Oh, prom. Short for promenade, the prom began in wealthy Northeastern schools as a heavily chaperoned social event which borrowed much of its form and function from popular debutante balls. The word “promenade” came from the marching in of the guests at the beginning of the event. I’ve always wondered where that came from, and now I know.
So now we talk about prom. Because it’s prom season, if you didn’t know. A few of the schools in town had their proms last weekend, and the rest of us are scrambling for dates and dresses and plans for that one magical night. I am a senior now, but I have been to two proms already: one my sophomore year and one my junior year. And I’ll just come right out and say it: my prom experiences haven’t exactly been the movie-perfect events I expected them to be. I feel like so many people will be disappointed by prom though, because of the intense hype and expectations it has to live up to. In the end you usually realize that it’s more the people you are with the make the evening what it is, not the event itself.
Regardless of my repeated disappointment, I continue to go back. I’m going again this year. Why would I want to be disappointed again? I choose to go to prom again and again because I don’t know what is going to happen that evening if I do go. If I choose not to go, I know exactly what I’ll be doing: I’ll be at home alone while the rest of the school is out (possibly) having the most magical evening of their short lives. It’s not likely that they actually will be, but the pictures posted on facebook the next afternoon sure are deceiving. So I repeatedly subject myself to this stress of picking out dresses, matching outfits, coordinating plans, while still attempting to enjoy myself because I am hoping for the best. Maybe this year will be the year. Because even though I know that it’ll almost inevitably fail to live up to my expectations, I go anyway out of fear of not experiencing whatever fate has to offer me for that night: if I stay home then that night will forever be engrained in my memory as the perfect night I wasn’t there to live through.
So what is the best alternative? What is the most mentally stable course of action? I could either spend the evening in the comforting, predictability of my own home and life, or I could take a chance on this night that is supposed to be magical and memorable and most likely be disappointed.
When it comes to fantasies, is it better to dwell on the perfection that could have been or to remember the imperfection of what really happened?