I never told my whole prom story (in blog form). I mentioned it in passing in one entry about three years ago, but I never went into detail about the whole tragedy of it. A few weeks ago we were talking about this among friends and I told them the whole story, and one of them – bless her soul! – said: “Everyone’s entitled to a prom night!”. Prom night was a myth I pursued after my own prom had passed. I insisted in participating in my brother’s and my sister’s proms, seeking to capture whatever I thought I had missed in my own. Some would call it pathetic, but I know I was desperate.
My brother’s prom came a few years after my own. I had already graduated from college and had one of those temporary office-clerk jobs after a disastrous stint at a computer systems corporation. I jumped at the opportunity of spending the night at my brother’s hotel room with my then-boyfriend, Oscar. It wasn’t half bad: we scrammed early off the dance floor and beelined to the hotel room, we ordered room service, we got drunk, we went to sleep, and I woke up a few hours later when my brother and his friends came in with a bottle of rum. I had my rum shot, and then it went up my nose. Epic. Hilarious. But not my prom.
My sister’s junior prom was epic too, for all the wrong reasons: I got a flat tire and I had to change it. Imagine that: a girl bedecked in a spectacular, long evening dress full of glitter and satin… changing her car’s tire with great effort, getting all sweaty and dirty (and bloody knuckles too). Yeah, some may see it as a sexy fetish. I won’t judge you, guys, but I beg to differ. Her senior prom was a disappointment too, although I did see one of my elementary school ex-classmates attending the same prom. Maybe this disorder isn’t so strange after all. The Prom Vampire Syndrome.
So what went so wrong that I had to go stealing my siblings’ prom? I’ll tell ya…
It all started on the planning phase, I suppose. Back in 1995, merengue was all the rage (I think it still sort-of is, you won’t find a party in Puerto Rico without its merengazo long set). The artists of the moment were Olga Tañón (complete with pre-op nose) and Tony Vega (where IS he now?), and the class president would simply NOT have prom night without ‘em. These merengue divas were fucking costly, so the budget had to give somewhere else. I’ll tell you where it got cuts: the yearbook (it never got printed. Instead, each of us got it in digital form in a CD-ROM… about 8 years later), and the location for the prom.
It’s important to think about the size of our graduating class: each grade was composed of 9 – 10 classrooms, each classroom had at least 20 students in it. Being conservative, the number would be 180… then take off about 10 (dropouts, people that chose not to go, etc) … 150 – 160? Okay, let’s go with the 150, it’s nice and round. Now add parents and prom date for each one of those students – let’s say, to compensate, that each student brought only one parent and one date – and you get the sheer number of 450 souls to attend the event.
Where was my prom being held?
Parque Julio Enrique Monagas: it was a fucking tiny room at the top of a fucking tiny mogote (flat-topped mountain). The place is perfect for a small wedding, a business meeting … something small. My class prom was not small. I’ve seen hotel ballrooms filled to the brim for a prom of a graduating class of 60 students. My class was NOT small. But they HAD to have Olga Tañón and Tony Vega. I hate merengue, so you can guess where that left me and like-minded people: very, VERY upset and resentful. I wasn’t gonna enjoy Olga Tañón! I definitely wasn’t gonna enjoy Tony Vega!!! Why did I have to lay low and accept this decision? Well, maybe ‘cuz I was way stupid!
Now, on the personal front, you’d think I had more control of the variables. I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted as a prom dress:
(Something like) this, of course, paired with my dearest Doc-Marten-style boots… And I also had a very precise picture (as in: “I had a magazine cutout”) of the makeup job I wanted… minimalist, sweet, just a bit of attention to the eyes, nothing fancy. I was never a huge fan of makeup.
The gown was the first let-down. Money was short, this much I knew, but I was never told. So, when the time came to choose a prom gown, I was painfully aware of the price tags over anything else. I didn’t dare to go over $100, and I ended up choosing an $80 dress in the kind of slinky fabric I hate (you know the one! sticking to all the wrong bulges and seams…) It didn’t even look like a prom dress: slinky black little number, long but only down to my ankles, with a double row of silver-colored buttons down the front, with a ruched section of fabric in the middle, criss-crossed with thin bands of the same fabric … sort of going for classic-greek, but not quite getting there…
Then my mother thought it wise to get me some control top pantyhose AND some control-top panties …
oh, yes! The same! So you can guess how many muffin-tops I had … about a THOUSAND! And I couldn’t do anything about it because I only thought of trying the whole thing out the same fucking day of the prom! Stupid stupid me!
