The seamstress who made my prom dress lived on the dilapidated side of town, and really, that sentence just says everything about my prom experience. In place of a discernable set of samples or a resume, she had a thank you card from Shania Twain on her wall. She worked on Twain’s first wedding in a part of Ontario even more northern than where I lived. In 1993.
“Fuck it”, I thought, and handed her an autistic-looking sketch I’d done on the back pages of my agenda in French class. This seamstress had zero qualms about insulting my misshapen form, but $150 and three soul-crushing fittings later, I had a dress. I made 10 “I Feel Like a Woman” jokes on the ride home.
I got terrible prom hair at my friend’s mom’s salon. It should be noted that there is no small-town hairstylist who will interpret “loose waves” as anything other than “giant immobile curls”. I didn’t want to complain, so I forked over somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty bucks and hoped the BIG SEXY HAIR hairspray would loosen it’s grips. Spoiler: it didn’t.
About eight of us met at my friend Alex’s house, which was always chaotic, but was also the closest to our prom location. My best friend and I squirreled away in Alex’s little brother’s room, and put our makeup on to the soothing sound of their guinea pig building a shavings fort. I used fake eyelashes, the individual kind, for the first and last time ever.
My prom date was a good friend at the time. I tried valiantly to believe we were the same height, but I have to admit I probably had him by about an inch. He brought me a pink corsage, and I felt like shit for 20 minutes because I forgot to buy him one of those buttonhole flower things. I kind of still feel like shit for that.
We went to a pre-prom photo gathering at a friend’s resort. This is not as swank as it sounds! One of my fake nails snapped off and floated under the dock, so I ripped off the other nine and spent the car ride chipping the glue from my gnawed fingertips. At least my mom got a picturesque photo.
Once at prom, which was Vegas themed, a drunken friend in a yellow paisley vest put the fish from the centerpieces in another friend’s drink, inciting hissy fit. This was the only time I laughed.
In retrospect, I was the worst prom date in the history of the term “going as friends.” Post-dinner, I abandoned the majority of my group for a few like-minded skulkers, one of whom looked like Helena Bonham Carter in the best way imaginable. We monopolized the window benches outside the prom room and discussed the varying levels of drunk we were going to get that night.
I felt like I’d gotten through the day’s rigors and could now focus my full attention on my stash of berry-flavoured Smirnoff. This was until the best friend, who’d dutifully glued on my eyelashes hours previous, approached in a whirlwind of expletives. In my absence she had to dance with my bummed out date (twice?) and was more than mildly unimpressed at my shirking. I rejoined the group with pangs of remorse for treating him so terribly, but by then the dance was over anyway. We ate some decorative apples as a consolation prize.
The after party, in the spirit of the True North, was in the woods and reached new levels of disaster in under an hour; cops, crashers, a fight or two, and zero tent space. I got drunk in my friend’s truck and watched the fish she’d stolen frolic in the poker chips at the bottom of their bowl. Meanwhile, my date got completely shitfaced and attempted to wander into the woods before some blessed soul tied a glow stick around his sagging neck. I walked to a nearby beach with a spiky-haired know-it-all, the kind of person you’re friends with, without liking anything about them. I passed out on a rotting dock while he heckled the inhabitants of a red Sunfire, whose only crime was an attempt at secluded car sex.
Somewhere that night, I transitioned from said dock to the fully upright passenger seat of my friend’s Civic. Karmically I deserved it for ruining what could have been a perfectly pleasant experience for my well-meaning date, who was found semi-conscious in an Adirondack chair the next morning. His grey zip-up was covered in debris from the forest floor, and there were at least ten sticky spiced rum shots still in his system. At least, in the morning haze, his glow sticks were still alight.
When I got home, my mom made me what was probably my first full mug of coffee and asked if prom was fun. “I guess,” I replied, and she nodded like she understood.