For all the fancy trappings and buildup, most people’s prom experiences never quite live up to the as-seen-on-TV expectations. But here’s a real-life story that just might have you believing in fairy tales — about a Chicago boy who was ditched by his so-called friends on prom night but walked away a winner.
John Richards, a DJ for Seattle radio station KEXP, read a letter on May 31 about the high school senior, Jackson Loop, that had been sent by his mother, Sheila Loop; he also played the mom’s request — LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends.” Jackson had been excited to go to prom with a group of band friends, the letter explained, but on Saturday, May 26, the day of the prom, he got a group text saying they weren’t doing pre-prom pictures, so he waited until 6 p.m. to get dressed up in his brand-new, custom-tailored suit.
“And then he waited, and he waited, and he waited,” Sheila wrote. “No one responded to his texts or picked up his calls. His younger brother and sister and I watched him as he started to realize that he was being ditched and I have to tell you that in my 18 yrs of parenting I have never felt so much pain. It was mixed with an indescribable amount of rage. This was… painful. Then, after he changed out of his suit, he saw all of their pre-prom pictures on Facebook, and he all but collapsed in the kitchen.”
The saddest thing is that Jackson ultimately wasn’t too surprised that he’d been treated this way. He had often told his mother that he felt like an “invisible, throwaway loser.” His whole life she’s witnessed his struggle to fit in.
“He’s always been on the fringe and really wanted to be part of a group,” Sheila tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It wasn’t until high school band where we thought, ‘Oh, great! There’s going to be band kids!’”
But the band kids who Jackson thought were his friends actually weren’t all that kind to him; he’d told his mother that they’d left him out of their group on a recent trip to Disney World, as well as on other occasions.
“I’ve been kind of blind about it,” Jackson says, partly blaming himself for allowing them to hurt him like this. “I kind of showed them how to treat me. Like, ‘They can do whatever they want, I’m all right. I can be in the back.’ But I never really liked it. … It really hurts me when it’s almost every time that I’m just in the back, tagging along, and barely anyone is talking to me.”
But there was a happy ending to Jackson’s story — thanks to another, more authentic group of friends, made up of juniors in the band. They saw what happened and sought to right the wrong. One of those friends, Sophie, texted Jackson’s mom that Saturday night, asking her to sneak his suit into the trunk of his car on Monday, which was Memorial Day.
So that Monday, after doing some CrossFit to blow off steam, Jackson headed over to Sophie’s house for what he thought was a “regular hangout.” His friends, all dressed in formalwear, greeted him at the door, shouting, “Happy fake prom!”
Recalling that moment for Yahoo Lifestyle, he says, “I was flabbergasted. I didn’t know how to respond. I’m in the bathroom changing [into my suit] and I kind of shed a tear a little bit, because no one has ever done this for me, really ever. … This is what it means to receive a gift from friends who are doing something, particularly for me.”
The group spent the afternoon posing for pictures and eating “fake prom” cake, and the contrast between what real friends would do for him and what the other kids did was enlightening for Jackson. While the kids who had ditched him gave him a lame excuse about being “disorganized,” he can now see through their behavior and doesn’t think he’ll speak to them again.
He adds that he feels a little wiser about friendship, and he has words of advice for anyone else who may be similarly misled.
“You may feel like you belong in a place and you’re in a great group of friends, but make sure that they’re taking care of you as well,” he says. “Listen to your gut. If you feel pissed off about something and feel like they’re not treating you well, then you’re probably right. It took me a long time to figure that out.”
Jackson has also realized just how many potential friends there will be in the world once he leaves high school and goes off to college.
“You’re going to find plenty of people that will find you interesting and will actually care about you in the end,” he says. “There are 7 or 8 billion people; at the same time, we feel like we’re isolated with these few groups of people, and if they’re gone or you decide not to be friends, then you’re alone. But there are plenty of people out there. Even outside of our country.”
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