From today's Times and News-Star
It may or may not be true that Junior Waverly took me out behind the junior high one day and beat me senseless, and it may or may not be true that I probably had it coming. I would never accuse Junior of making a poor decision. Not to his face. At least not again. I’d probably said something that offended him. Like asking him how eighth grade was the third time around.
In Junior’s defense, he was one of the few guys at school who looked good in overalls, never raised his hand when the teacher asked if anyone had questions, and took off my cafeteria lunch plate only what he felt he absolutely, positively had to have to keep from starving to death before he could get to the convenience store at 3 o’clock, or what we called, in Junior’s honor, The Shoplifting Hour.
Nervously, waiting on the bell: “What time is it?”
“Five til Shoplifting.”
Like that. The closer the bell got to 3, the more Junior acted like a wino hanging around waiting on the liquor store to open.
What I’m saying is, we all get taken now and then, either out behind the school house, out behind the barn, or to the cleaners. That last one is the subject of today’s meaningful, timely essay.
There is something going on today that is needlessly taking money from the pockets of hard-working parents, and that “something” is called “The Prom.” I’m not talking about your daddy’s prom: suit, dance, home. Today it is an Event, as if the implications alone of it being a Junior-Senior Prom don’t make it special enough.
The average cost of going to the prom in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas is $1,203 per couple, says a Visa-based survey. This shocked me: are children getting shot into space as part of their prom? Are we paying them $200 an hour to get out of the house for a night? Are tattoos that expensive?
Some parent with way too much time got the ball rolling and no one stood up to say, “Wait. Are you – what’s the right word? – insane?” Because in my parts, the teens dress in clothes they’ll never wear again, have their photos made together and in groups, de-dress into casual wear, go to eat (at a restaurant out of town, sometimes in a limo), come back, re-dress, go to the dance for maybe an hour, go to someone’s house, back to casual clothes, watch movies and eat pancakes and bacon.
Anything in which bacon is involved deserves better. This is pregame, game and postgame taken to the cha-ching extreme. Homecoming is much the same, so don’t get me started. (The dance is not even the same day as the football game anymore.)
It is too late for me. My ship has sailed, though I can proudly say I got out for less than the average bear. If you are a parent of a child who has a prom in his or her future, either start saving now or put your foot down. Or plan not to eat for a couple of months.
It cost my son a necktie, supper and some flowers to go to the prom. I will always have a sentimental weakness toward him for that.
Capital outlay was a bit more for my precious step-human, but not much. Since she is of the female variety, she was not responsible for food. But she was responsible for wearing a dress. You might not know this, but prom dresses can cost as much as a four-cylinder.
“I will give you fifty bucks, cash, if you borrow a dress,” I told her a month ago. She lit up like Times Square on New Year’s Eve. “Cash,” I said again.
She borrowed a dress, her mom hemmed it, and we sent the dress borrowee a gift along with a tears-of-joy-stained thank-you note since we had saved what amounted to a house payment. Something borrowed, no one’s blue.
There is no shame in a borrowed dress; my prom-bound female teen put on hers and looked like Rita Hayworth before the big dance number in “Affair in Trinidad.” I handed her two 20s and a 10 and asked her to get me Glenn Ford’s autograph. She didn’t know what that meant but it didn’t matter; she still went into the night wiser, richer, and well-dressed. The Prom Trifecta. Best 50 bucks I’ve ever spent.