Nandini Iyer: Prom? Fun? Maybe after the stress of planning has passed

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It’s that time of year when advertisements and images for prom dresses and tuxedos start popping up on social media or any website you are browsing.

You walk into department stores at the mall and cannot miss seeing piles of gowns and dresses scattered all over the floor, or long lines of girls and their moms outside dressing rooms engaged in lively and animated chatter while waiting to try on more dresses.

Girls are scrambling to find the perfect dress four months in advance and try out an average of 50-60 dresses each, while boys are spending hours searching the internet for creative ways to create a “Promposal,” which is a grand gesture to take a special someone to the dance.


The expectations are high, causing students to be stressed out. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the most exciting and stressful time of the year for high schoolers: Prom!!

Prom, short for Promenade, was created in the 1800s by Otto Rohwedders, to educate high school students on social etiquette. This event included dancing, a formal dinner, and promenade concert.

Prom evolved around the 1950s, when schools started to receive more funding for the event. Prom in the present day has evolved to be more formal; while fall and winter dances are in high school gymnasiums, prom is generally held in convention centers and ballrooms.

Prom is also a heavily commercialized event, as it translates to humongous profits for department stores, as well as prom stores. According to the L.A. Times, from prom customers alone, businesses make around $2.7 billion. Another shocking statistic from the L.A. Times: The average high schooler spends $638 on prom dresses, shoes, jewelry and other things related to prom.

Furthermore, it’s fascinating that teenagers spend these extravagant amounts on dresses or tuxedos that they might only wear once in their lives. In some instances, some girls go to two proms in the season and then stash the dress away for heartwarming memories.

Other than dress shops, hair and make-up salons, flower shops and limo companies also make good revenue around prom season, and students aren’t hesitant to splurge because prom is a night of memories and most parents are happy and willing to indulge them.

Why is prom so stressful? Social media coupled with movies creating all the hype around prom over the years has definitely contributed to making the night more stressful, especially for teenage girls. “Wearing the right outfit on prom night can mean that one's life could become popular on social media sites because of all the attention they receive from those who see their pictures,” according to the parenting website KidsInTheHouse.

Of course, even if they do find the “perfect dress,” many customers get a reality check once they get a glimpse of the price tag and have to settle for something cheaper and not their favorite choice. Additionally, Grand Promposals posted on YouTube have set higher standards of being asked to prom. Students are constantly scrambling for creative ways to “frame the ask” in order to stand out and win the popularity medal. What makes the process even harder is that with all the effort put in, some students anxiously wonder if their special someone will even say yes.


And then there are students who don't know if they will be asked at all, which can cause their self-esteem and confidence to deplete. Although many schools don’t practice this tradition, prom king and queen campaigns are an added stress, as winning the crown can boost one’s social status and popularity.

In my personal experience, at first I didn’t think that it was necessarily important to start looking for a dress four months in advance. However, I soon realized when I started looking in the first week of March, that many stores ran out of sizes and dress options because of the amount of students claiming their outfits right away. This leaves last-minute shoppers with options to either try their luck to find their perfect choice online or pay a hefty price for an outfit that isn’t the most appealing to them.

Prom, despite being extremely stressful for all of the reasons mentioned above, is still an exciting time for high schoolers and I feel it’s an essential part of one’s high school experience. Prom night and the whole paraphernalia that comes with it, is an extremely memorable experience as it serves as a symbol of years of learning, friendship and school spirit for students.

Senior prom, along with high school graduation, marks the conclusion of a student's high school journey and their induction into adulthood. Usually it’s the last chance for seniors to spend time and bond with their graduating class before parting ways and heading off to their future adventures.

Nandini Iyer is a junior at Mayo High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters, .

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