My mother also thought it would be a great idea to have our personal stylist (of that time, she’s long gone, thankfully! Dreadful woman!) do my makeup for me that day. To be honest, I thought it would be a great idea too – I’m less Michaelangelo and more Pollock with my makeup brushes. The woman arrives and I show her the magazine cutout I had saved for months (!!!), told her “I want something like this!” … and to this day, I remember her words “¡Ay, no! ¡Esos ojos de vaca cagona!” (translate for yourself, if you don’t speak Spanish, but … yes, something to the effect of a cow shitting … enjoy!) Then, she proceeded to do whatever the hell she wanted to my face.
And I swear, to this day, that the woman did what no other living creature has dared: she made it look like I was wearing another woman’s face as a translucent mask.
Nothing has ever been more unbecoming ever again.
(and let’s not even talk about The Hair, although, to be fair, I only acquired peace with my own hair within the last few years)
So, feeling completely unlike myself and very self-conscious about my general appearance, we set out to the prom. The first warning flag of All The Things That Would Go Wrong was the line for the elevator: long, serpentine… The ballroom was on top of the mountain, and the only way to get there was a single elevator. Now, why it was taking so long would be a surprise. We were first supposed to walk in one by one as a few words on each student would be read over the mic. I don’t know how in the world they were keeping the order straight: 150 students arriving randomly at any given moment would not make it easy. However, for me, this would be a highlight – or so I thought.
The wait was long and tortuous. My feet were killing me: no boots for me, my mother wouldn’t have it! So instead, I was wearing shiny black high heels. I have flat feet, so you can imagine. I never wear heels.
After more than an hour’s wait, we were finally at the top, albeit still at the end of a long line that ran from the ballroom all the way across a hallway that led to the elevator door. Then I saw it happen: the diva Olga Tañón whooshing past us in a fucking hurry. And then the line started to move.
As I pranced into the ballroom, I realized they had completely skipped the idea of reading anything other than the students’ names as they walked in, so it was “Diana Campo”, quick picture with my father, and that was that! Later on, I learned that Ms. Tañón was in such a hurry that she gave the ultimatum that she either started within 30 minutes, or she was gone (with full pay, of course!). So, any glory that dissenting students would have at least walking into the room was foregone in favor of this fucking bitch.
Moments later my father pulled me apart and told me my mother was feeling sick, so we had to go. I don’t blame her: the ballroom was small, its ceiling was quite low, and by 15 minutes in, I was feeling like fried fish under the spotlights. It wasn’t a nice place to be. I bid my adieus and went home for the night.
So, does everyone deserve a prom night? Maybe.
I was thinking about this today and I realized that maybe I should have taken better control of the variables I could control: the attire, the makeup, the hair. I didn’t have to accept what was being handed to me right off the bat.I could have gotten creative, like sewing the dress or look for bits and pieces off older garments from home or the Salvation Army. I could have practiced the hair and the makeup at home, maybe raid mom’s makeup box. I could have taken the whole thing into my hands and run with it. It was my prom, after all. If it were today, that’s what I’d do.
But then I remembered what was really going through our minds back then: mom was surviving cancer. Plain and simple. There was no time nor energy for anything other than that. My involvement in school issues was limited, competing with my other escape (boyfriend, sex…). The whole teenage-side of my life, I think, was sort of a cardboard facade waiting to peel off at any moment. It was gone long before my senior year, but I kept up with the motions of being a graduating brat. My heart wasn’t into it, though. Had I really been into it like a normal teenager, I would have gotten a $200 dress like my step-sister’s (2 years down the road):
… oh, wait, I did wear that one … to fuck some other boy in his car… jeez, I’m such a smutty fucker. Nah, I don’t deserve a prom. 😉