Today, in one of my college classes, I was asked about the worst injury I ever received. A couple accidents came to mind—the three stitches I received on the right side of my head the day before Thanksgiving when I was ten, the time I fell off of a wall and landed on a bush five feet below, the two skinned, bruised knees I got in a bike accident in the middle of the night on a really steep hill—but none of these incidents came close to my actual answer. Instead, I looked calmly at my professor and said “The broken toe I got at my high school prom when someone at the Hillary Clinton rally pulled the fire alarm.”
Let me explain. My high school prom was held in the convention center in May 2008, the height of the primary run during that election season. Hillary Clinton was holding a rally in an exhibit hall while 250 high school girls and their dates danced the night away in the ballroom. Someone, either an adolescent prankster or a hard-core political type, pulled the fire alarm, forcing high schoolers and campaigners to flood the sidewalks outside the building and mingle with the protestors and limo drivers. Somewhere, between dancing and sitting on my purse on the sidewalk, I tripped over my own feet and either severely sprained or broke the second toe on my right foot. Because I am just that graceful. Honestly, though, while some of my classmates complained and cried that Hillary Clinton had ruined their night of nights, it made my prom all the more exciting, simply because I wasn’t that excited about prom to begin with.
I know, I know. Prom is supposed to be the highlight of a girl’s senior year. But for some unknown reason, I hated dances. I didn’t like crowded rooms with lots of people (claustrophobia), I didn’t like loud music (ligyrophobia or melophobia) and I really didn’t like it when all those things collided. I attended exactly two dances during my entire high school career—our costume dance junior year dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz (my best friend was the Scarecrow) and my senior prom. It must be said that I did not and do not hate dancing. I quite enjoy it actually. In fact, my Dorothy costume was a relic from my eleven years of ballet school. I don’t know why school dances seemed so horrible to me. I would rather stay home and pumice my feet or something, I guess.
But back to prom. What does prom mean anyway? Allegedly, it’s short for promenade, which is basically a glorified stroll. So how did it come to be associated with a fundamental right of passage? But I digress. I went to prom for three reasons. Reason Number One: Everyone else was doing it. All my friends were going. I might as well go. I was only going to lose six hours of my life or so, and it seemed at least slightly more fun than studying for final exams. Reason Number Two: I was going to have to give the school $105 anyway, so I might as well get a meal out of it. Reason Number Three: I didn’t want to tell my daughter in 30 years that I didn’t go to my prom. It seemed so important to so many people, so I might as well see what all the fuss was about.
And then I broke my toe. Which made the evening infinitely more enjoyable. I don’t remember what we ate for dinner, and I only know our colors were purple and white because I thought it ironic that my prom’s colors would shortly be my college colors. I remember dancing and laughing and taking the requisite pictures with favorite teachers. One of my best friends and I had decided to stop looking for dates because it was too stressful, so we just hung out with each other and our friends and their dates, taking all the pressure out of the situation. I wore a dress I had purchased at a vintage clothing store for $15 the previous year, and I wore my hair out of its usual messy bun, just for the special occasion. All of my friends were in a flutter about flowers, but someone handed me a dandelion and I was set. In short, I didn’t consider my prom to be worth anything special because it was going to be special no matter what I did. I put in just enough effort and then I just had fun. So really, I ultimately succumbed to the ideal of prom: dress up, go out, be crazy with your friends. One last night of youthful fun before graduation and college and real life.
Prom isn’t my favorite high school memory but it’s one of my most ridiculous. Why? Because at my high school prom, I broke my toe and someone at the Hillary Clinton rally pulled the fire alarm. Yeah, that’s right. My prom story kicks your prom story’s ass. Night of my life until that point? Probably not. But on the other hand, every night afterwards has to top a fire alarm, a Clinton and a broken toe. And that makes going to my prom totally worth it.
“Chaperones don’t enforce morality; they force immorality to be discreet.” –Judith Martin