Prom is coming up, and you’ve picked out the best dress or tuxedo (or cowboy hat). You’ve asked out the date of your dreams or planned out the perfect group of friends. Nothing could go wrong for the big night. Until you try on your shoes. Unlike Cinderella, the glass slipper (or Hey Dude) doesn’t quite fit. While realistically, this is unlikely to happen, the idea of shoes not fitting serves as a metaphor for the school dance not fitting the expectations media has placed on it.
A classic coming of age movie scene is the pinnacle prom scene. For example, in The 10 Things I Hate About You, Kat discovers Patrick was paid to ask her out, and Bianca gets revenge on Joey. Or in Carrie, the titular character is crowned prom queen only to be drowned in pig blood seconds after.
I’ve only been to one prom and a few other dances, but I can confirm that nothing very exciting has happened at them. The idea that dances, specifically senior prom, is the climax of your high school career (if not life) plagues media. This leaves students with unrealistic expectations for school dances, and I believe contributes to the dissatisfaction students feel after attending. So, how can students gain a meaningful experience from a school dance, specifically those more inclined to stay home watching Netflix all night?
This is where I must step down from my high and mighty journalist pedestal and admit I’m not quite sure. I’ve been to five school dances, which, if you do the math, means I’ve skipped quite a few myself. At my first few dances, I played a variety of parts such as the awkward high school freshman not dancing, the princess candidate who didn’t really want to be there, and the girl who ditched her date (but we were just friends) to play chess. While I didn’t come home crying after any of these, I also can admit the best part was before the dance, hanging out with my friends.
Despite these less than ideal experiences, I was determined to have fun at my senior Homecoming. I was going to dance, and I was not going to care what people thought. I did dance, and the experience was moderately fun, yet I could not change the fact that I’m not a fan of big crowds or dancing in public, and I cannot force myself to let loose and not care what people think.
After Homecoming, I realized, after many years of denial, that it’s okay that I don’t like school dances. This statement is the main reason I’m writing this opinion piece: to tell you that it’s okay if you don’t like school dances. Of course, if you do, go on living your life and having fun at school dances, but if you don’t, know that you are seen. Because of the idealization of school dances in media, I always felt like I was missing out on this quintessential high school experience, but the media is not a full representation of the entire experience of a school dance. Your experience at a school dance, whether pleasant or unpleasant, is completely valid and makes you no less human than anyone else.
Of course, to include everyone in the human experience, I must remember the group I have yet to discuss: those who have never been to a school dance. There are many reasons to not attend a school dance (if not being able to afford nice clothes is one, talk to the Counseling Center about the Bulldog Closet), but I strongly urge every student to attend at least one school dance. Yes, I said I don’t like school dances, but how would I have known that if I had never attended?
This is where Hayden Kissinger comes in. I was at my senior year Courtwarming, despite my desire to be on my couch watching the Olympics, because I was a queen candidate. As I wandered around the dance taking in the sights, I saw Hayden dancing his heart out. He looked like he was genuinely having fun. The night continued with Hayden being the clear star, leading a successful conga line, and even becoming the center of a dance circle made famous by Snapchat stories. This was the first time Hayden had attended a school dance.
I interviewed Hayden a few weeks after to understand how he was able to enjoy the school dance in his own way, and start the conga line.
“There is this secret. I didn’t actually start the conga line. It was actually my friend Xavier Viesca. He called me over to lead it,” said Hayden. “[I had] no fear at all.”
Hayden also shared advice for people wanting to have fun at school dances even if they’re not inclined to lead conga lines.
“I think they just need to find the fun kids who are trying to lead the conga line and just be their sidekick at the dance. Just follow their moves at the dance and have a good time.” said Hayden.
When asked to elaborate on school dances, Hayden had quite a confession.
“I’m probably never going back to one,” said Hayden. “I was a little too hyper at the dance. That’s not who I am. I’m not a conga line leader.”
Hayden believes anyone can lead the conga line.
“I accessed my inner conga line leader from pure boredom,” said Hayden. “All of my friends were sitting around being boring, so I decided to just dance, and that led to the conga.”
Upon further consideration, Hayden took back his earlier statement about never attending a school dance.
“I might,” said Hayden. “But, it will never be the same. I will never be able to summon my true form that I had that night.”
So, while you may not be able to summon your true form like Hayden, I encourage you to try the school dance. It probably won’t be the climax of your high school career, like the media portrays, but by attending school dances I have learned important things, like self acceptance. Who knows, you could be the next conga line leader. And, if you’re not, don’t worry, I’m bringing Uno to prom, so come play a round with me.