The pressure behind prom

People shouldn’t feel bad about not wanting to go to prom

Zara Iqbal, Opinion editor

I never thought my decision to skip Junior Prom (JP) was going to be that big of a deal.

With JP right around the corner, I get asked whether or not I’m going to prom almost daily. And every time I say no, most of my friends frown at my lack of enthusiasm about the dance and list reasons why I should go: you can eat heaps of free food and admire the fancy decor, it’ll be fun to dress up with your friends and you’ll regret your decision when you look back at your high school days.

And every time another friend would react with disappointment, my mind started to sway a little. But it wasn’t really because their reasoning convinced me, but because I started to feel a little guilty for not wanting to go.

Prom is somewhat considered the “American rite of passage.” Maybe the conventional image of prom that we often see in teen movies isn’t replicated at MVHS, where we, for some reason, value academics over having a social life. Either way, there is still pressure in terms of attending prom.

Of course, Senior Ball is on a different playing field from JP — having one last memorable experience before everyone in our class goes their separate ways marks the end of our high school career. At the same time, I still don’t think it’s that big of a deal to not go. I’ve been told so many times to go to JP even if I don’t want to that it seems as though the biggest reason I should go isn’t about the experience itself. Because the immediate reaction I get when I tell someone I’m not going to JP is “but it’s Prom!” — as if simply saying the word will give me an epiphany, causing me to change my mind. The determining factor of going isn’t exactly dressing up and hanging out with friends; it’s simply because it’s Prom. It’s weird not to go.

Because contrary to what most people believe, I do like having fun with my friends and I do like social interaction (most of the time). But the idea of prom never really attracted me. Going out of my way to buy a dress, have a photo-op with friends and being pressured to find a date isn’t my idea of fun, especially if I’m going to hang out with people I see every school day (regardless of whether I appreciate their presence).

Of course, I can see why people would find the above reasons attractive, and I’m not hesitant about JP because I want to come off as “quirky” and “different” by not going to such a normalized event. In fact, because I don’t want to come off that way, I do feel a twinge of guilt and pressure to go and be “normal.”

Nonetheless, I think it’s quite silly for me to feel this way. I don’t think prom, specifically JP, is that big of a deal, so I shouldn’t feel guilty for not going. It certainly isn’t up to me that our traditional American values include going to prom, and I don’t have to align with them. However, the great emphasis placed on the event seems, to an extent, pointless. It can pressure others to feel as though they need to spend a lot on an outfit and that they need to find a date when it doesn’t actually matter.

Yes, for some people, being able to look back on their high school days and reminisce about prom and what it meant to them is important. But because I don’t want to go, if, in the future, I think back to the time I went to prom just because “it’s Prom,” I don’t think I’d feel the same way. At the end of the day, I am not someone who truly wants to go to prom. And hopefully a few years from now, I’ll trust what I was thinking when I was 16 because despite what others believe, I don’t think I’ll regret it in the future.