The loss of a prom is an odd thing. Prom is an event that – through movies, TV and memories shared by the previous generation, has joined American mythology.
It’s taken its place next to first cars, eighteenth birthdays and graduations as a celebrated rite of growing up. Prom, with its layers of expectation and ado, reigns supreme among school dances. Those typically uninterested may bend their ways for the tradition of prom, and those yet to miss a school dance may add ceremony and glamour to their plans before and after.
Both changes contingent of course, on a chorus of, “but it’s the senior prom,” a statement that is surprisingly persuasive to nostalgic parents and excited graduating seniors. The dress, the limo, a fancy meal out and most interestingly – a chance to see who everyone else came with and what they wore – present a few of its joys.
The canceling of prom is understandably saddening. It’s the great huzzah of the senior class, their last celebration together that truly belongs to them. More than that, prom is something undeniably normal in the United States. It’s a tradition embedded in the cultural mythology of the place – that is why it is worth mentioning the loss.
Social distancing damningly condemns each aspect as a potential transmitter of disease and correctly so. However, prom is not being mourned for just as another school dance, it is being mourned for as another blow in the loss of normalcy. Something as old, admittedly corny and celebrated as prom strikes a different chord.
Normalcy is what everyone is missing right now. High school seniors losing out on their home stretch of fun and recognition comparatively pales to the suffering of many others – to individuals who have lost loved ones, of frontline workers who have gotten sick, and to the many citizens who have lost jobs they needed to name a few. But comparison is not necessary here, however. One individuals or group’s loss does not negate another’s or warrant passing over it without mention or empathy. The stresses of a pandemic have spared no one, imposing losses great and small.
Reflecting, I appreciate the scale of this crisis and look on it soberly, but I, too, wish I could have gone to my senior prom.