Why is Prom Stressful?

Sofia Ruiz and Madison Alvarado

Junior Riley McCormick sits glossy-eyed and brain-fried at her computer, mindlessly scrolling through dresses, each image just a blur of color and a price tag. She is several hours and multiple websites in, and still hasn’t even come even remotely close to finding the dress. Until, finally, it catches her eye. She clicks order and progresses to the next step in the process: Facebook. A few seconds later, she has placed her claim on her dress, ensuring she can finally get a good night’s sleep knowing that the most stressful part of her spring (besides testing and finals of course) is done.

If only she didn’t have to worry about finding a date, somewhere to take pictures before the event itself, and book appointments for hair, makeup, eyebrow waxes, nails, and dress fittings. She can’t remember what it was like to be stressed only about school.

So when did prom evolve into such an extravagant event? The term itself is the word “promenade” shortened, which refers to the procession of guests before a formal event. Prom started at colleges in the 1800s but spread to high schools in the 1930s and 1940s. Miramonte held its first off-campus prom in the 1970s and in recent years it has been held at Round Hill Country Club, and will be held at the Scottish Rites Center this year. So while this won’t be anything close to the first time Matadors dress up and get ready for a formal school dance, students seem to be getting more and more stressed each year at the prospect of what should be a fun night.

Amid the 2 a.m. study sessions and talks of college, juniors should get to look forward to a night of dancing and fraternizing with classmates. It should be a break from the stressful day-to-day life of a high school student. Instead, the junior class ages ten years at the thought of flowers or dates.

The first issue with prom is the intense build up to the event itself. Many people consider it to be one of the most pivotal nights of high school. It has been dramatized in countless Hollywood films as the best night of a teen’s life and as it approaches, any and all conversations seem to gravitate towards it, being pulled by some invisible thread as juniors anxiously ask about dates, dresses and pictures. Not only does this stress juniors out in the moment, it puts way too much pressure one attendees to make it the “perfect” night.

For girls, the largest source of nail-biting stress is finding the perfect dress. To make this Odysseus-level quest even more difficult, girls take to Facebook to claim dresses in a race to put “dibs!” on any and every single dress that catches their eye. Although it seemed premature to many junior girls, this year’s Facebook group was started on December 21st, a full three months before the actual night. Comments like “when even is prom?” and “lol I don’t even have my Christmas dress yet” highlight the question in every girl’s head: why are we starting this so soon? It adds pressure that has no place in the minds of already stressed students just trying to make it through their junior year.

Guys, on the other hand, have a huge pressure to ask their dates to prom. Although junior girls do quarrel over which sophomore guys to ask, junior boys are expected to do most of the asking. There is always the possibility of rejection, and the balance of whether to ask a friend or someone in whom they are genuinely interested. Girls, on the flip side, feel the stress of not having much control over their date, because they are expected to say yes, especially if a prospective date shows up with a flashy poster and flowers.

Dress and date stresses aside, prom certainly places a strain on the wallets of parents and students alike. Each year the price of this event seems to rocket higher and higher and higher. Prom itself has become a market that preys on the image of “the perfect night,” an idea that has been endorsed by Hollywood, department stores, and other companies who are just looking to get their share of the profit. The priciest item by far is the dress, which can vary in price but can cost hundreds of dollars. This doesn’t even include shoes or accessories to go with it. Salons can charge a pretty penny (even $100 in some cases) for a hairstyle that will fall apart in a few hours, and makeup can add at least another $50. Add on a $30 mani-pedi and a $100 ticket, and you’re looking at a night that could potentially cost at least $500.

So maybe it’s the technology that allows us to see every dress and prom asking, or the peer pressure to have the perfect date, but something needs to give. Prom should be a night to forget the stress of the academic world with friends, not another thing added to the plate and several hundred dollars taken from the wallet.