When my oldest son was a freshman in high school, he came home and told me a story about someone at school who had made some kind of metal sign and brought it to school. “I saw him walking it to his locker and he had his jacket over it to hide it. Then, he brought it to lunch and it said, ‘Will you go to prom with me?’”
If you are a parent of teens or have seen videos online about this stunt known as a promposal, then you know what I’m talking about. Times have changed since we were in school, when a simple (private) prom invitation at your locker or over the phone did the trick.
These days, you are expected to pull out all the stops, outdo everyone, and we can’t forget to document it for social media because if it’s not posted, did it even happen? I’ve heard from several other parents who feel it’s all just an expected part of prom season.
I could tell my son wasn’t feeling the whole over-the-top promposal vibe, but I also know him well enough to recognize that when he’s explaining things like this to me, I have to be very careful not to give my opinion because he doesn’t want it. “Well, what do you think about that?” I asked him.
“I think it’s really dumb. He spent time welding a sign and held it up in front of everyone. Why wouldn’t he just ask his girlfriend in private? Why is it a show? Am I going to have to do that?”
Relieved, I told my son that absolutely not, he didn’t have to do that. Because I share his sentiment: whether you’re with someone or not, if you want to go to prom together, the invite doesn’t have to be a spectacle if you aren’t comfortable.
If you ask me, we put enough pressure on our teens to present as though they have it all figured out. It’s a bit much to expect kids to ask someone to or any other formal event by spending lots of money, taking the time to make a sign, or some other type of extravagant promposal when they don’t want to. I think it’s absurd and clearly, some kids are doing it because they think they have to, which is also absurd.
Sure, if I had a child that wanted to put their time and energy into a big scene, to weld a sign or propose on a baseball field decorated with rose petals while “their” song played right before a game started, great. They can have their moment. The truth is my kids want no part of that.
They’d much rather ask someone, or be asked, in private without the entire town and school watching. They don’t want to put in the effort or spend a crapload of money on a promposal. Prom night itself is a huge expense — the price of a prom dress, suit, and tuxedo is out of control. Then, add in the hair, makeup, and nail costs. Everyone goes out to dinner first, there are expensive after-parties, prom tickets aren’t free and we can’t forget about the limo a lot of kids want.
A friend of mine has a daughter who has been with her boyfriend for two years. When I asked her plans for prom night, she said, “I’m not sure if we are going together.” Just when I thought I’d inserted my foot into my mouth — maybe they’d broken up! — she told me it was because he “hadn’t asked her the right way.” Well, I couldn’t help myself, and I had to ask her what the right way was. Apparently, she told him she wanted him to paint “Will you go to prom with me” on his balloon-filled car and drive it slowly by her lacrosse practice right after school. He really wanted to go to prom with his girlfriend, but he didn’t want to do that and that’s why she wasn’t sure if they were going to go together. No, I’m really not kidding.
I’m not sure when or who started this trend, but it’s ridiculous. It seems to be for everyone else around them and takes the specialness out of asking because it has to be perfectly curated for social media. Not everything has to be shared with everyone. My kids aren’t into this display, and I’m frankly delighted. I'm certainly not going to try and talk them into it simply because a lot of kids are doing it. And even if they wanted to do it, I would support them but I’m not going to be breaking my back to make sure their promposal goes off without a hitch- I’ve watched fellow moms spend hundreds on flowers, tell their children what to say, and tell their son they need to top their friends promposals. No thank you.
I went to prom with one of my friends, after asking him one day while we were walking down the hall to lunch. We went and had a great time. And guess what? Somehow everyone still knew we were going to prom together and we didn’t even have a sign or a huge announcement.
I get that some kids want to do this kind of thing and make it extra memorable. But there are many kids who don't. It makes them feel uncomfortable and it’s too much pressure. Let’s remind our kids that it’s about the experience, not the TikTok video or the Instagram post.
Katie Bingham-Smith is a full-time freelance writer living in Maine with her three teens and two ducks. When she’s not writing she’s probably spending too money online and drinking Coke Zero.