With the anticipation of prom tonight, the halls of Durango High have been clamoring with talk of who still needs to buy their shoes, who is braving the dance alone and countless other whispers of plans surrounding the exorbitantly glamorized high school tradition.
Proms around the country have become more and more extravagant each year, and the average amount of money spent on every detail of the night has followed a similar upward trend. Now, this is not a prom roast column, as I, too, will be in attendance, and I did spend an obscene amount of money in doing so, but there is something to be said when you can compare the cost of one blurry high school night to that of a small-scale wedding.
I’ve heard countless stories of the prom locations from different states, such as a high school in Los Angeles holding prom at the Aquarium of the Pacific. I can only guess how much a ticket to that would be, and because ours is only held up at Fort Lewis College, I’m thankful I don’t have to.
That being said, a DHS prom ticket is no small expense. After one week of a $10 dollar discount, the price of a ticket goes up to $75, a price many students can barely afford. This adds stress to the occasion, especially if the boys are expected to purchase two tickets. And tickets are sometimes the cheapest detail of the night.
Whether it’s a dress or tux rental, the undue burden of affordability can contribute to prom anxiety. According to USA Today, teens in the Northeast are spending the most on prom, averaging approximately a whopping $700 total. And really, no matter how much you want to argue with yourself that you will wear your dress again, the harsh reality is that you are now out $700. Another study by Visa in 2015 showed that “the average U.S. family plans to spend about $919 on a prom-going teen.”
However, the final cost isn’t necessarily what is stressing out me and my peers. It’s not if your corsage matches his tie, or if you might run out of bobby pins. It’s the fatal decision of assembling your group. When the group starts to exceed 15 people, things begin to get stressful and, of course, tensions arise. The awkward coupling up is also something to address. The idea that a date is necessary only makes people feel pressured to go with a friend of a friend’s cousin they don’t even know. The pressure makes those not part of an ongoing, serious, high school love story feel less than eligible for prom. And the process of coupling up has taken on a whole new extravagance in the last couple of years through a new tradition coined “promposals.” Sometimes outdoing the extravagance of a marriage proposal, promposals usually utilize posters and puns to ask someone to prom in a very public way that almost traps the person being asked into saying yes. And if there’s one thing that gives high schoolers anxiety, it’s not being able to bail at the last minute.
The dance itself, only a few immeasurable hours in the grand scheme of things, is clouded by an elaborate amount of planning. Everyone seems to have the hours leading up to it planned to the minute. This should really not be a stressful occasion. No, this is meant to celebrate the year (almost) coming to a close and a time for the upperclassmen to (supposedly) enjoy each others company.
The word “prom” itself stems from the word promenade, meaning “in a public place for pleasure or display, a ceremonious opening of a formal ball consisting of a grand march of all the guests.” This seems to translate to a crowded room of judgmental teens viciously comparing themselves to one another masked as an annual formal occasion. The only difference between the judgment of prom and a school day are the outfits.
After all, prom is just a dance. Indeed, it is a tradition, but maybe there’s something that needs to be restructured in the way we participate, and whether or not the level of glamour is necessary. The margin for disappointment is very high, but if the extravagance of prom can be diluted, I’m sure the anxiety and pressure surrounding it can be, too.
Emma Jaber is a junior at Durango High School and Arts editor for El Diablo, the DHS student newspaper. Her parents are Jane and Daniel Jaber of Durango.