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Prom progress: Less expense, more safety, less drama

Proms are making progress. Parents and children work together (gasp) to try to ensure a happy and safe prom celebration.

By Guest blogger / May 18, 2012

Earlier this month, Kylie Wodarski, 18, of Rockford, Michigan, heads downstairs to meet her prom date at the The Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville, Mich.

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I’m sure there is still a lot of drama around proms these days – both good and bad drama, but there also seems to be some progress in this cultural institution. My prom experience goes back many years to the time when it was a very big deal (sometimes ordeal). One had to have a date and be asked by the boy, even if he were put up to it by the machinations of mutual friends.

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Guest blogger

Susan DeMersseman is a psychologist and writer living with her husband in the San Francisco Bay area, where she has worked with children – including her now grown children – and families for more than 30 years. When she appears on local media or at parent workshops she is often introduced as a “parenting expert,” a label she describes as her favorite oxymoron (followed closely by sweet 16). She blogs at  Raising kids, gardens, and awareness.

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The dress, well it had to be the most special. Mine was made from a Jackie Kennedy inspired Vogue pattern of silk brocade my brother brought from Japan. And the hair, piled high and stuck together with at least a half can of Aqua Net (that smell still brings back memories).

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Oh, yes, and there was the date. Mine was, in my opinion, the best-looking guy in the high school. My priorities at the time were such that I programmed myself out of Advanced Placement classes to be with him.

The drama back then came from many sources, the decorations, the romantic couples, and the clever ways the guys snuck alcohol into the dance.

Now the date thing is neutralized to some degree. Teenagers often go in groups rather than paired up and they seem to have just as much fun. The awkward, expensive dinner before the prom is now in some cases replaced with a nice little “cocktail” party or dinner provided by the parents and where the parents attend and take gobs of photos. Some schools include a light buffet at the prom site to offset the dinner hurdle.

While a ridiculous expense, the worry over driving is frequently addressed by a group renting a limo. Many parents help with this because of safety concerns. In spite of these changes the overall cost can still get pretty crazy, especially if the family buys into the celebration.

In high school my son was the right “accessory” to be chosen by many girls at various high schools. The girls seemed to choose their entire outfit first and then pick a guy that would go well with it. My son was always willing to wear the right color tie or shirt and even the tall girls could wear their spike heels with him.

One family was so determined that their only daughter have the perfect prom that the dad asked my son to meet him at a clothing store. There, the dad chose and paid for my sons ensemble so that it went perfectly with that of his daughter. The pictures are gorgeous.

In spite of such rare excesses there are improvements in the cost, where many communities offer dress fairs at which girls who might not be able to afford a fancy outfit choose from a large selection of donated dresses and accessories.

The progress has resulted in changes that can reduce the expense, increase the safety and increase inclusion. There will, in spite of all this, be enough drama to create some long-lasting memories.

I don’t know if there is a way to have a teenage rite of passage with out a bit of drama.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Susan DeMersseman blogs at Raising kids, gardens and awareness.

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