Kate Carroll: The True Cost of Being Prom Queen


Prom: an uninspiring weekend where you play make-believe as royalty. You’re pretending that you are something with a $600 dress you’ve convinced yourself that you’ll wear again, until someone vomits on you.

Time, energy, and focus are wasted on an overhyped event that ends in disappointment, disaster or mediocrity. Some of us aren’t even the worst offenders. I was in utter dismay when earlier this month I was added to a group for a different school on Facebook for “PROM DRESSES 2014.” Are you kidding me? The purpose of the group was to avoid any repeat dress offenses. Not only was their drama petty, I just couldn’t believe that it started in March, more than two months before the actual event.

“Promposals” make me cringe. You’re a teen, stop pretending that it’s a wedding. Enough with the white dresses, gross couple-y pictures and open PDA. None of those things are exclusive to prom. Just looking around the halls, holding my spitfire tongue from saying “Stop touching” is a major struggle.

I did attend and help plan Prom 2013. It was a waste of my time and energy. I woke up the day after Prom 2013 and headed to my debate banquet, wishing that instead of awkwardly shuffling my shoulders back and forth on the dance floor, I would have gotten a few more hours of shuteye. Student Council does a great job of encouraging students to attend. The dance is well run, I just didn’t particularly enjoy it. Beyond that, I hated the idea of not being able to participate in something unless you’ve been asked “as a date”.

My major problem with prom is more centered around socioeconomic discrimination. It isn’t cheap. Dresses run about $200-$300, plus flowers, makeup, hair, shoes, dinner, limo, the ticket itself, and after parties. On the guy’s side, tux rental, shoes, tie, flowers, dinner, ticket. In a chauvinistic sense they’re expected to buy dinner/tickets, but ladies, you should be self-sufficient and chip in half especially if you’re not dating. Either way, a lot of money for not a lot of fun. Given the choice between prom and putting more money in a college fund, I know a fair amount of people who forgo the former when graduation, and the first semester college bill is right around the corner. The cost is a social pressure to participate, and the sad part is that there’s not a good way for the school to help assist with that. If you can’t personally afford it, you’re out of luck.

I’m calling for a reevaluation, think about the pressures that are put on others as a result of your excessive spending. A reasonable night of fun with friends and dancing? Sounds great. A night of excess, exorbitant costs and irresponsible behavior? Not so much.

– Kate

Catherine here…

Some traditions were made to be ruptured.

Prom is one such tradition…maybe not to the extent that the whole concept should be trashed, but enough that we should reconsider why we attend such an event in the first place.

Taking limos to prom, in my opinion, is a waste of money.

Girls feeling inadequate if they aren’t asked to prom, is an unjustifiable shot to their self-esteem, and a basic tenet of prom-society that should never be condoned.

Buying expensive dresses, especially when we will probably never wear them again in our lives, is a waste of money.

At the end of the day, you’ll find me at my prom, wearing a relatively expensive dress. I’ll look fancy with my manicure and I can’t deny the fact that I’m excited.

Senior prom is, you guessed it, a tradition at my school that’s been hyped up; people who omit the experience are encouraged to go because “it’s senior year! You hafta go to prom!”

Says who?

The students at my school sometimes attend another fancy dance called PDC (Pre-Debutante Cotillion), that’s kind of like Sadie Hawkens, where the girl asks the boy.

I’ve gone a few times, but my problem aligns not in those who run the whole shebang, but rather, the concept of PDC itself.

It’s a tradition because it’s tradition. Circular logic, do you see? The notion reminds me of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” in which a community follows a devastatingly outdated tradition.

No one knows why it happens; it continues simply because no one has the audacity to challenge its only justification, that it’s been this way in the past, so it should be this way in the future.

PDC isn’t nearly as bad, but a similar frustration emerges because the dance itself only allows girls to bring boys, conforming to a certain style of dance, with everyone bringing along their own version of pomposity that is truly unprecedented in all of my high school years.

I’ve always felt pressured to go; someone asked me why I was going, and I said, “………because it’s PDC.”

But I’m happy that people are starting to shake their heads in disapproval, refusing to condone what is nothing more than an outdated tradition.

The bottom line is that people should be encouraged to do whatever the hell they want as long as they don’t construct some cultural myth about being alienated for not going. 

People who go to prom, please enjoy yourselves. Same goes to you, PDC attendees.

I’m not attacking the idea of prom, or PDC itself, just the way that it’s become a big bad monster on the heels of those who decide not to go.

Thank you Connor for this song:


  1. karmadoc

    I read this post and had a good laugh, it seems “The Prom” hasn’t changed (structure) in the 46 years since I attended. The year I attended was 1968 and the guys treated the prom as their last chance to have sex before getting pulled into the Vietnam war.


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