My Big Fat American Prom

9:30 AMHeather

I've been hitting some pretty hard topics here lately.  Today, a lighter topic to discuss amongst ourselves.

My Big Fat American Prom could totally be a hit reality show on TLC.  In fact, if the network should start airing such a show--remember who thought of it first.  

Perhaps you've watched an episode of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (Come on, no shame.  It's the train wreck that is hard to look away from...and those Irish accents are intriguing). Lest we pride ourselves on our ability to avoid such over-the-top nonsense in our American culture, we actually have our very own version when it comes to prom these days.

I know this is true, not because I have a child who has or is attending a prom, but because of two conversations on social media within the last month.  Two different friends, who do not know each other, recently lamented what they had been hearing about how prom is going these days.  One friend was dismayed about the cost of prom dresses, according to some recent posts from those trying to resell the dresses that they had originally paid $2,500 to $5,000 to wear.  

Yes, folks.  That is more than all of my prom dresses, college formals AND wedding gown combined. I was the queen of borrowing dresses from friends.  And in the case of my wedding dress, from my sister.

This friend's status about the cost of prom dresses hit a nerve.  Because last time I checked, there were dozens of comments agreeing with her concern about this trend.  One mom made mention of a Mommy Mafia to try to stop the madness.  Other moms said no way, no how.  Not my daughter.  

Okay, so not our daughters.  Apparently, we are all THAT family who bucks the trend.  Yet, someone out there is setting the bar terribly high.  

So high, in fact, that the national average for money spent on prom in 2013 was over $1400.  The projected average cost for 2014 is over $1900.  This includes the dress, tux, flowers, dinner, limo, tickets to prom, etc, etc.  Another friend posted this statistic and asked for feedback.  At last check, over 65 people had commented.  Most of them in shock and awe and not in a good way.

HOW did we get here?  Why we are spending that kind of money for prom, setting a standard that just has to be continually surpassed as our children plan bigger and better things such as their wedding?  Being so extravagant that it becomes a "keeping up with the Joneses" rather than a good time within reason. Sure, some people can afford it without blinking an eye.  But does that mean they should spend that much?  Other people can't.  Yet they do.  In fact, my research today said that single parent homes and families whose annual income is UNDER $50,000 tend to spend MORE on prom than other families. 

Oh, yes.  This is so reminiscent of my blog post last fall, Moms Against Mums.  Consider this post the sequel.  Because it's all about the same thing.  Excess.  Getting so caught up in our First World Problems that we start down a slippery slope and actually become frenzied about such things as the PERFECT dress, the PERFECT hair and nails, the BEST limo, the GREATEST pre-prom dinner.  

Completely oblivious to the fact of how far that money could go toward bigger issues such as world hunger. Or orphan care.  Or human trafficking.  My new acquired world changer mentality is showing, I know.

Listen.  I lived in Lampasas, Texas, in high school.  I paid maybe $100 for each of my prom dresses.  Drove in my date's car.  Or his parents' car.  There was not even a McDonald's in our town at that time.  No pre-prom dinner.  Except the ONE year we drove to Austin--but I know it was not anything over the top.  I don't even think it required reservations. But it was still memorable (well, except I don't remember the restaurant.  Just the good times).

The most fun and unique thing about our high school prom was and still is the actual Promenade. You know, "the stroll or walk, especially in a public place, as for pleasure or display" (Webster's dictionary).  Promenade, folks.  As in PROMenade.  It was FREE.  And one of the most fabulous things about our school prom, in my humble opinion.  

You see, our town had a river running through it.  Prom was at the local VFW.  (Yes, city folks.  NO fancy hotels in Lampasas.  All we had was the VFW and we liked it).  The river was near the VFW.  So, before we entered prom, all of the couples lined up.  Parents and grandparents and siblings and more cameras than the Hollywood paparazzi lined up to take photos.  While we all made the walk by the river, over the bridge, across the other side and back.  

We were our own little high school parade.  And I can remember how important I felt as I walked along, showing off the reasonably priced dress I'd purchased, the hair that my sister did, and the make-up done by non other than myself.  

It was good, cheap fun.

So, not only is my wallet screaming out about the current average cost of prom, but so is my good sense.  Because honestly, money can't buy happiness.  Whether you have the money or not, we must consider the message we are sending to our kids when we go over-the-top with such events.  Yes, these are rites of passage.  But there are plenty of GREAT ways to have an incredible prom experience without breaking the bank.  

Because that child all dressed up who is the belle of the ball will be heading to college soon.  And that costs money. 

How about doing some research on gowns and comparison shopping?  Or [gasp] buying a dress that has only been worn once by someone else?  There are a million ways to score a fabulous dress without breaking the bank.  Check out outlet locations of big stores, such as Off 5th Avenue--the outlet for Saks Fifth Avenue.  

What about doing your own nails?  Or asking your child to pay for those items that they want to splurge on but you don't?  A great work ethic is a good way to build self-esteem and responsibility into our teens.  

Check out Groupons or Living Social deals for meals or limos.  Split the limo with other couples.  Save the limo for only senior year.  In our technology and information age, there are a million resources at our fingertips to help us research how to do prom on a budget.  

Listen, I get it.  Prom is fun and can be such a magical time for our teenagers.  I'm not begrudging that at all.  But I am not a fan of these big fat American proms that skew our children's sense of reality and can feed a sense of entitlement.  

Prom can be just as much fun when done on a budget.  In fact, I think it's more fun when planning and research translates to a greater sense of appreciation for using your money wisely.   

Bigger is not always better.  Unless you're talking about my 80's prom hair or the crowd lining the Promenade in Lampasas, Texas. 

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