Recommended wine for today’s entry: Rodney Strong chardonnay. This is what my friend Heather had waiting for me, perfectly chilled, on prom night. Tasting notes from winewaves said, “Color: Pale lemon straw. Aromas: Lemon, apple, baking spice and hints of vanilla and butter. On the tongue there is good concentration and acidity, there is a touch of creaminess, and the spiced peach and pineapple flavors echo in the tart finish.” And for those of you with proms still to come … I’d open a fresh bottle. This is gonna hurt a little.
Prologue: Woman rings doorbell of old friends she hasn’t seen in awhile. Quick hugs are exchanged. “Lord, I need to tie one on,” classy woman says in way of greeting.
If you think it would be a crappy life to be a lady-in-waiting to British royalty, if you feel sorry for Ugly Betty or if you think that we were right in abolishing slavery, then you should never, ever be a PROM MOM. This job is not only high stress and low reward, it is also exhausting.
The season kicks off up to two months before the big event with The Great Dress Hunt.
For the record: I hate, hate, hate shopping. I only hate, hated it until The Great Dress Hunt. That’s when I added the third hate.
Fortunately for me, one of the first places we looked had some great dresses. Well, really, fortunately for my Prommer, because I was completely prepared to tell her that a Hefty trash bag — with the right accessories, of course — looked great, because I just wanted to check dress shopping off the list.
She tried on four — and all looked great. But one looked greater than the others and, even though it was considerably over budget, it was a dress she could wear as an adult, assuming there were no unfortunate heels stuck through the fabric or disgusting Southern Comfort vomiting episodes from someone walking close behind her.
And it was black. Classic color, easy to accessorize. Sold.
Oops. Then she texted one of her friends. The friend who had “called” black. Seriously? I said. You “called” colors? Did all 120 senior girls call different colors? Like did someone have Burnt Sienna? Goldenrod?
No you idiot, she said, obviously forgetting that I had the credit card. Just my group of four.
Well, what the hell color did you get and why did you just try on a forbidden color and do you know how freakin’ close it is to cocktail hour and here, hold my purse while I run shrieking out into the intersection.
Luckily, just about then she got a text giving special dispensation to wear the black dress and I had that sucker paid for and pinned for alterations before another close call leading to a tearful meltdown could occur.
The people who’d sold us the dress were very nice, although they were as startled by the “color-calling” technique as I was. Once she had stopped crying and we’d bought the dress, they told my daughter to call them if she was interested in maybe working there on a temporary basis — just for prom season.
When we got to the car, she said, Did they just offer me a job after I had a breakdown in their store? And I explained to her that they probably wanted to hire her so that SHE could handle the dramatic high schoolers while THEY sip bourbon and waters in the break room. No sane adult without guardianship wants to step into the path of a Prommer.
But there I remained, right in the path of the storm.
In the ensuing weeks, we embarked on the Futile Prom Lingerie Hunt, searching boxes and racks at innumerable stores for undergarments that don’t show under a prom gown. If you have an up-and-coming Prommer, take my advice and save your money. There is NO SUCH THING. I have to recommend the duct tape.
We did find some sort of things that you were supposed to glue, apparently permanently, onto your child’s sensitive skin. For like $30. Fine. We’ll worry about the skin later.
Friday afternoon I sat with her while she had a manicure and a pedicure, and I know that doesn’t sound horrifying to you but I have a SERIOUS phobia of nail salons. It is torture for me. I hate the smell, I can’t understand anybody, I never know who to tip when, it’s just WAY out of my comfort zone. (See https://ashleyolsonrosen.wordpress.com/2009/09/30/proper-pediquette-pedicure-etiquette-eludes-me/) I mean, I really hate it. But we got that done on Friday, so Saturday was sure to be a breeze.
But Prom Day dawned dark, dreary and prone to downpours. Ohhhhhh noooooo! Mr. Bill would have thrown HIMSELF in front of a steamroller if he’d been me that day.
As the best hairdresser in town, Susan Borders, did her hair, my Prommer watched the rain pour down.
Why does it have to rain on MY prom day? she lamented, a valid lament.
Well, it poured all day on my wedding day, if it makes you feel any better, I said. And I had an outdoor wedding.
She considered that for a minute and I thought, well, good, she sees that this isn’t an insurmountable problem. I’ve helped. I’m not the worst mother in the world. Hmph.
Did it ever occur to you that not everything is about you?
OK, so apparently the whole “you’re-not-the-only-chick-who-ever-got-rained-on thing” wasn’t gonna work. But her hair was done and had enough hairspray, shellac and lingerie glue on it that if Wylie Coyote dropped an anvil on her head, she’d be smooshed like an accordion but her hair would stay in a perfect bun and skitter off down the mountain path, intact.
Still, when we got to the mall for our makeup appointment, I dropped her at the door with my only umbrella and then ran from the VERY farthest parking space in the whole lot with a Kroger bag over my head. My jeans were soaked halfway up my calf and I tripped over the curb because, as you may know, Kroger bags don’t have eyeholes.
A bunch of her friends were at Bobbi Brown too, and the girls all looked amazing, at least from the neck up. I couldn’t help but reminisce about my own prom, where I wore a heinous dress — now that I think of it, it was Burnt Sienna — and had curling iron burns in my hair and I think instead of making either my eyes POP or my lips POP, I elected to emphasize the Revlon cover stick work, where it was slathered, two shades lighter than the rest of my skin, over multiple blemishes. How’s that for POP, baby?
Some of the other moms were there too, and we all exchanged Prom Mom looks. I know I looked like I was about to cry. It’s because I was about to cry.
When we got home, we had to do a quick turnaround to get her to a friend’s house. This was about when we found that the lingerie glue must have meant business, because when we were already late for pictures we discovered that the applicator was securely glued into the glue and it wasn’t going to budge. As I knelt at her feet like a loyal subject, putting her shoes on (shut up, my friend Jill actually washed her daughter’s hair so as not to mess up fingernails!) I worried that the frustration over the lingerie would lead to a swift kick to my midsection. But she didn’t, thank God, because I am getting older by the day and frailty is just a step away.
Twenty minutes late to pictures. Excellent. Oh, and of course, stupid Prom Mom forgot the boutonniere we’d bought, a lovely bloom that spent prom night staying crisp and fragrant in our LG refrigerator. But another Prom Mom came to my pathetic rescue and saved me from an “off with her head!” by somehow having an extra boutonniere in her car! Oh happy day!
We practically shoved them into their limo, but not before suffering one last humiliation. Some of the other parents convinced me to get in a picture with Prommer. There she was — perfectly tanned, manicured, coiffed, made up and … most important, perfectly SEVENTEEN … and there I was, the Prom Mom — haggard, stressed, old and in DIRE need of drink. I was smiling, but it was only because I was thinking about the wine waiting at my friend Heather’s house.
Looking back on it, it wasn’t that bad. She had a great time and everyone made it home safely. And I didn’t even have to go along to taste her dinner for poison.