Here is a rarely discussed fact: Put the word “adult” in front of most nouns, and they become sadder, a bit desperate, somehow clinging to a semblance of youth while at the same time inherently denying it. Rarely does the word “adult” help a noun, because if “child” or “teen” or “underaged” is not specified, the default age group is already adult. It is with these feelings that we confront the New York Times latest “trend” piece, about “adult proms” — rather the same way we tackle “adult diapers,” “adult conversations,” “adult drinks,” and “adult dating.” Embarrassing. But on to the prom part: Prom! Are adults really stuck on the idea that they didn’t do their prom right in the first place, and that they need prom do-overs? Is this where therapy has gotten us? Full disclosure: We skipped our prom senior year because prom sucked. And we’ve never looked back.
Here, then, is the key problem with adult prom. If prom — something you do when you are 17 or 18 years old — is really THE BEST NIGHT OF YOUR LIFE, your life kind of … blows. And if you’re a grown adult desperate to redo that best night ever, may we suggest a beach vacation, perhaps?
Nonetheless, the Times digs into the idea of adult proms with all the aplomb one might find in a fresh-faced girl weighed down by a hideous Jessica McClintock gown and a giant corsage. Adult proms are happening, in cities as far-flung as Green Bay, Wisconsin; Decatur, Georgia; and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Adult proms are allowing adult people to relive their teenage proms — except with drinking, and not having your parents wait up to smell your boozy breath, and not worrying about curfew, and having already lost your virginity years ago (God bless). “Prom the way you always wanted it” — you know, as an…adult. This relies on the belief that prom is actually something good in the first place. But is it? (See: Carrie. See: high school.) Reports the Times:
The adult version, as evidenced here in Green Bay, featured much of the same awkwardness as the high school prom, made only more tolerable with the addition of alcohol. Inside a ballroom, there was the woman wondering aloud all night about where her date had disappeared to. At another table sat the cluster who came for a fun girls’ night out but looked rather forlorn. In a corner of the dance floor, a woman had her arms draped around her date’s neck, while his hands wandered down her waist in a way that would surely make a chaperone blush.
Really, nobody seemed to mind. This was their do-over, another shot at perfection. Or perhaps for some the first chance at an American rite of passage. And for a precious few, a night to re-create one of the best times of their lives.
And so adult women go to adult hair salons and spend money on adult up-dos and to adult malls where they can find adult dresses, and then to the adult salon for an adult spray-tan and an adult mani-pedi…and so on, and so on, until a nice adult dinner at the adult Red Lobster and an adult after-party at the adult Marriott, complete with adult trashing-the-room and adult sleeping-on-the-floor.
Don’t get us wrong: Getting dressed up and going out is enjoyable as an adult, as it was as a high-schooler. But add the word “prom” and all we want to do is vomit in the parking lot — something we have, thankfully, largely outgrown in adulthood. You can’t go to prom again, nor, really, should you even want to. Do yourself a favor and just call it a gala; we’ll kindly forget we ever heard the words “adult prom.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 12, 2011