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Former prom-goers, one and all, raise your hand if you
still remember the color of your corsage. Your ride to and from the prom—town car or limo? Parent’s
sedan? Make and color? The height of your heels? The titles of even three of the songs you danced to that
evening, and whether you kissed anyone on the dance floor?
Stumped? Me too, which is why I was stunned by this number:
$1,139. That’s how much the average American family will spend for their teen
to go to the prom this year, according
to Visa Inc.’s annual survey.
But don’t worry! Visa has all kinds of tips to help
prom-goers and their parents save money on the big event. Such as? “Many restaurants offer special menus
targeting prom couples,” offers the “Tips” section of Visa’s Plan’It Prom app.
“Look for restaurants that offer discounted rates for multi-course prom
dinners. Eat great while spending less.”
Whoa! Dinner out?
At a fancy restaurant? This was not on our agenda way back in—ahem—1986,
and I went to a fancy private school on Los Angeles’s Westside. I mean, my
school pretty much defined “excessive” in those days (much to the dismay of my
frugal parents). But even we ate at home.
Or at the prom. Or … heavens, I don’t
remember what I ate or where I ate it, but I know it was not in a four-star
restaurant. (That was reserved for the Sweet Sixteen parties I went to the
previous year, but that’s another story.)
Then there’s the makeup tip: “Visit your local mall or
department store’s makeup counter and ask for a makeup consultation. … Enjoy
your professional makeup job at a fraction of the price.” OK, let me get this
straight. Girls are hiring makeup artists to do their face for the prom? I
had one professional makeup job in my entire life, an hour before my wedding,
and I worried that that was excessive.
I’m starting to see how this all adds up, quickly.
Of course, the prom was a huge event for me and my friends,
too. By spring of my senior year, I’d already missed the junior prom and four
winter formals. Dateless, every time. I was determined to snag a warm male body
and drag him, if necessary, to the Senior Prom, held on the deck of the Queen
Mary in Long Beach, Calif. This was not a minor feat, as I went to an all-girls
school and I was not in the cool crowd. The cool crowd partied with the guys
from the boys school on the weekend. My crowd did all-female jaunts to the
But somehow—and today, I can’t even remember the details—I managed to find a boy named Mike, sometime around March or April, who asked
me out on a few dates and said “yes” to my prom invitation. We went in June,
and this is what I remember:
My dress was white, a strapless affair with
tulle and lace (like a bride’s), which strikes me now as absurd and almost
disturbing. It was also not particularly flattering.
The Queen Mary is a better venue for tourists
than prom-goers, and Long Beach Harbor is more industrial than romantic.
Three years after our prom date, Mike came out
So, boys and girls of 2013, this is my message for you:
You are not about to enter some prom reality show. You are not turning into a
celebrity for a night. You are a teenager, going to a really nice dance—with
all that that implies.
The night may be lots of things—but probably not worth
$1,139. Save your money for college. I hear that’s getting pricey, too.