“Promposals” Are Everything That’s Wrong With Teen Culture & They Need to Stop

It started out cute: You’d see a teenage boy run across a field hockey turf holding a poster that said “PROM?” written in a Sharpie. It was a creative way to ask his prospective date if they would go to the big event with him. But my, how the mighty-adorable have fallen. These days, promposals have turned into quite a hassle, an extravagance, and an epic expense — especially for parents. And it’s this here parent’s opinion that “promposals” need to stop.

First, there’s the financial factor. Somehow, “promposals” have become a rich kid’s game, with every “promposing” teen trying to one-up the next one in the opulence of their gesture — which has turned into some hefty spending in many cases. (Yes, teens have hired skywriters to post the four-letter question, and have called on celebrities to help them with the “big ask.”)

In 2015, Visa estimated that the average American household spent $324 on promposals. As in, that’s what it costs just to ask another person to the dance. That doesn’t include the tickets, the dress, the dinner, the limo, or whatever else it takes to show up in style these days (something tells me that includes a lot more now than it did when I prommed it up in 1996.) And even if you, the parent, are not draining your own bank account in hopes that your kid will avoid teenage rejection overload, you may not want your child spending their hard-earned after-school-job money on a promposal either. Why? Because it’s an unnecessary extravagance. Right? (“Wrong,” your teen may likely contend. “It’s a societal norm.” Yikes.)

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Most parents want to help their children go to the prom, but finding money for things like a tuxedo rental or gown is stressful enough without a “promposal” to fund. But if parents think this is the moment they’ll teach their “promposing” kid the value of a dollar when they’re hellbent on an over-the-top “promposal” plus prom night with all the trimmings? Good luck. In fact, prom may end up needing to be the first time you and your child have to sit down to create a budget. Personally, I’d rather save that pivotal parent-teen discussion for trying to save for college. (Do they realize that’s right around the corner, too?)

According to Visa, it costs $919 per couple on average to go to the prom. If teens — and/or their parents — are spending hundreds of dollars just asking the question, how much will they fork over for dresses, tuxes, flowers, limos and God-knows-what-else they do afterward?

Yet another reason why promposals may drive you — and your teen — nuts? The stress a “promposal” can put on a kid is real. Call it “prom-pressure” if you will. But if your teen is already freaking out about SAT scores, fall sports and college applications, do they really need to wrack their brains over creating the perfect, creative, over-the-top “promposal”? Probably not. And then there’s the fact that the teen being asked to the prom via such an elaborate method may also feel stressed — and feel pressured to say yes when they don’t want to (especially since most of this prom craziness is broadcasted live over social media, naturally).

So, parents: Sit your teen down, and talk about promposals already. (Just when you thought the awkward kid talk about sex was well in the past, you now have prom pressure to address, sorry.) Whether your teen is considering one or may fall victim to the spontaneous proposal, establishing your expectations may be helpful to avoid strife — or mutual financial implosion. This can be the ideal time to model how you manage your own funds, and teach your kids how to save money — which is, after all, a lifelong lesson.

The most important thing as prom approaches: Don’t ruin yourself financially just trying to please your teen. Of course we want them to have a good time. But we also want what’s best for them, which probably includes things like keeping a roof over their heads and perhaps a college fund. Don’t let them think that you’re obligated to spend thousands to send them to college and fund a “promposal” to boot. It’s not a need; it’s a want. And it’s your choice to make together, even if you establish that you’re not contributing a dime to the whole wacky endeavor.

“Promposals” may, unfortunately, be here to stay. Or at least I’m relatively confident they’ll stick around for the next few years. As parents, we may not agree with this money-sucking teen movement, but we can help our kids come up with a creative, low-cost way to pop what they currently think is the biggest question of their lives. Talking to them about it beforehand, sussing out their feelings and goals, and laying out rules ensures that even if they do end up “promposing,” at least it won’t break the bank.

Hopefully my son never asks me, “Mom, should I prompose?!” And hopefully, by the time he is that age, he will know better than to ask me to fund that sort of nonsense. Because a “promposal” is the exact type of teen trend I’m really hoping my own teen will break from — in order to do his own thing.

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