Preparing for Prom: the ultimate price

May 1, 2014

The first memory of seeing prom on TV was when I watched the movie A Cinderella Story, with Hilary Duff at seventeen years old dressed in a huge beautiful white gown and Chad Michael Murray playing her dream guy. I was eight years old, and had no idea what prom even was, but I knew I wanted to look like Hilary Duff at that moment. I never realized how much of an uphill climb it would be to get to that “fairytale” prom. However, as I continued to get older, I realized just how unrealistic a prom like that would be.

The most predominant issue I came across was finding a date. From the moment I could understand words, my parents have lectured me not to date anyone while in high school, because it would be a distraction. So, I became friends with guys my age, but not close enough to date or even go to prom with.

About two months before prom tickets were being sold, my parents began to interrogate me about having a date. After all of those years of warning, my parents suddenly flipped around and asked why I had no plans for a date. After I made it clear that I had no intention on going with a boy and was planning instead of just going with friends, my parents (mostly my mother) threw themselves into the next task, barraging me about my plans with my friends: what was I wearing, how was I going to get there, were we going to take pictures, what were we doing afterward, did we have any plans?

I wanted to scream in frustration, but I simply smiled and went along with it; after all, I’m only going to have this experience once, and my parents simply want the best for me.

A second issue I incurred was a debate over whether or not my group of friends should rent a limousine. The four of my friends and I were torn about the decision to rent a limo to go from Brand Park to The Castaway, which is a ten-minute drive. The minimum charge per person was $60, and we are quite literally sitting in the limo for five minutes. Everyone in the group was uncomfortable or insulted in some way over the ordeal, and it became a topic of discussion for days after it was decided not to take a limo.

One person in particular was extremely pushy about getting her way, and made several of the other group members uncomfortable. But, I can understand why she wanted to spend that much money for a five minute drive; prom only happens once. But why is prom so significant?

I’ve heard reports from some seniors who say that the also spent between $500 and $1,100. According to a recent CNN article, the average West Coast family is expected to spend $1,125, and the average female who goes to prom now spends $1,068.

Preparing for prom was certainly an expensive process; my parents spent a grand total of about $800. I had to purchase a dress, belt, purse, shoes, jewelry, corsage and a limousine, not to mention the actual prom ticket. I had to set appointments for my eyebrows, hair, makeup and nails.

What in the world did I spend $800 for? I’m going to be there for four hours. What benefit is there to spending so much money in such a short period of time, what makes it socially acceptable? I don’t spend this much money to attend a relative’s wedding. I probably subconsciously know I’m helping stimulate the economy.

The crazy thing is, I’m not the only one spending this such money. I’ve heard reports from some seniors who say that the also spent between $500 and $1,100. According to a recent CNN article, the average West Coast family is expected to spend $1,125, and the average female who goes to prom now spends $1,068. Senior Sarin Mousessian spent $700 towards preparing and attending her prom, a bit over half the average amount, according to the CNN article. A second senior, Petra Beglarian, estimates that she spent a total of $1,500, with $1000 on just her dress.

“Prom is all we talk about,” Mousessian said prior to last month’s event at The Castaway in Burbank. “It takes up almost one hundred percent of our conversations.” When asked why she spent so much money, Mousessian stated that the reason behind all of its discussion are because “it’s a high school experience everyone looks forward to, and the excitement about the event leads to a big hype about it.”

But not everyone was breaking open their banks to attend prom. One LA teen made her dress out of soda can tops, which are used to open the drink. At Clark Magnet, Tina Stephens used her skills gained during her senior project to make her own prom dress. “I made the waist of my dress too small, and I was trying to put in on, but it wouldn’t go past my shoulders,” Stephens said. “I was panicking, but my mom calmed me down and helped me shimmy into it.”

At The Castaway, glittering gowns by the dozen glided in, as students walked in to be checked in by staff. Senior Hayk Israelyan attended prom with his girlfriend, junior Nickoulet Babaei. “The atmosphere of the event was great,” Israelyan said. “I really liked the candy bar, and the 2014 ice sculpture was done really nicely.”

Senior Nooneh Khatchatourian said she has a great time. “I had a really great time, it was better than I thought it would be,” Khatchatourian said. “I really liked the decorations, and the music was good. My friend Guia and I were dancing the entire night.”

“Nooneh and I basically got that party started,” senior Guia Lim said. “We were ready to dance but the DJ wasn’t playing dance music. Then he started playing ‘To Be Real’ and we agreed to just go for it. My shoes came off two minutes after the music started, but it was worth it.”

Prom has become a rite of passage.

I was genuinely surprised with how much my group of friends danced. I was expecting them to be active, but they were really outgoing. We started dancing immediately, and didn’t sit back down until we were ready to leave. The general consensus from what I have heard is that the music selection was okay, but the DJ wasn’t great.

He played around 40 minutes of Middle Eastern music, which must have been nice for some, but I got the feeling that others were out of their comfort zone when they were dancing. I didn’t think the DJ did a great job mixing the music. A song would fade and the music would pause before the next song would start; it wasn’t a smooth transition. He also repeated a handful of songs, which I had never experienced before.

Going home that evening, I understood why prom was such a big deal, and why so many girls spend so much money getting ready. Prom has become a rite of passage. Having the opportunity to dress up and have the night be about you only happens a handful of times in a person’s life. The great part was, the Class of 2014 had the budget to make prom that much of a better experience, so the ambiance of the evening only made it more memorable.

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    FrankMay 5, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    Who pays $1500 for a dance? I don’t even pay that much for rent.