Wednesday, April 11, 2012

a small-town prom story.

I grew up in a town called Arlington, South Dakota: a decidedly country-fried little place. We have a population of less than one thousand people, and we’re located right smack dab in the middle of farm country.

Like any other high school in the nation, prom is quite the big deal. In Arlington, it is usually held in mid-April, though it has been known to creep up towards the end of March. Why so early? Prom cannot interfere with planting season. Period. However, it’s not rare to see a fully decked-out prom couple arrive at prom in a tractor.

I went to four proms at Arlington High School: one as an “attendant,” two as a common attendee, and one as a last-minute pity date. Each one of these experiences was trashy in its own very special way, but none was more trashy than the year I was an attendant.

First of all, allow me to explain the position of a prom attendant. Each year, the two girls and the two guys from the sophomore class with the highest GPAs are selected to be prom attendants. What does this mean? All it means is that we got to walk out first at the grand march, dress up, and make sure the punch bowl was filled. We were the prom gophers (or interns).

In order to fully grasp the experience, I must also explain my sophomore self. This was in spring 2003, when I was still in the throes of my early high school awkwardness. I was asked to be an attendant, and boy, was I excited.

I began my journey as an attendant by picking out a dress from my unfortunate-looking closet: it was the dress I had worn to my cousin’s wedding the year before. According to my 16-year-old dork mentality, this dress was pretty risqué. It had – gasp – spaghetti straps! Now, spaghetti straps are a terrible fashion choice for me, as I am the proud owner of a pair of massively broad shoulders. As you probably know, spaghetti straps do nothing to diminish the size of said shoulders – they only draw attention to them. Itty bitty straps, huge man-shoulders. However, not realizing this at the time, I went ahead with my spaghetti straps. Now, for the shoes! I once again turned to my pathetic closet, and I surfaced with a lovely pair of chunky black shoes with the squarest heel you’ve ever seen.

Every good prom outfit requires makeup, as we well know. I, of course, attempted to do my own. At the time, I had not yet been introduced to the optical wonder of contact lenses. In order to do my makeup, I had to take off my glasses and attempt to see what I doing, which, as you may imagine, found me getting awfully close to the mirror. Picture obscene amounts of silver eyeshadow and poorly applied mascara. Check. The only good thing about my ensemble that year was my hair. My mom, refusing to allow me to completely fail at prom, gave me a very nice up-do that could almost cancel out the rest of my floundering outfit.
Calla, your outfit:
I also must explain the location of the 2003 Arlington High School prom. Our school was made up of an older half and a newer half. In years past, the prom had always been held in the smaller of our two gyms, which was located in the older half of the school. It was the perfect size for decorating and for dancing, which is why (of course) it had been used all those years. However, as luck would have it, that half of the school was condemned in fall 2002. Bummer! Where were the young prom-goers to go?

The school’s solution? Have prom in the band room! I kid you not. The decoration committee covered the walls (which contained the cubby holes and the instruments) and floors with black garbage bags and some streamers. That’s it. That was the prom. A literally “trashy” night.

Of course, the music was just as trashy as one might expect of a rural Midwestern school. We heard all the classics: “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” the “YMCA,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” and the South Dakota classic “Fishin’ in the Dark.” This was the year we had karaoke as well, which was a completely new can of worms.

My subsequent proms weren’t quite as trashy, mostly because we transferred the dance from the band room into the larger gym (the uncondemned one). Also, I learned about now not to look like a complete idiot in a dress. But don’t worry – my other proms had the very same music.

Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t want to trade my trashy prom experience for a classier, more refined evening. After all, a trashy prom (or four) will always be a great story source. 


  1. Calla, you kill me! Who's bright idea was it to have the prom in the band room? I never knew that, and would probably have thought twice about going. Keep up the good missives. Prom is Friday night, come watch and write about this one.

    1. I have no idea who decided that the band room was the best place for prom. It was completely ridiculous, but I will always look back fondly on those black garbage bag covered walls. :)