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Prom Night: A Primer

Written by Mr. WellCultured, Sunday, June 1st, 2008 in Dating Columns, Fashion, Sex & Dating

Recently, the Wellcultured team has been getting a slew of e-mails asking about how to handle proms. Proms, which generally translate into “overblown highschool parties”, are generally held this time of year- so it’s right about time we give you some ideas on how to handle prom well.

The Basics

First off, let’s define what a prom is. A prom is not, like many may believe, an opportunity to have sex. In fact, chances are, you will not be getting sex after prom. Pop culture has sent you one big whopping lie- taking that lie and running with it is foolish. A Prom is really a social dance, one that floats between semi-formal and formal wear, depending on the situation and the school. In most American schools, there are two main proms- the junior prom and the senior prom, each for the respective grade level. It is not some sort of mythical Disney-esque ball where girls become women, nor is it soemthing to the equivelant of a Debutante Ball, where girls are presented to some higher court. Nowadays, at least in America and most of Europe, proms are essentially an excuse to get all the highschoolers together to “dance”.

This sounds negative, but it’s important to understand that proms are typically taken way too damned seriously by most highschoolers (as most highschoolers take highschool way too damn seriously). Prom is not the end-all of the world, and if you “screw up” at prom, your life is not over. Still, that’s not saying you can’t put some effort into making it nice and memorable- so this guide is going to help you do that.

Step 1: Plan.

As a guy, your primary job is going to be making everything as effortless as possible, as it is on virtually any date. If you plan to go with a partner (which isn’t actually necessary, see below), your goal will be to make all the transitions fast, the cups full, and everything feel effortless. Most girls want to be treated like princesses (and unfortunately some want to be treated as queens), so you need to make them feel special.

So far as clothing goes, keep standard and classy. Figure out what your school expects- at the very least, plan to wear a suit. Keep relatively conservative if you can- your most classy and safest bet will be a black three-button business suit with a fairly regular cut- no wide lapels or anything of that nature. Everything else (your shirt and tie) should be based upon what your date wears- many girls will provide you with a samlple of the color of the cloth. Try to match your tie with the color of the dress- you can even match your shirt if it’s something standard (no pink). You may also opt for a pocket square using a hankerchief (generally the color of your tie in this case)- if you do, keep the square normal and go for a single fold or something similar. Trust me, you are a teenager, no-one will think your eloquently folded puff design will be intentional, they will think you messed up. While we’re on the topic, black leather shoes (or similar), and if you decide to wear french cuffs (which are the cuff style that require cufflinks), go easy on the cufflinks- no diamonds or platinum or anything.

You will be expected to purchase a corsage. Do so at the advice of the girl or a parent on either side, and keep it close to her dress color if possible.

While it’s done occasionally, going overboard (such as renting limos) is simply ridiculous. While it’s fine if you plan to go with friends and just want to do something entertaining, doing it as some sort of attempt to entertain the girl is, at least in my opinion, poor taste. In the same sense that I would not recommend you buying her a diamond necklace for prom, I would not recommend paying for a limo just to transport her to prom.

Her parents, depending on their strictness on the date, may demand to chaperone or otherwise inflict rules on your date. This is fine- to a point. You need to have the guts to scare off a parent if they decide to literally follow you everywhere, or otherwise attempt to cause you problems (such as belittling you, as I’ve heard before). Don’t be a jackass, just don’t be a push-over- you want the date to be fun, not hell.

One important note- don’t feel like a jackass if you don’t get a date. Plenty of fun can be had just showing up. Most girls don’t JUST dance with their date (unless they have some sort of attachment, like most existing couples tend to have), so don’t feel like you got left out.

Step 2: Dancing and Eating

While most proms do not have complete sit-down dinner affairs, there will be some snacks/drinks, and there will obviously be dancing.

Eating-wise, I would actually recommend you eat a little bit before you go. The reason for this is simple- parties like this are not for stuffing your face, therefore, you may get to eat a little bit (or not at all). Eat a sandwich or a quick snack before you go that will last you a few hours and you should be set.

You may go to dinner with your date beforehand. I would still recommend eating a teensy bit beforehand just to not seem like a pig. Normal dinner date rules apply here- be polite, courteous, and try to loosen her up for the inevitable dancing later.

When you do eat, try a little bit of stuff, but don’t hang around the buffet table, and certainly do not eat when your date is not (and standing with you). It’s classy to offer to get her a drink or food, which you can do (but don’t over-do it).

