As if we needed another sign that things are out of hand–on the heels of preschool graduations, first grade college prep, and elaborate, multi-event wedding extravaganzas, comes prom dress registries and the “promposal”, over-the-top rituals that are expensive, unnecessary and indicative of the ubiquitous influence of celebrity and social media culture.
Shopping for a prom dress? Formal stores across the U.S. now keep registries of the prom dresses other young women have chosen, to avoid the apparent horror of duplicating someone else’s dress. The Wall Street Journal reports girls and moms leaving stores in tears, unable to find a dress that hasn’t been spoken for yet.
And yet, many people seem to abide by the culture: “Nobody wants to go to prom and play ‘Who wore it better?’,” said Madison Chalfant, 17, from Horseheads, N.Y., in the Journal article, echoing the fashion coverage that often follows the celebrity award show circuit.
“They want to lock up their dress before everybody else,” says Julie Paget, co-owner of All About the Dress, in Armonk, N.Y., noting that the shopping, and the hype, begins earlier each year.
The average prom-going teen will spend $919 on the dance this year, according to a survey from Visa, which offers suggestions for curtailing some of the costs associated with the modern high school prom.
And then there is the promposal, an elaborate and often showy way of asking a date to the prom, which itself has an average cost of $324. While creative and original prom invitations can be charming, there is something about the trend of high school students spending a lot of money to create social-media-ready promposal experiences that seems somewhat hollow and more about outdoing others and creating a version of instant celebrity than it is about asking someone to the prom. Perhaps this is a natural outcome–a trickle down from the increasingly dramatic (and YouTube-ready) marriage proposals, pregnancy announcements and baby reveals of the high school students’ elders.
Don’t get me wrong–it’s great to inject fun and flair into coming-of-age and other rituals. I just wonder if elaborate and showy behavior represents some kind of new norm and if celebrity and media culture is somehow overshadowing childhood and our expectations, and kids’ experiences, of it.