Prom isn’t for everyone. Most of the time, it doesn’t turn out to be the Taylor Swift music video that pop culture makes us think it is. The typical plot, especially in films, goes like this: The boy picks the girl up at her house. When they arrive at the prom, there’s a slow-motion shot revealing beautifully decorated tables, the dance floor, and all of their schoolmates all dressed up. If the protagonist goes stag, he or she summons up the guts to ask their crush to a slow dance. The happy endings of romantic comedies are full of couples, yet when you think about it, most of them are straight. Where is everyone else?
“I remember in my senior year prom, I only danced with guys,” recalled a male friend of mine who was known in co-ed high school for his bubbly personality and his knack for getting along with people. Yet for boys in private schools, sometimes holding his sweetheart close during a slow dance amid straight couples is something easier said than done. There are girls who want to wear suits and would rather ditch awkward set-up dates to dance with their girlfriends instead. There are boys who want to wear gowns and become prom queens. There are so many people in the spectrum of sexuality and gender whose ideals of prom are left only to daydreams because they feel held back by school rules and peer pressure.
“I wore a blue cocktail dress because we had to wear a dress. I probably would’ve worn a suit if I could, though,” said someone I know from an all-girl private school. Some schools impose some really baffling measures on what to dress or what to wear, like requiring dress designs to be submitted ahead of time to make sure the dresses aren’t inappropriate. Gown straps are literally measured with rulers, as if the difference between five and six centimeters can determine if a girl is showing too much skin. On the other hand, girls who would rather wear suits aren’t allowed to do so, and end up feeling uncomfortable in a gown on a night when they should be enjoying themselves.
A woman who was in a lesbian relationship at the time of her prom told me, “I felt like the prom wasn’t really for me because I couldn’t bring the person I was dating at the time, while everyone else had their significant others.” Some girls from her school ended up ditching prom altogether, deeming the whole affair of dressing up and finding dates useless. There are bolder students who choose to do what they want but risk being sanctioned by the school, like those who choose to wear whatever they want regardless of their gender. But there are still a lot of kids who are still exploring the many facets of sexuality that aren’t ready to do so in the open just yet. However, even straight people are getting fed up with old-fashioned rules.
“My batch wanted me to be both prom king and queen,” said my friend from a public co-ed school, “but when the teachers saw the tally sheets, they decided themselves na lang.” His batch mates wanted a break from what was traditional because prom was predictable to them. He won by a landslide, and even if the teachers changed the results, his batch mates still all knew who should’ve been crowned twice.
Reinforcing all the binary of gender or sexuality leaves a lot of people left out. After all, prom should be about fun, whether you’re straight or queer, single or taken. Prom itself might be ridiculously overrated and nothing more than a night where you get to dress up in fancy clothes with your friends, but what’s wrong with having a good time?
Things are turning around, though. These days, a lesbian in a tuxedo can go with her gay friend and win Best Couple at a private school prom, and have all their friends cheer them on. Who cares if adults or conservative teachers disapprove? Even if believing in the idea that love conquers all is something left to the most hopeless of romantics, no petty school rules or disapproving adults should keep you from dancing with the one you love.