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Promposals

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Let the record show that while I never attended my high school prom, I did get asked.

My suitor was an older kid named Wally who, though a year or two out of school, still hung around the hallways trolling for chicks a la Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused.

"If you don't go to your prom," he told me, "you're going to regret it every day of your life. There you'll be: 35 years old, in your kitchen, toasting Pop Tarts for your kids, and you'll look out the window and say damn! I didn't go to my prom."

It was an apocalyptic vision, to be sure, but I had no trouble refusing him. For one thing, I was a pretty devoted punk rocker at the time -- and you could hardly show up to a dinner dance at the Terrace Inn with blue hair soaked in model airplane glue. So I ended up happily spending the evening with two girlfriends; we poured ourselves some forbidden creme de menthe and watched an old Cary Grant movie on TV. Strangely, I've never once regretted it.

But now that it's prom time for my own daughter (for whom, it now occurs, I've yet to toast a Pop Tart), I'm suddenly getting kind of excited. I'm even enjoying the endless dress-and-shoe quest, nimbly hopping from one Toronto boutique to another with the grace of one who has never owned an Afterbirth or Dead Kennedys album.

On prom night I've heard there will be a photo-op, where we parents will congregate in a local living room to drink champagne and document the blinding radiance of our teenagers before limousines come to whisk them away.

It seems that proms are becoming special again, and the biggest sign of this is the 'promposal.' A promposal -- if you don't know -- is a very special prom invitation. Unlike Wally's charitable doomsday warning, these elaborately popped questions are dead romantic and can be kind of expensive, too. They typically involve things like rose petal trails and rented Cessnas, plus a ton of adolescent male ingenuity. They are proof that chivalry abides.

On the one hand I think this is just great, and I speak as one historically incapable of stirring great romance in boyfriends (I was once presented with a Calgary Flames poster on Valentine's Day, selected "because it was red"). So when I hear about a guy leading a female classmate on a day-long scavenger hunt, culminating in the sight of nine of his best friends wearing t-shirts that say "Will", "you", "go", "to", "the", "prom", "with", "me", "Maddie"... well, it really seems like the kind of thing you have to get behind. Doesn't it?

Don't nod your head so fast. I mean, imagine this situation: what if some poor schmo spends hours spelling out his prom invitation with thousands of elaborately lit tea-lights, then rents a crane to hoist the girl of his dreams up in a satin-lined box so she can read his achingly lovely question... and she then turns to him and says, "Like, I'm already going with Dylan." Dylan, the cuter one. Who asked her over the landline, while he was busy texting someone else. What then? Heartbreak, that's what.

Then attend the sad tale of James Tate, the Connecticut teen who, with the help of his buddies, spelled out his promposal in giant cardboard letters taped to the school entrance. His girlfriend was thrilled, his principal quite the opposite -- in fact, she banned him and his co-conspirators from attending the prom altogether, despite a worldwide protest campaign conducted via Facebook. Aaaaahhh!

It's a lot dodgier than a wedding proposal, that's for sure. Over the years, I've had the cockles of my heart melted by lots of those, screened on the Jumbotron at Leafs and Blue Jays games. Of course the lady always says yes in these circumstances -- she probably knows the asker pretty well and has been waiting quite a while, patiently watching a boatload of sports along the way.

But promposals are different: they're real leaps of faith. And, when you think of it, great acts of courage on the part of boys who make them.

So for that reason alone, I do hope the promposal trend continues. It takes guts for one person to ask another out, no matter how he or she does it. And to James Tate, I can only say: Cary Grant's a kindred spirit, and great company for any romantic soul on prom night. Just leave the creme de menthe in the cupboard, where it so rightly belongs.

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