Why Does My Teen Act Like Prom Is A Freaking Secret Mission?

by Kathryn Mayer
Originally Published: 
Close up of a young man getting his bowtie fixed from prom
Kuzmichstudio / iStock

Teenagers take a simple “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to sharing details from their life with prodding parents.

For some reason, this kid of mine — my fourth and final run through the teenager hormonal machine — thinks this is my first prom rodeo.

What’s a parent to do?

Ask questions.

I’m an asshole parent for asking a barrage of questions about the forthcoming junior prom.

My youngest kid graces us with his presence a mere 3 to 5 minutes a day if lucky — post-practice, pre-shower — and with such limited face time, we like to connect. And by we, I mean me. I usually get a glimpse of this kid of mine around feeding time and am allowed one, maybe two, questions during the pasta shoveling.

I have to choose wisely before the allotted time expires. It’s like a shot clock in college basketball, and too often I bravely take the 3s, yet come up empty. The questions below were not fired rapidly, but instead sprinkled gingerly weeks and weeks prior in an all-out effort to gauge the who-what-where-when of the traditional event.These are the invasive questions (with a few demands added in) I had the nerve to ask about the prom:1. Hey, junior prom is coming! You gonna go?2. Do you want to go to the prom?3. Did you ask said girlfriend yet?4. Are you going to ask her?5. How are you going to ask her?6. Do guys wear tuxedos or suits?7. Did your girlfriend say yes?8. Are you going to the prom?9. Anybody pre-gaming prom parties?10. When do prom tickets go on sale?11. Can you walk your dog?12. Hey, what are your plans for the prom?13. Did you ask her to go yet?14. I don’t want to learn about you from Jay’s mom. Gimme a hint.15. How are you getting to the prom?16. Did you wanna order a corsage?17. Did you feed your dog?18. Hey, what about pre-prom pictures? Want people to come here?19. Who are your friends taking?20. Who are your friends?21. Do you have friends?22. Who’s bringing the booze? There’s a breathalyzer, you know. And then there’s us.23. Does so ‘n’ so have a date?24. Want your friends to come over after?25. Did you feed the dog?26. What’s the plan after prom? We have to talk about that, you know.27. Bonfire is code for blowjobs and beer, you know? Both of which can get you in heaps of trouble.28. Do you have plans for after the prom?29. No sleepover. Ain’t gonna happen. Nope.30. Is she your girlfriend?31. Do her parents know? Are you polite? Do they like you? Are you nicer to them than you are to us?32. There will be no sleepovers, got it?33. You’re gonna have curfew, sorry. How late do you think?34. Are guys wearing suits or tuxes?35. Are ever going to walk this dog?36. What color is her dress?37. Red Solo cups get you kicked off the team. Doesn’t matter what’s in it. Get it?38. You’re going where? Who’s that? Can we come?39. Do their parents serve?40. Who will be there?41. How long will you be staying at the prom?42. How are your grades? Quarter ends soon — am I gonna be happy?43. Did you buy your ticket yet? Need a loan?44. Did you feed the dog?45. You gonna dance? You gotta dance. You’re an awesome dancer.46. You wanna have friends over for hair and makeup?47. Want to invite her family here for pictures?48. You think maybe we should order you a tux?49. Pretend you begged for a dog and I got you one. Will you walk it?50. Want Dad and I to drive you to the prom? Come on, it could be fun!

What did we learn? Nothing. His stonewalling grunts, I dunnos, and shoulder shrugs drove us to drink. (“Us,” as in his dad and me. Not the kid. We don’t serve kids — not ours or anyone else’s, which is part of the reason for so many questions.)

This is just a sampling. I’m sure more were bounced off the back of his 17-year-old head as he left the house each morning, and the back of his ass as he went upstairs each night. To each and every question we’d get a grunt or an eyeroll or an exasperated huff, a mumbling under his breath, yet probably screaming in all caps on Snapchat:


Which might have just been me hearing things, but a mom’s gotta fill the void with something

So this is what this asshole parent knows:

– Apparently he does have a girlfriend, and his girlfriend is his prom date. We asked for proof and got it. She is smart, funny, witty, and beautiful. We like her, in the 5 to 7 minutes we’ve been allowed to talk to her.

– He asked her in a classy, creative, inexpensive way (because promposals are complete and utter bullshit in my not-so-humble opinion).

– Yet-to-be-named friends are renting a school bus to take them to the dance from an unnamed person’s house who is also hosting pictures to which I am not invited but will absolutely crash and tweet all about it so follow me on Twitter for that fun.

– His lacrosse coach gave the entire team a midnight curfew and will be calling to check they are home safe, sound, and sober — so yay for me! My kid won’t be the only boy not allowed to stay over, and I won’t be the freak mom not allowing her kid free access to handles and snacks as a teenage mosh pit of hormones takes over someone’s basement with not a condom to be found.

Prom season is the season of love and angst, a coming of age for high-schoolers all across America and in basements and at backyard bonfires everywhere. The traditions continue and secrets prevail, and it’s an asshole parent’s job to keep asking, keep annoying, keep parenting, to do their very best to keep the ship afloat and their kid outta trouble.

Here’s to hoping the memories made are Snapchat-worthy but not incriminating, dangerous, or landing on the police blotter in our hometown news.

This article was originally published on