For most of The Seattle Times readers who responded, the cost of tickets, clothes and dinner was enough to keep them away. Others were protesting the Vietnam War, weren’t allowed to take the date they wanted or were too sick to attend.
It’s prom season, and as high-school students prepared for their big night, we asked readers who skipped the prom to send us their stories.
For most, the cost of tickets, clothes and dinner was enough to keep them away. Others were busy protesting the Vietnam War, weren’t allowed to take the date they wanted or were too sick to attend.
An unlikely couple
It was my senior prom at Linden High School in New Jersey. I was going with Joe. We were, as they say, “going steady.”
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A most unlikely couple, he was a big, burly, handsome football player. I was fun loving, very studious and a teacher’s assistant. But somehow, we “clicked.” His gold football hung around my neck and his varsity sweater graced my shoulders.
And happily this year, my mother had allowed me to choose my prom gown. Black taffeta, strapless, with a skirt to the floor. It was lovely!
Life was good! But what I was feeling wasn’t good. Flushed, warm, blotchy and very itchy. I had the measles and was ordered to bed. My most contagious period was over prom weekend.
Joe came to my house that Friday night and asked my mother if he could see me. If she agreed, that meant a boy would be in my bedroom, most unacceptable back then.
Standing at the bottom of the stairs, she allowed him 10 minutes to visit with me, see the gown on a hanger over the bedroom door, and give me my corsage. Sweet guy!
I was convinced this was the worst disappointment I would ever experience.
Life of course proved me wrong. And I did get to wear the gown a few months later to the senior play.
Let me thank you for again remembering one of the favorite stories from my 85 years on this earth.
— Bobbie Royalty, Issaquah
Protest, not prom
Prom? What prom? We didn’t have one! I graduated in 1971 from the same Brooklyn high school that Bernie Sanders attended 12 years earlier.
Clearly we were all interested in other things and not spending money on silly prom dresses. It was the height of Vietnam War demonstrations and “anti-establishment” sentiment.
I watched as materialism increased in the ‘80s to now become the accepted norm. Good for students who have more enlightened activities to spend money on than prom night.
— Eileen Weintraub, Lake Forest Park
Too busy with protests
I graduated from a New York City public high school in 1969. Our class was so involved in protests against the Vietnam War, there was virtually no interest in having a prom. I believe the final decision to cancel was made when the creepy guy who showed up every year to rent out the world’s ugliest tuxedos reported he was unable to rent out a single one. I have yet to encounter any fellow graduates from the time who feel they missed out on something important.
— Richard Samuel, Seattle
I did not attend my high-school prom in 2004. Having attended an upper-middle-class high school on the Eastside, I doubt that most of my classmates let the costs deter them from attending, mainly because their parents were paying. But for me, even $20 was a significant sum because it represented my family’s food budget for the entire week.
Suburban poverty is a very real thing, and it’s growing. It’s masked by desirable ZIP codes and good schools, but there are plenty of students like me who agonize over decisions that require extra money, such as attending dances, playing sports and even eating lunch with friends in the cafeteria (ashamed of being seen in the free lunch line, I would rather forego food or eat my friends’ leftovers). As senior year drew to a close, not for a second did I consider attending my high-school prom.
It’s ironic because I am now married to a man who went to over 50 dances in high school, including nine (!) proms. He just cannot fathom why anyone would skip an event that (for many, but not me) defines the culmination of the high-school experience. There are many reasons for skipping the prom, but for me, opportunity costs were simply too high.
— Missy Kim, Seattle
No same-sex date? Not going
I skipped prom for a couple of reasons.
First, I’m gay, and it would have been impossible to take a same-sex partner to prom in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1991. I’m happy to say that has changed.
Second, I didn’t see the point in spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on one mostly forgettable night. Tux rental, flowers, limo rental, fancy dinner, prom tickets, post-prom party tickets and other so-called “necessities” add up quickly. Many of my classmates also got hotel rooms for prom — yet another large expense. Prices of these items have only gotten more insane since then, as have the elaborate rituals that are now “expected” as part of prom. (“Promposals”? Really?)
Instead of prom, I worked a shift at the grocery store since my co-worker classmates took that night off.
Do I regret skipping prom? No way! I don’t feel like I “missed out” on anything. Another plus: There are no embarrassing photos of me standing stiffly in an ugly, ill-fitting tux next to a prom “date” I didn’t want to be with anyway.
— Cameron Satterfield, Kent
Future husband didn’t ask
The year is 1963, my senior year and my last chance to go to the prom. Many of the girls in my class had already been asked and were fantasizing about the big event. I had a guy in mind who might actually ask me. In fact, he asked if I was going to prom, but I later realized he had no intention of asking me. He just innocently wondered if I was going.
Even though no one ever asked me to the prom, I decided to be a good sport and joined in the fun of decorating the gym. The prom theme had something to do with flowers and water because we certainly made lots of flowers. I went home exhausted and reality hit that I was going to graduate without being asked to the prom.
The week after the prom, life continued on. My life was not defined by being asked to the prom. Now in 2017, I would have been part of the new era that friends can go to the prom as a group, but that is hindsight.
The interesting note to this scenario is that the guy I had hoped would ask me is now my husband of almost 50 years. I hope that puts this issue in perspective.
— Kay Jenness, Buckley, Pierce County
Better things to do
People used to say that I “skipped” my prom. In my opinion, I just had better things to do. My then-peers in high school probably gave little thought to my absence and neither did I in missing their company for a night.
Perhaps that sounds either arrogant or “sour,” but squandering $1,000 to $2,000 on tuxedos or my potential date spending twice as much on a dress and enough hair spray to keep her bangs perennially rigid in the foulest of weather was just simply dumb.
In retrospect, I have likely spent as much time writing this letter as I have in the last 21 years in “missing” my senior prom. At the time, I worked washing dishes and made a few extra bucks so I didn’t have to work as hard in a job near college the following year.
It turns out that on the night of my senior prom, I was home sober by 11 p.m., and then got to respond to car wrecks as I was a volunteer firefighter. I must say that watching a classmate getting a DUI/MIP in front of his intoxicated date was a much better lesson in life than attending any socially awkward gathering of extroverts.
— Jason Berman, Olympia
There’s not a whole lot to it. I had gone to a few high-school dances before (Winter Ball, Homecoming, TOLO), but none of them were standout experiences. None were unambiguously bad, but they weren’t particularly fun for me. This had nothing to do with the girls I went with — I was friendly with both of them at the respective time periods, and we enjoyed each other’s company just fine.
However, I am a pretty hard-core introvert. Given the choice to hang out among strangers or stay in, I always default to the night in. I also never really respected traditions imposed by peer pressure. I never liked mid-90s or 2000s popular music (the era in which I was in school), and never felt a draw to social events outside of those in the classroom.
Dances never seemed exciting, and the only times I ever asked a girl to a dance was because I thought she would enjoy it. We basically just ended up bored.
So when it came time to ask someone to senior prom, I didn’t see the point. There weren’t any groups I particularly wanted to join on a group date, nor did I want to bore someone by going through a charade pressured by “tradition” without my enthusiasm behind it.
I’ve since heard that there were two girls who wanted me to ask them (one of whom I had previously taken on such dates), but I couldn’t compel myself to go through the song and dance (pun intended).
I don’t regret it, however. I’ve since remained equally averse to social traditions I don’t think I’d enjoy.
— Eric Lundquist, Seattle