At the time, I never thought I would look back on prom and laugh. I regarded the fail that was supposed to be the biggest night in a high school girl’s career with the typical melodramatic tears and cries of “My life is OVER!” But I’m skipping ahead a bit. Let’s go through the events that led to my face being in a pillow for 12 hours.

To say I was super outcast geek girl would be a lie. I was voted “Most Humorous” and was part of a fairly popular crowd, despite being a band geek, in flag corps, a drama club nerd, and having a pretty strict father. I didn’t date much (see: strict father) but I never despaired over boys. Instead I had a large circle of male and female friends and I have to admit I enjoyed most of my high school experience.

Then in senior year all any of my friends wanted to talk about was PROM. It was discussed that my best friend and I would go stag – there was no way my father would have let me stay out until 1am with a boy – and prepartations began in earnest. I tried to get excited about prom. I went dress shopping with my gaggle of girlfriends and was introduced to dyed to match shoes and Claire’s Boutique. We discussed in hushed tones who would be “getting some” that night. Like little snotty debutantes in training, we giggled over Derek taking Amy because have you SEEN HER?

My friends were having a blast with their credit cards and plans. I was silently mortified over the 20 dollar bill my father had handed me. There was no way I could find a suitable dress for 20 dollars, not to mention all the various accessories required of such an event. But I shopped with them anyway, stewing in resentment at my luck in having such a stingy dad. Didn’t he understand? Did he just not care?

At some point while the four girls were in the Dillard’s dressing room, I found THE DRESS. Looking back it was a pretty ugly affair – teal green stretch fabric, off the shoulder, and hitting me at the ever flattering mid-thigh. I checked the tag – 125 dollars! Something came over me. Anger, desperation, bravado, whatever it was, I made my decision – I was going to wear this dress.

I took the dress, and about 5 others, into the unsupervised dressing area, put it on, put my own clothes on over it, and went directly to my car and undressed, putting the dress in my trunk. I ran back to the store, found my friends walking out with their new dresses, and we left the mall, me sweating all the way home thinking at any moment a policeman would be pulling me over and throwing me into prison.

After a week my terror and guilt subsided slightly, and I began to get excited about my upcoming fun. I would be hanging out with my best friend and we would have a sleepover after to parse the evening to our heart’s delight. There would be pizza and girl movies, and maybe some prank phone calls. It was going to be a great prom.

And then she got asked to the prom by a guy.

My entire evening crumbled before my eyes. I would now have to walk into prom alone. In front of everyone. In my stolen dress and old white high heels borrowed from my Aunt. By the time prom night came I was a nervous wreck about the prospect. I was imagining one of those teen movies where the girl walks in alone, the music scratches off, and the whole crowd silently stares.

By the time I was sitting in the parking lot I just couldn’t handle the potential embarrassment. I knew my dad had a bottle of wine in the trunk, and I sat in the car chugging about half of it. I had never drank before, but suddenly I knew why they called it liquid courage. I stumbled into the prom and managed one spastic dance before my father showed up – called by one of the teachers – and escorted my little butt home. I was mortified, even though I don’t think anyone saw me getting led out by my dad and a teacher.

We got home, my dad sent me to my room, and having never been drunk before I wasn’t aware that I was overreacting due to a half bottle of rhine wine. I cried. I kicked. I screamed that he had RUINED MY LIFE. I could never go back to that school. I would be a laughingstock! I refused the soda and coffee and aspirin he brought me in an effort to sober me up and prevent tomorrow’s headache. He told me to get ready for bed and we would discuss it in the morning.

Now I love to tell the story. It makes me laugh a little with embarrassment (tinged with amusement) over my stupidity. And though I barely remember the rest of the night, I do remember the next day. I woke up in my pajamas to a pounding head, and I noticed my prom dress hanging on my door with a note from my father.

“Where did you get this dress?”