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It’s all about the dress

It’s prom season and the time of year that brings excitement, anticipation and extreme stress on entire families.

This formal dance at the end of an academic year has become a rite of passage for many teens.

It is a milestone of sorts, highlighting the move from childhood to young adult. It is like a night in Hollywood and the couples who walk the red carpet that night are the celebrities of the community.

For many, the prom has become the most important day of adolescence. With such focus on this one night comes great anxiety. Students begin worrying in their freshman year of high school whether or not they will have a prom date and, if they do, will it be the guy or girl that everyone else wishes they could have gone with.

“What if I don’t get asked to the prom? What if my dress doesn’t blow everyone away? What if my spray tan turns me orange? My hair has to be an up-do. No, I should wear it long and flowing. Maybe I should cut my hair. And my makeup! I have to have an appointment with a cosmetologist so it’s perfect!”

High school ladies go to extreme lengths to find the perfect dress that shows off all their assets and hides all their flaws. This is a night of self-expression and it’s all about the dress.  She begs her parents to take her to the big city to shop, just knowing local stores won’t carry the latest in fashion. Prom becomes a fantasy of enchanted perfection. She dreams of having a striking date, a young man in a tux highlighted in colors that match her dress.

Mothers, well past their prom days, dream of having their daughters dressed in such glory that it takes the breath away from all who see her. This is especially true if the mother did not have such a memory of her own. For this reason, and due to the begging of the daughter, families will spend overwhelming amounts of money to make the fantasy come true. Even single parents who struggle to care for their living expenses will sacrifice what they don’t have to make their children shine like stars for this one night.

With all this expectation comes great pressure which turns into panic the day of prom. Many will shed tears, some will feel sick and all will critique their own appearance before the long-awaited reveal. And then there is the promenade. I remember my sister Linda, preparing her teens for prom and the parade of couples that was held on Ironton High School’s campus. Parents, with cameras in hand, stood with pride adoring the finished product, a young man and young woman walking the path in beauty and promise. It’s like a foreshadowing of things to come for their children.

I did not go to my prom. I would have loved to, but no one asked me. It was a great disappointment. I too wanted to be Cinderella for the night. Instead, I babysat Tonnia and Jim Meadows’ children — children that always made me laugh.

I am not against the prom, but I wish students and parents could realize there is something more important about the evening. The quality of character the individuals have underneath all the makeup, hair, tans and formal wear is what will carry them throughout their lives.

If you don’t get to go to prom, I feel your disappointment. But don’t allow that to lessen your excitement about your future. There is so much more to life than the prom. And I promise, if you focus on creating a life of meaning and purpose, you will have many more special occasions in your life that will have you shining like stars in the night.

In my high school days, the spring band concert was another day to get to dress up in formal dresses. Mom was an amazing seamstress and made most of our dresses. We didn’t have money to spend on frivolous things, but we were very resourceful.

My senior year, my sister Linda made me a dress out of a sheet we bought at Kmart. It was a pink flower print with green vine accents. I thought it was the most beautiful dress I had ever seen.

Had I gone to the prom, I’m sure that would have been the dress I would have worn.

Nora Swango Stanger, a Lawrence County native and Appalachian outreach coordinator for Sinclair Community College, can be reached at norastanger@gmail.com.