Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Confessions of a Prom Mom

Harry S Truman Prom, 1994. Andreas Scheerer and Aimeé, in blue.
I want to start this by saying I can comfortably write a column about my 17-year-old daughter and our perfect relationship because we share a unique understanding that would make most "regular" mother/daughter duos extremely jealous.
But why resort to blatant lies?
Truth of the matter is I can write comfortably about my daughter because she's out of the country. She's in Canada with her high school chorus. And since the bus isn't due back in Levittown until later tonight, I should have enough time to curb the Sunday paper this is printed in, along with the trash and recyclables, before her dirty laundry hits the hamper.
Next weekend is her senior prom. These are the six scariest words in the Maternal language.
What's so scary, you ask? Perhaps, you, who have never been a hormonal teenager girl, would need to ask. Me? I've been to that party, pal, and I know when to pass the onion dip.
Not that I don't cherish the opportunity to share this once in a lifetime moment with my daughter. But I've barely survived the Prom Mom preliminaries. I'm not sure I have what it takes to make the final cut.
First, there was pre-decision purgatory. That was the month I spent emotionally suspended between Audrey "I Could Have Danced All Night" Hepburn and Sissy "Doesn't Carrie Make A Lovely Prom Queen" Spacek. While all of Aimee's friends were talking about prom gowns and the fashion risks they were considering, from hair to toenails, my daughter refused to throw her hat into the ring. She waffled on her potential prom candidacy with the eloquence of a young Republican.
"I don't know if I want to go. I hate all that catered food. And anyway, it's really just an expensive dance. And I hate to dance."
So I get used to the idea of playing cards and eating mass quantities of Ben & Jerry's with my daughter on prom might when, out of nowhere, she says, "I want to go dress shopping on Saturday. Are you free?"
Am I free?
Would Naomi come of out remission for Wynona?

We decide to hit the rent-a-dress place on Route 1. That way we don't really have to make a commitment. We can sort of scope out the fashion trends and see what styles we like. And if we should happen to find the perfect dress, we grab it. After all, with only four weeks left to dress hunt, our fashion rifles are loaded; we will shoot to kill.
Without dwelling, I'll just say that it was the most traumatic experience of my life. She tried on one dress. THE dress. Long, black, beaded, elegant, sophisticated. It was magic. it was expensive. It was already reserved for her prom night by another hunter, an out-of-town prom-goer.
I learned that in the rent-a-dress jungle, there is only one of each species. Even the assault weapons shoot blanks.
It felt like the part where Cinderella loses her shoe and the coach is a pumpkin again. I was in mourning. My daughter shrugged it off like a household chore.
Suffice it to say that four bridal shops, two major malls and one week later, I found myself hoping for some mice and birds with well-developed sewing skills to whip something up just before an ugly step-sister says, "The carriage is here."
I even considered dusting off my old senior prom dress and offering it to my daughter as more of a sentimental bonding gesture than a last resort. But I found out that the beautiful navy blue dress I left hanging safely in my mother's closet had been sabotaged by the fashion police. My daughter broke it to me gently.
"It's tacky."
I'll admit that it does have more tiers than a Richard Simmons infomercial, but tacky?
Well, the shopping safari finally ended when we bagged a shorter, more practical version of the dress I had loved and lost. It has cobalt blue sequins and beads. Maybe she can make a case for it in 30 years when her 21st Century daughter has trouble finding the dress of her dreams after a few frustrating trips down the fashion Information Highway.
With one week to go, it's not over yet. There are hair and nail appointments to keep. There are still pantyhose to buy (in triplicate, in case of runners or manufacturers defects).
And there are all those overblown, over-analyzed Prom Mom fantasies that I am about to lose.
I bet, if I asked my own mother, she would remember the kind of stuff moms remember, like how long I spent in the bathroom doing my hair, or how nice it was to see me out of my faded Levi's and in a dress for a change. Or how it felt to see me walk out the door in that navy blue layered chiffon gown with the boy she'd one day know more intimately as the father of her grandchildren.
If I could look back, without all the romantic fuzzy edges that time adds to our memories, I would probably see a 17-year-old girl in heels too high and too uncomfortable to walk gracefully in, never mind dance. I'd see Sterno trays filled with food groups I'd never had a first person experience with. I'd see an expensive dance.
In a way I'm glad Aimee won't get a chance to read this.
I have to admit it's really not so bad, being a Prom Mom. And, quite honestly, my daughter packed most of her annoying hormones away in the same box as the New Kids On The Block memorabilia and her entire ninth-grade fluorescent wardrobe.
The scary part is really that anticipating her senior prom means she will be graduating from high school in four weeks.
It means she will be turning 18 in September, and starting college. It means she is pretty much grown up now and, the real truth be known, I would just like one last chance to pick out her shoes, or dress her in something frilly, or rock her gently when she cries.
This prom night, for her, will one day be a memory of how great her friends looked, all dressed up, without big T-shirts, baggy jeans, or backward baseball caps.
And this prom night, for me, will forever be the last ritual of mother/daughter relationships, that reminds me of what it was like to be a hormonal teenage girl.
Maybe, if I hurry, I can make it to the drug store for extra film and a big  box of tissues, before the Canadian tour bus gets back to the school parking lot.

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