Promageddon: the politics of prom
All is fair in love and war,” says the adage, and for us high school juniors, it’s an unspoken truth that the same extends to finding a date to the prom.
It’s no secret that the highlight of our junior year is the promenade dance, colloquially known as the prom. It’s a night to dance and to spend time with good friends—and for the lucky few, a night for romance. Or at least that’s how we used to view prom night. As with everything else, prom practices have changed substantially since the innocent dinner-dances that our parents attended.
For one, what our generation calls the “promposal”—in which you formally ask your “promspect” to be your prom date—has been moved up much earlier. Most “promposals” used to take place a month or two before the actual prom takes place in March, but now “promposal season” begins in early October. While this phenomenon may seem insignificant, such a time shift is in truth illustrative of the measures of toxicity and desperation that have injected themselves into the nature of the modern-day prom.
The simple, underlying truth about the prom is that it has evolved into something of a status symbol. The person you end up posing for pictures with on prom night—who they are, what they look like, where they’re from—becomes immortalized, usually not by choice. A mixture of media and social influences have manufactured the image of prom night as “the most important night of high school,” and as a result, intense social pressure compels us to meet that expectation.
The more insidious aspects of the prom trace their roots back to that simple truth. Take the new “promposal season,” for example. According to popular belief, if you haven’t asked someone by the end of November, all the good ones have been taken. Thus, while many of the “real,” highly publicized promposals happen around December or January, by then everyone would have “pre-asked” their dates in the October-November scramble, either directly or indirectly.
The natural result is impulse promposals. People end up deciding on promspects much too early, and end up passing over much more compatible dates. This means that for the five or six hours of prom night, not to mention pre-prom preparation, the impulsive promposers find themselves with dates that their personalities don’t jive with, so to speak.
There’s also the concept of “ahas,” which means “snake” in Filipino but has evolved to mean “stealing someone’s date.” Almost everyone has been ahas-ed or knows someone who has been ahas-ed. In many cases, ahas-ing has torn longtime friendships asunder. But while most people are quick to frown on ahas-ing in principle, in practice it happens anyway.
This is likely because in the mind of an ahas, no one else will do. To him, it’s either to ahas or be ahas-ed. While it’s easy to condemn the actions of an ahas from a distance, many are unable to resist succumbing to such a despicable measure.
Last, there’s the matter of setups, or the lack thereof. Since time immemorial, getting set up for the prom has been a staple for the vast majority that are unable to find dates on their own. The process normally gets outsourced to a friend or family member with appropriate connections.
In principle, getting set up seems to be a reasonable process. It ensures that the dateless are able to get matched with partners best (or the closest) suited to their personalities. Recently, however, getting set up has taken on a negative connotation. This sentiment is founded on the complaint with most setups: that once you agree to even just meet the person, there is no easy way to get out of the setup. “Jumping ship” on a setup is often looked down upon, even if the match is quite clearly inappropriate.
What this means is that people end up having to make judgements about potential setups before they meet, basing all their information on rumors and questionable Facebook stalking.
The result is that many end up rejecting a setup with a not-so-desirable appearance but an agreeable personality, precisely because the process of finding out is too risky.
Therefore, the consequences of such a practice are twofold: The ones that agree to a setup end up with a “good-looking” date with whom they have nothing in common, and the ones that don’t are unable to find a date at all, which defeats the purpose of a setup entirely.
But it isn’t our fault that the prom has become like this. We are merely respondents to deeper social phenomena that threaten to swallow us whole should we refuse to acquiesce to them. The blame does not lie with the impulsive promposers, the ahas-es, or the hasty setups, but with the media and the society that have constructed such a dangerous image of the prom.
What was once known as the most important night of high school has become one of the most ruthless, and it’s every junior for themselves in the game of the prom.
Steven Sy, 16, is in Grade 11 at Xavier School.
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