School dances are both exciting and horrifying, depending upon which side of the “cool” spectrum you sit. For some, there’s a great deal of pressure in Prom, and I’m not just talking about finding a date.
For a secure, popular child, Prom is a dream-come-true event. For an insecure, socially awkward child, it’s a nightmare.
As an adult I can now look back and understand why some of the kids I knew chose not to attend our school’s formal dances. At the time I thought it was simply because they couldn’t find a date, but now I realize that many of them never attempted to find a date. Despite the fact that they might have liked to have gone, they weren’t willing to try and overcome the socially incomparable hurdles.
See, for a popular girl from a wealthy family, there are only two hurdles to master: A date and a dress. Mom and Dad pay for dinner and a limo and the night is one to remember.
For a girl who is not popular or wealthy, it becomes overwhelming. How will she afford a dress and particularly one that will compare to what the rich girls are wearing? She can’t pay for a hair stylist or a manicurist and a limo is completely out of the question. When she walks into that dance, right or wrong, she already feels inferior to the others…even if she’s the most beautiful person in the room.
Boys go through some of the same obstacles.
Some schools have tried to combat this by making dances informal instead of formal. I can see from where the thought process derived, though I strongly disagree with the conceptual output. Minimizing the magic of a dance by allowing people to wear jeans instead of suits and dresses doesn’t make the socially awkward child suddenly fit in. My suggestion would be just the opposite…increase the magic by making it a themed event.
This is why I love costume parties!
When you make a dance a “themed” event, you open it up for the socially awkward to creatively thrive. It tweaks the focus so the gossip from the evening isn’t a degrading gasp of, “OMG! Did you see what she was wearing?” But rather a surprised expression of, “OMG! That was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!” The “cool” factor of the night becomes about creativity and not about who has the most expensive gown. In essence, a costume party levels the playing field for the night and allows everyone the opportunity to shine from the inside out. The boy who suffers from terrible acne is intriguing and alluring in his Phantom mask. The girl whose embarrassed by her thin, limp hair suddenly comes to life adorning a long, curly princess wig. The math geek who sits in the corner of the class and only speaks when answering a calculus question, is able to show he can humorously embrace his own intelligence by wearing an Albert Einstein costume.
Sometimes, particularly in high school, we get trapped in stereotypes and the real person inside sort of withers. We look at others and size ourselves up…. I’m too fat. I’m too ugly. I’m not smart enough. I don’t have any money. My clothes aren’t designer. My feet are too big. I have acne. My teeth are crooked. My hair is stringy. And that tiny voice inside gets drowned out…you know the one…the one that says, “You’re beautiful. You’re special. You’re talented. You’re unique. You’re important.” We start believing what we hear others saying and all of a sudden we think that we’re not good enough to attend the school dance.
But…that’s a lie.
Some kids might not be the popular or the cool ones…but they just might be the most creative ones and the most fun to hang around. A dance shouldn’t push the socially awkward away, it should be the stage upon which they shine. ~