“I’d say so.”
Scotty knew whom he wanted to ask to the junior prom: Jill, from AP Biology. He just didn’t know how to ask her. And as any sixteen-year-old Romeo-in-training can attest, the “how” is infinitely more important than the “whom.”
His peers—guys not just at school but across America, for the past five or six years—have set the bar almost impossibly high as far as promposals are concerned. You have the Showstoppers, who make the whole school their stage, by asking their potential dates over the intercom or at an assembly. Or the It-Takes-a-Villagers, who enlist the aid of friends, teachers, principals, even custodians in their quest for a dance partner. (Example: teacher hands out a pop quiz, except one girl gets a special quiz with a single question: “Will you go to the prom with Joe?”)
And let’s not forget the Spellers, who inscribe “P-R-O-M?” on every imaginable surface: on ceilings, in glow-in-the-dark stars; on car windshields, with a thousand sticky-notes; and, of course, on food items—donuts, cupcakes, and pizza (delivered to the date’s front door by an unsuspecting pizza-guy).
Scotty didn’t know how he could possibly top these Promposal Wizards. He only knew that his attempt had to pass the C.U.B. Test: it had to be Creative, Unique, and Bold.
“Here’s a thought,” Scotty’s mother said one afternoon. “Why not just ask her—you know, with words?”
“Are you kidding?” Scotty scoffed. “No one does that anymore.”
“I don’t know. It seems like it’s all getting a little out of control…”
A little? Scotty thought to himself. A little out of control? It’s ridiculously, outrageously, obscenely out of control. All of it. He knew senior girls who spent over $700 on their proms. If everything else about the night is over-the-top, why should the asking be any different?
“Maybe you should try something simple,” Mom continued. “Buy a single rose, go to where she works, and just ask her. Girls love that kind of stuff.”
“No, it has to be a Grand Gesture,” Scotty said. “Remember the three criteria: Creative, Unique, and Bold.”
“Wow. You’ve given this a lot of thought. I didn’t think guys even cared about proms.”
“We don’t,” Scotty assured her. “But when one guy comes up with a clever idea, we all have to scramble to think of something better.”
“So, all this madness is the result of an over-developed, hyper-masculine sense of competition then?”
“Well, that… but it’s also about hedging our bets,” Scotty explained. “It’s harder for a girl to turn you down when you make such a public display of the whole thing.”
“Or you can look at it another way,” Mom countered. “You’re afraid that she might say no, so you want to make the whole asking process as impersonal as possible.”
Scotty considered what she said for a moment. But only a moment. “This is how it’s done now, Mom,” he insisted. “So you want to help me or not?”
His mother shook her head. “I just wonder what you guys plan on doing when you get older, and you want to ask someone to marry you. If you’re going to such lengths for prom, what will you do for an actual marriage proposal? Pay NASA to write ‘Marry Me?’ on the moon?”
“Now you’re being absurd. Focus. I’ll throw some ideas out, and you tell me what you think. How about I’ll make an elaborate YouTube video, involving all of her friends and family, like that guy did to the Bruno Mars song a few years ago?”
“Sounds like a lot of work.”
“How organizing a flash mob?”
“Even more work.”
“How about a Flamingo Flocking kind of thing, where I go to her house in the middle of the night and spell out the word ‘PROM’ in pink flamingos on her front lawn?”
“How about I buy her a kitten, and I attach a fake prom ticket to its collar? And then afterwards she gets to keep the kitten!”
“No, no, no! Scotty, you can’t involve a living creature in your crazy scheme– especially since the odds are pretty good you might not ever talk to this girl again after this one night!”
Scotty gave up. His mother clearly didn’t understand. But her words must have seeped through because later that night, Scotty thought of a brilliant promposal.
Was it Creative? Well, not necessarily. But it was definitely Unique, something no one at school would even consider. And was it ever Bold. In fact, it might be the boldest thing he had ever done.
The next morning, he was going to walk over to Jill while she was at her locker and say, “Would you like to go to the prom with me?” In a million years, she’d never expect it.
He toyed around with his mom’s idea of buying her a single rose. But then he thought, “Naahh.” Just seemed too much.
Note from Mark: Please keep the family and friends of Maren Sanchez– the young woman from Milford, CT who was fatally stabbed on the day of her prom just over a week ago.