Full disclosure: I hated prom. Growing up, there is this expectation that prom will be the most *~mAgIcAl~* night of your life. For me, this was not reality.
My reality was that I made the poor decision to get my first spray tan and then proceeded to get a sunburn on my chest, leading me to stand in the beach parking lot at sunset, horrified, as my date slowly peeled a long piece of orange-tinged skin from my body while my mother snapped away with her camera. Needless to say, I don't have any photos from that fateful night.
Given that #dark time in my life, you would think that I would be vehemently opposed to promposals. For those not aware of this phenomenon, a promposal is the act of asking someone to prom, usually in an elaborate and very public way. This can include twerking in gold shorts, 1,500 balloons, reenacting The Book of Mormon -- you get the idea. And I am a sucker for them. I love them in the exact same way I love Chipotle burritos and Taylor Swift songs in that they will never, ever get old. (Like, ever.)
Though promposals were not A Thing when I was in high school, it was still difficult to not roll my eyes upon reading yet another headline announcing the next big epidemic that is apparently plaguing "the teens" today. (You know, along with the Internet destroying their brain cells, as suggested in a PR pitch I recently received in my inbox.)
In "We Must Save Our Teens From the Scourge of 'Promposals,'" Jezebel writer Kelly Faircloth calls promposals "emotional blackmail" in that girls feel cornered into saying "yes." She further highlights a CNN report, which states that promposals increase the potential for humiliation and social pressure. According to Jarrod Chin, director of training and curriculum of Northeastern University Sport in Society, the "emotional fallout can be damaging" if you get turned down.
I am not disputing this. But do we tell our students not to apply to their dream school because there is a chance they could get rejected? Should they not try out for the varsity team or the school play because they might get cut?
I get it: Everyone's doing promposals right now and you might feel left out if you don't get one too. I'd like to imagine it's a lot like being in your twenties where it's rare to not wake up to a "WE'RE ENGAGED!!!" Facebook status screaming at you on Sunday morning while eating soggy scrambled eggs (alone) in bed.
But these concerns assume that the prevalence of promposals results in lots of sad young women just waiting to be ceremoniously asked to prom. When in reality, teenage girls have taken the promposals into their own hands in a way that proves how fun and harmless the trend really is. Underneath all the cheesiness that is promposing, it's an opportunity to be empowered. You don't need to wait for someone else -- particularly a dude -- to pop the question. Our awesome teen blogger, Celeste, proved this when she defied gender stereotypes by asking her friend, Matthew, to prom in a blog post right here on HuffPost Teen.
Not only was the promposal a success (Matthew said "yes!"), but the response from Celeste's peers was overwhelmingly supportive, as can be seen in a small sample of congratulatory tweets below:
— HuffPost Teen (@HuffPostTeen) April 2, 2014
— Jackson Barnett (@jacksonbarnett) April 2, 2014
— Quincy Bulin (@quincylauren) April 2, 2014
As Celeste writes in her piece:
The tension among girls "waiting" to be asked is tangible. The murmuring circles of girls wondering by who or when or how the next promposal will take place are incredibly deflating for morale and feminism in general. My lady peers seem to be waiting for boys to ask them as herds of cattle wait for their turns at slaughter houses. It's outrageous, annoying and frankly, old-fashioned!
Turns out, other girls feel the same way -- and they're doing something about it, like these 26 other kickass young ladies who also went against the double-standard when they asked their friends, boyfriends and girlfriends to the big dance in some seriously creative (and adorable) ways. Girls are realizing that they don't need to wait around for someone to ask them to a dance.
Yes, some promposals are ridiculously over-the-top and yes, some promposals may just be an excuse to catch the attention of your celeb crush. But they also have the power to make you feel confident and emboldened -- whether you're asking a friend with a cupcake or your boyfriend of four years in skywriting -- which is important. (And for the record, if you do choose to ask someone to prom, there are plenty of simple, non-attention-grabbing ways to do so.)
In the grand scheme of high school, teens -- who are statistically more stressed out than adults -- aren't agonizing about prom. They are worried about the SATs. They feel the pressure to get into a great college. They struggle to find part-time jobs to pay for said great college. I'm not dismissing the idea that not getting a promposal (or feeling obligated to prompose) isn't anxiety-inducing, but when we're talking about what's really keeping teens up at night, suggesting that it is promposals trivializes their legitimate concerns. If we're going to have a conversation about what's stressing them out, let's start with the bigger issues at hand and stop patronizing them.
There is no shortage of things you can stress about in high school. We know this. But prom -- and promposals, for that matter -- isn't (and shouldn't be) one of them.