The dress. The limo. The corsage. It is that time of year and the prom hype is in full swing. High school seniors dream of dancing the night away with their BFFs of the past four years, and having that one last slow dance with their dream dates. Prom is nostalgic, exciting and so often a disappointment. Luckily, those on the cusp of saying goodbye to childhood and hello to college (or a gap year) have popular TV shows to prepare them for the realities of their night to remember.
1. Get on the prom committee
No, seriously. Do it or don’t complain. Think of those who attended Glee’s McKinley High and had to embrace Brittany’s dinosaurs theme. At my last reunion, we still mocked the “Stairway to Heaven” motif chosen by our prom committee, which had been hijacked by a group of Led Zeppelin devotees, of which I was not one. Also, the episode highlights the rebels, Kurt, Blaine and Rachel, who not only protested prom but staged an anti-prom. They eventually changed their collective mind and headed to the dino dance with the rest of the gang. I knew a number of people who boycotted prom to prove they were too cool for such kid stuff. None of them ever did anything that night that was more interesting or enviable.
2. Relax, it’ll all work out
On Gossip Girl, everything that could go wrong for Blair’s fairy-tale prom plans did, from her corsage to the limo. Yet she still made her entrance in a glittering mass of black-and-gold Marchesa. And Serena got out of jail just in time to show up in Christian Dior. To make sure Blair’s dream of being crowned queen came true, her knight in shining armor, Chuck, stuffed the ballot box in her favor. At my prom, we looked under our plates to see who had the red sticker. It wasn’t me. But the girl who got it was very nice and wore her crown well.
3. There will be unrequited love
Invariably, there will be someone wishing that he or she was there with someone else. In the case of Dawson’s Creek, Joey went to the Capeside High prom as Dawson’s date, yet slow-danced and exchanged sweet-nothing whispers with Pacey, while Dawson and Andie looked on. When I was a junior, I went to my boyfriend’s senior prom. Every time I turned around, the date of one of his friends was in his lap, hanging on his arm or asking him to dance. Really? Some people have no shame.
4. Pre-prom breakups are a thing
Sad, but all too true. Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Buffy is brokenhearted when Angel does the dump just days before her senior prom. In order to not wallow, a distraction is mandatory. In Buffy’s case, she had to battle a pack of hellhounds threatening the event. In the end, she decides to brave the dance solo, and is surprised by both her classmates who give her a Class Protector award, and Angel, who shows up for the last dance.
5. Unfortunately, there can be scheduling conflicts
While One Tree Hill‘s Haley and Nathan were vowing to have a romantic evening, Peyton’s stalker showed up as she was getting ready to leave for prom and decides now of all times to hold her hostage in her own house. Honestly, he couldn’t wait a day? In my senior year, my school and my boyfriend’s school scheduled prom for the same night. We went to mine. What? You’re surprised?
6. Cancellations happen
On Veronica Mars, the senior prom is canceled, so Veronica attends an alterna-prom thrown by rich kid Logan, who gets drunk and professes his love for her. Meanwhile, she’s hired to find Gia Goodman’s stalker. In disappointing times like these, it’s best to make other plans to fill the void. When my junior prom was canceled due to lack of participation, we just sat around and complained.
7. Don’t get drunk
Vomiting in an evening gown is never a good look. And if you’re anything like Beverly Hills, 90210‘s Donna, you will get caught and suspended, with the threat of possibly not graduating. Fortunately for her, she had Brandon, who organized a rally replete with the chant, “Donna Martin graduates.” This, of course, was enough to get the principal to give the now sober and apologetic student a second chance. My principal was a nun. A call from the pope would not have gotten her to change her mind.
8. Don’t miss out
In the updated 90210, Dixon and Harper stand around watching others move to the music, when he asks her why she never get out on the dance floor. Harper confesses that she’s never invited anywhere, so the only way to attend is to plan events. This prompts Dixon to ask her to dance. Being there is better than staying home and pining over being there. Besides, you never know who you might meet.
9. You will end up on YouTube
The famous Friends flashback episode has Monica’s parents bringing boxes of personal items to her apartment, one of which contains her senior prom video. They all sit around and watch it, with Rachel growing more embarrassed and ashamed by the minute, and not because she’s pre-rhinoplasty and Monica is overweight. Rachel was positive that her date had stood her up, and had no idea that Ross didn’t want her to miss prom and had gotten dressed up to take her. Present-day Rachel cringes when she sees herself totally discount Ross when her late date finally arrives. Thanks to social media, promgoers get to cringe in moments, and across many internet platforms.
10. Exes live
And they even show up at prom, as happened on Full House when D.J. went to Steve’s dance only to find his former GF Rachel there ready and waiting. Plus, there were the “helpful” friends who took sadistic pleasure in reminiscing about what a great couple Steve and Rachel used to be, and even tried to get them back together, as happened when the exes ended up as prom king and queen. That’s right, some people just can’t mind their own business.
11. No skywriting necessary
“Will you go to prom with me?” Seven simple words. Too bad The OC‘s Seth didn’t get the heads-up before he tricked Summer into meeting him at a restaurant where she was served her chocolate-chip pancake that read “Prom?” To no one’s shock, Summer said no in her how to win friends way. Let this be a cautionary tale.
12. Make wise choices
For Will on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, his schedule of being on the basketball team, going to school, tending to home obligations and having a social life started to prove to be too much. When he’s given amphetamines to get him through, Will just says no to drugs, and tosses them in his locker. Carlton, who is distraught over a pimple, finds the pills, mistakes them for vitamins and takes them to clear up his skin. This leads to a bout of frantic dancing, followed by a trip to the hospital. In situations like these, people like to point fingers as to whose fault it is. Most times, as in this episode, there’s enough blame to go around.
13. A friend in need…
The goal is to have a nice send-off to secondary school and make some lasting memories, not get engaged. When Sex and The City‘s Stanford doesn’t want to miss the Gay Prom Ball because he’s left his hunky boyfriend Marcus (who, it turns out, was once a gay escort), Stanford asks bestie Carrie to go and they even make king and queen.