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Jennifer Graham

Blight of passage

Isn’t it time we got rid of prom and saved all that money?


AS HUMANKIND advances and our understanding of the universe increases, intelligent society abandons loathsome practices of the past, such as leeching, sideburns, animal sacrifice, and AOL.

Now, isn’t it time we take the biggest leap of all and do away with the high school prom?

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Not since the OWN Network has anything been so overrated. As a rite of passage, the prom is as relevant today as dial-up Internet. But we see the prom with Oprah-vision, and continue to defend its existence while looking right at evidence proving that it’s dead. Or should be, anyway. Like mosquitoes and the Gingrich campaign, some things outstay their welcome on the planet.

A century ago, when “promenades’’ were first getting started, they were harmless fun, a chance for young people to dress up and strut their stuff before the existence of malls.

Of course, back then, we let children play ball games in which there were actual winners and losers. Back then, Natick still had the Redmen nickname for its school sports teams. Now, we’re so protective of our children’s feelings, so nurturing of their self-esteem, we’ve eliminated all potential sources of discomfort on school grounds.

Except, of course, for the prom, which apparently was hiding under the stadium bleachers when the self-esteem police conducted its sweep.

It’s a rite of passage, yes, for the estimated 112 people who attended a prom and enjoyed it. Of course, half of them were in the closing scene of the first Twilight movie. For everyone else, those who attend and those who do not, it’s school-sanctioned agony. Not only for the kids, but for their parents.

It’s a rite of passage, yes, for the estimated 112 people who attended a prom and enjoyed it. Of course, half of them were in the closing scene of the first Twilight movie.

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I say this having just written the third check for the prom, with the actual event still more than a month away.

You’d think schools would eliminate proms during a recession out of compassion for parents who’re taking out second mortgages to pay for gas. The last two years of high school are already the most expensive time to have a kid, what with the cost of the car insurance, cellphones, the SAT, the ACT, college tours and applications, $70 yearbooks, class dues, class trips, caps, gowns, senior portraits, and iTunes.

Add to all this, the prom.

The tickets. The tux. The dress. The hair. The nails. The photos. The limo. The dinner. The flowers. The post-prom party. The miscellaneous waxings. If you’re not paying attention, a lavish prom can exceed the cost of a frugal wedding.

Then there’s the mania of it all. In Hopkinton, where I live, the girls have been posting pictures of their dresses on Facebook for months. It’s all they talk about.

If public schools exist for the intellectual betterment of our children, the Massachusetts Board of Education needs a promenator on staff. Like Homeland Security, I’ve been monitoring the prom-related chatter, and it indicates no new intelligence until Memorial Day.

A confession: I did not attend a prom. I wasn’t asked, and in that day and age, you didn’t go stag. Now, self-actualized kids without a date can go to their prom alone. That’s progress, yes.

Less certain is whether it’s progress for Prom Kings and Queens to be chosen by lottery, not popular vote. The intent is well-meaning enough, but Quasimodo as King of Fools is troubling regardless of the manner of election.

Prom Kings and Queens, really, in this day and age? We may as well still have beauty pageants. Oh, wait. . .

There’s an off-Broadway musical called “Zombie Prom,’’ which is appropriate because, like zombies, the cult of prom refuses to die. Alarmingly, there exists something called a “Second-Chance Prom,’’ in which grown-ups who should know better stage a prom for people who didn’t go in high school, or who want to have the experience with their spouse.

Thanks, but I’ll pass. Time and avarice teach there are better things to do with one’s money, and I’m getting alarmingly close to an age in which rites require a priest.

Jennifer Graham is a writer in Hopkinton.
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