we had just gotten back after seeing a movie and doing a little driving around.  A few minutes after being in my parents’ living room, the phone rang.  I answered.


    It was a woman on the other end of the line.  She asked if I was there and I said I was.  However, she wouldn’t tell me who she was.  Naturally, I was suspicious.  I didn’t even expect the next question.


    “Are you going to prom with anyone?”


     I remember saying that I wasn’t planning on going to the prom.  The conversation continued with her grilling me on my prom decision and still not telling me who the hell she was.  After a while, Ben got on line and got some information (it took him about 15 minutes after my 20 [minutes] on the phone).  After returning the phone to me, he went upstairs to find a yearbook I had actually bought for some reason that I forget now.  Back on the phone, the usual cat and mouse game continued. She continued claiming she was interested in me, but still wouldn’t tell me who she was.  Eventually, Ben comes down stairs with the yearbook and finds her picture.  He thinks she’s cute.  About this time, the woman tells me who she is.  Her name is Becky (I’ll leave it at that for legal reasons even though I’m positive she’s never heard of TTWN).  Ben shows me the picture.  The woman is attractive, but strikes me as a trendy prep type that I was more often than not bored by then (don’t even ask about now).  After a little while, I ask her to give me a signal it isn’t a joke Monday and close the call.  As expected, I’m not taking it seriously.  However, the next day would be hell.


   Ben somehow woke up before I did and told my mom about the whole call [while I was getting ready].  So, after I shower and get dressed, she’s grilling me about it in the kitchen before I even get a chance at breakfast.  I tell her about the call and how it’s basically a joke not to be taken seriously.  Before I even get a chance to explain, my mother starts yelling at me:


   “You don’t know that.  You’re just being cynical.  You never give people a chance.” 


     There were some other things, but I forgot most of those.  I do remember that line though, delivered in a tone I heard from my mother on one matter or another almost every fucking day: this sort of “I’m right, you’re wrong” smugness that just implies that I’m too stupid to know what I’m talking about (My mom would probably deny the whole argument ever happened now, but that’s another story). 


    The next day during lunch [at school], Becky came up to me and [said], “It’s not a joke.”  It seemed that maybe my mom was right [this time around]. I called her a couple more times and made plans.  Ben lived out in the country and was having a bonfire one Saturday night.  I invited Becky.  At first she said yes, but when I asked for confirmation, she pulled a sucker punch and left me hanging basically.  “Yes, it turns out it was a joke on me after all.” I thought.  I went to Ben’s bonfire in stag and ended up leaving early after Ben pissed me off in front of some of his real friends (in retrospect, he only called on me when no-one else was available. I realize that now).  Now, it appears that it would end here.  But, I was about to get a surprise I didn’t expect. 


      For the next month or so, I mentioned the incident as a joke to my mom.  She still tried to tell me that it wasn’t by some lame ass reason or another.  Some of the people I hung out with in high school also tried to tell me this.  However, one Friday night, an acquaintance of mine named Scott needed a ride to his mom’s in St. Charles (He lived with his dad to finish school after his mom moved) so I offered him a lift.  His mom was a hardcore Republican whose morals I had already perceived as somewhat skewed before this night.  Anyway, after his mom went off on him for mentioning he told his dad he was gonna get drunk that night (he ended up having one or two beers tops) and told him he was basically going to hell even though she wasn’t exactly Mrs. Religious herself; [after that] she asked him about any girls in his life.  The main one he mentioned was Becky: that Becky.  As a friend, I had to warn him about her, so I told him the story.  It was then that a sucker punch came.


   Scott told me it wasn’t even Becky on the phone but another girl I at least considered somewhat of an acquaintance and a few others.  Turns out I was on a list of people whose feelings they felt like playing with that evening as a sick joke.  How did Scott know about this?  Scott was there when it happened.  To the best of my knowledge, his mom didn’t say shit about that.  And he did nothing to stop it. 


   I was pissed off and hurt about the whole deal.  I was pissed off at Scott; I was hurt at those people who tried to convince me otherwise.  Needless to say, I totally rubbed my mom’s nose in this the first opportunity I got to do so.  In a sick way, it felt cathartic to tell her that I was right and she was wrong about this.  My friend Dave confronted Scott about it Monday at school when I told him.  Scott claimed to be there but wasn’t involved with the calls.  I was pissed.  Pissed at a lot of people yes, but mostly pissed off at myself. 


  See, this was a situation where my first instinct was more than right.  I made the mistake of thinking that maybe they were wrong and I got hurt.  While I don’t think this is necessarily true in every occasion where you deny your instinct, in this case my gut was right about this.  And I ended up being hurt about this way longer than even I would like to admit in retrospect. 


   The whole scenario came to a head on a June Monday afternoon when we had graduation rehearsal.  I didn’t want to be there in the first place and wasn’t happy about it.  It was just as I was leaving when some jock dumbass who spent too much on steroids and not enough on reading shouted out the whole situation to a few of his buddies as a joke.  I’m not sure if they knew I already knew about it.  I did scream, “FUCK OFF, YOU SON OF A BITCH” at the top of my lungs.  Ironically, there were no teachers or authority figures there so there were no penalties (the worst they probably could’ve done was bar me from graduation, which I would’ve been happy with anyway). 


   It’s been a long time since I thought about these things.  As life moved on and my world expanded, I learned a lot.  However, there are questions about this that you probably think right now.  Yes, part of the reason I didn’t go to prom had to do with not having any prospects.  However, even if I did, I probably wouldn’t have gone anyway.  One, if you want to impress someone, paying close to $100 for the dance alone to be around people you could barely stand for free every day in clothes you otherwise would never wear is not the way to do it.  In addition, I thought that prom was a ritual of conformity that encourages a sort of groupthink that didn’t relate to my thoughts or my world at all.  So, my decision probably would’ve been the same regardless.


  So I didn’t go to the prom.  I ended up at an Agnostic Front show at the old Bernard’s Pub in South St. Louis instead, wearing a tuxedo T-shirt to mark (mock) the occasion.  Looking back, maybe I should’ve lied to my parents about prom, skipped the actual event and used it as an excuse to stay out all night (which my parents would’ve allowed me to do if I had gone to prom.  Hell, they would’ve encouraged it).  However, I didn’t, and I can’t change that years after the fact. 


   I don’t regret not going to prom.  While I have mixed feelings about going to Agnostic Front, it still was probably better than putting on a suit and being around people that, for the most part, annoyed me. 


   So, what about those of you who actually are going to prom?  Well, personally I think you’ll need all the luck you can get given the vapidity of most school functions (and remember they’ve gotten more authoritarian since the late 1980s when I was incarcerated in the school system).  Personally, I think there are better ways to spend your time, but if you go, please make the best of it.  By the way guys, when a woman says no, she’s really being nice to your lame ass so don’t even think about rape. 


    That, in a nutshell, is pretty much my prom related story.  While it’s good to get the damn thing out, I know the responses to it will be varied.  Some will like it; others will think I’m being whiny about something that happened years ago.  However, given the time of year this issue is coming out at, it could be a good thing.  If it makes those who are outcasts feel less alone and isolated over their situations on the over hyped event known as the prom, then hopefully I’ll have done good. 


     If you have any prom stories you want to share, send them in.  Maybe I can create a spin-off zine on it.  That’s up to you though.  I’m onto the next page.


Click Here to check out Boone's 2008 commentary regarding this article

copyright 2000, 2008, Boone Stigall/The Trouble With Normal