Monday, June 15, 2009

Senior prom, and loss of innocence

We pause this morning to reflect on the senior prom, a break from my usual thoughts on marketing…or perhaps it’s marketing come home to roost.

Saturday night, my beautiful daughter attended her senior prom, the culmination of many weeks of planning, organizing and spending. For readers with no children, or with children still young, this story may come as a jolting surprise. For those who have experienced this phenomenon, you will nod in shared understanding.

The Dress is where we begin, and for those of us who remember our own proms, it’s where we end in terms of any sort of common experience. The Dress is procured, along with “party shoes” to match. Ideally, these purchases would occur at a designer boutique in a city not-too-close to home, avoiding the unfathomable disaster of another prom-goer procuring the same one. Jewelry is next, rhinestones preferred. Undergarments…restraining here, padding and pushing there. For many – not my daughter, I am relieved to say – a desperate diet begins. As do the trips to the tanning salon to acquire a bronze glow that otherwise wouldn’t come naturally for another month.

On prom day, manicure and pedicure are first on the agenda. The shower is midday. Then it’s off to the mall for professional makeup application. The hair salon is last, as an elaborate up-do is sculpted and shellacked into place. (“It doesn’t even feel like hair anymore!” proclaimed one girlfriend in triumph.)

We meet the luxury party bus – others took stretch limousines – at the commuter parking lot beside the golf course, where couples gather and their parents are armed with cameras. I see that someone has evidently arranged for catering for the bus-loading event…cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, veggies and dip. We pose the couples on the green, snapping pictures of each daughter, each son, small groups, everyone all together.

I look through the lens and I can’t help but wonder, who are these people? How did this rite of passage morph into something more like a red-carpet premiere than a memorable high school dance? I see my daughter and her friends – ordinarily fresh-faced, sweatpantsed, pony-tailed and laughing – now kohled and sprayed and bejeweled, busting from their bustieres. It is surreal…and, as the kids like to quip, not in a good way.

The bus loads, the parents wave, and thousands of collective dollars start rolling down the street to the banquet hall. In a few hours, it’s over.

The next afternoon, she sits cross-legged on the couch, still-starched curls akimbo, glasses on, in shorts and a tee-shirt, makeup washed away. She laughs and tells her stories. She’s beautiful once more.

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