“Who are you going to prom with?” “Are you going to prom?” “Are you going stag?” “Will you go to prom as my date?”
These questions are common among juniors and seniors in most high schools across America. These questions for most parents conjure ideas of “going steady” and long term boy/girl relationships and a real live date. Our world is changing.
I have attended hundreds of proms in the last 10 years. As a DJ, Videographer and Photographer. I have a few more to DJ this year before the season is over. I mention this only because, I am a parent of teenagers, yet as a DJ I see the prom scene from an entirely different perspective.
Many schools have abandoned the traditional Formal Ball atmosphere for the prom. Prom committees made up of mostly teens have done the “denim and diamonds” look, the “flip flops and summer dresses” and the near risqué “club scene.” I have witnessed young men in dresses, young ladies in tuxes, dresses so short or so tight that dancing becomes a peep show and tuxes with velcro rather than buttons… I know because their shirts came off before the dance was over.
Wow has music changed! Just in the ten years I have been DJing, the speed, pace, lyrics, nature of music has shifted so drastically. When I went to prom, you could pretty much determine what groups of friends or cliques were one their way to the dance floor by the song that started. Was it rock, country, blues? Was it fast, was it slow? Today, I arrive at a prom with 175,000 songs and may get requests from every decade, every genre, every era and style. From Hip Hop to Trip Hop, from Cumbia to Cross over. Taylor Swift, Lil Jon, Vanilla Ice, Def Leppard, Queen, Bruno Mars, Skrillex, Stoney Larue, and Darius Rucker – all of these will pack a prom dance floor!
The dance floor.
While the music may change, the dancing seldom does. It starts with a small circle in the middle of the floor, far from the lights and from parent’s eye view of the chaperones, the most daring, risqué dancing stays there all night. This dancing would make Elvis tremble, hip gyrations that got him in trouble are nothing! Then a ring of “observers” will dance in a circle to shroud them, then the mass of the crowd. A good DJ will transition the dance floor with a line dance like the Cupid Shuffle or Cha Cha Slide. Usually a slow song will break up the “booty dancing” but not always. If the crowd lends to it, a good Cumbia will serve like a cake mixer and really get things moving. If you are part of the DJ decision, ask a lot great questions and plan to spend a lot as well, nothing ruins a once (or twice) in a lifetime experience like a bad DJ!
In the last decade, group date has gone from several couples as a group enjoying an event together to a more loosely defined “relationship” status. A group date may mean several interchangeable friends with benefits. It may mean a group who choose to go together to prom so there is no social pressure of “going home with who you came with.” It may simply be a group of close friends who do everything together from study group to family vacations.
The prom couple has been redefined. Some couples are the traditional dating couple we remember. Some are not. As society redefines marriage, prom couple is redefined as well. Boys dating boys, girls dating girls, friends as a couple, and interchanging couples. I have seen and chatted with all forms of these couples. They are all the same, in their own way. They all have the same pressures, tensions and anticipation of dating and being seen together “as a couple.”
With all that goes into preparing for prom, the limo, the photos, the after party, the relationship stress, the rumors before and after prom, the break ups, make ups and hook ups, it is no wonder the suicide rate is so high at this time of year. It is heart breaking to imagine the most exciting time of life becoming more painful than it’s worth, but it happens. As parents, we need to play objective coach in this season.
Look for trouble like sudden break ups just before or after the dress or tux is paid for. This is a sign of tension looming. Both guys and girls these days seem to crave the hook up after prom, more than the committed relationship. The result is intense pressure by the “gang” or circle of friends to go stag and keep the your options open. For a serious couple, this means trouble.
Alcohol has always been a favorite part of prom for many teens. “We are basically adults now. We can vote, or be drafted to war next year, it only makes sense for us to be able to drink too.” The group think and peer pressure can be overwhelming. Prepare your teens for this conversation based on your family values.
Designer drugs are a growing issue for prom night. With the legalization of marijuana in some states, access and price are less of an issue than ever before. Additionally, the synthetic versions are popular and some are deadly. There are versions of pot with 70-90% THC, that are capable of taking lives after one joint. Parents, please emphasize to your teens: marijuana is still a drug. Both marijuana and alcohol can impair judgement. Protect your teens. Arm them with knowledge.
Regardless the music, the attire, the date, or the drama, these teens all want the same thing. They all have the same goal at Prom – FUN! Off the charts FUN! They all want to make a life time of memories in one night. They all want to experience the prom in their own way, with their own excitement, their own style, their own passion, their own friends. Prom is a last chance for many to let loose and be themselves before the pressure of college or the working world. Parents, you can love them best by giving them enough room to be themselves, but guidelines and core values to keep them safe!
Expert Contributor: J Loren Norris is a mentor to teens at Trinity High School in Euless, Texas. Loren is also a parent of four, a leadership and communications coach for ministry leaders and owner of ThatGuyRocks.com and ThatGuySpeaks.com.
Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/ThatGuyRocks/photos_stream