While this rarely applies, the normal party open-container rule applies here: don’t drink out of them. Punch bowls can be spiked with alcohol or who knows what, so avoid them if you can. This is another plus of eating beforehand: you don’t have to deal with such crap.

Dancing wise, I can only think of the movie Hitch– your job is to sway back and forth. Unless your dance partner actually knows how to dance, throwing her around is not advised- and similarly, it’s not advised for you to try to fake it with girls who do know how to. Most modern “dance” parties nowadays are no different than glorified concerts anwyay, so don’t expect that you will be able to show off prowess, at least in that regard.

Generally, many highschools will attempt to be clever by playing some sort of then-popular song (some techno song, or more popularly, Soulja Boy) and expecting you to dance to it. If you know how, do so. Just don’t expect to keep dancing like you were before.

Step 3: Interacting with your Date

If you have a date (again, which is not necessary), expect that she will more than likely not be dancing just with you. Most highschool girls will completely trounce your ego by running off to their girlfriends and incessantly chatting, dancing with other guy friends, and generally ignoring you. Face it- most girls see this as an upper-tier social function, not a date. While I wouldn’t wish such crap on any guy, it happens- so you need to be prepared.

When you arrive, expect her to want to talk with her friends. If she’s a nice classy girl, she will introduce you (if you don’t already know them). Be nice, but obviously keep the girl to yourself when you can without being pushy- if the talk dies down, invite her to dance or ask if she wants food. NEVER get irate and sulk in the corner, she will entirely ditch you.

This part of the prom is not very hard- just keep with her, like some sort of arm ornament, and try to enjoy yourself. All you need to do is make sure you don’t go overboard- don’t get angry if she ignores you, don’t get too grabby or protective, and don’t expect a kiss. Leave the latter to be a surprise, if it ever comes.

If you get ditched (or if you just didn’t have a date in the first place), hang out with friends, talk to girls sitting back, and just generally shoot the breeze. Dance if you feel like inviting someone. It isn’t really hard once you muster up the balls to do it- and once you get rolling, it’s a lot easier.

Step 4: Knowing when to leave

You should leave when you feel things dying down. Granted, this is hard to notice, but a good indicator is when others are beginning to leave. With all the eating, dancing, and talking, most are guaranteed to get tired, so prepare to read the signs of exhaustion from your date (or from yourself) and be the one offering to drive her home.

When you do go home, take her home- none of this “let’s go to a motel” shit. Don’t try anything funny at the last minute- that will be the thing she remembers most. Feel free to act normally, but anything overboard can make the whole experience a collosal failure- so just be normal.

Overall, the message here is to be yourself and don’t do anything nuts. While you obviously want to potray the best version of yourself you can, you can ruin a prom quickly by trying to force things- such as renting a limo or something ridiculous like that. In the long run, prom means very little- but you can make it mean a whole lot by doing the right things.

Of course, we like to hear about epic victories, so post on the forums if anything good comes of it!

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8 Responses to Prom Night: A Primer

  1. Yossarian says:

    This is solely based on my Prom experience. It is not necessarily rock-solid.

    1. Almost all the boys there were wearing tuxedos. The average fellow would match his waistcoat and tie with his date’s dress.
    2. For slow songs, most would do that slow-dance crud which anyone can do. It’s insanely easy. Just sway. However, most of the songs were modern rap. Dancing to this, again, is rather easy. Just stand in place and let the girl grind against your front. I felt a bit uncomfortable with that, but almost everyone was doing it. Your experience may vary.
    3. There were a few group dances. You may wish to learn the Electric Slide, Cha-Cha Slide, and Cuban Shuffle. The internet is your friend.

  2. experienced. says:

    This article and Yossarian are kinda right. There’s two kinds of song at dances, including prom: fast, and slow. To figure out which kind a certain song is, listen to the tempo, and watch what people around you are doing. Slow dancing, like has been mentioned before, is easy. You just basically hug the girl and rock back and forth on the balls of your feet. Watch other people, you’ll get it.

    Fast dancing is different. This is what they call ‘grinding’, or ‘freak dancing’. If you think you’re too cultured or dignified for such an unbecoming activity, get the fuck over yourself. Seriously.

    Freak dancing is done in one of two ways- most commonly, where the girl grinds her butt against the guy’s crotch, and less commonly, where the two grind crotch-to-crotch. The first is more common because a) women have a thing for grinding from behind (if you’ve ever spooned with a girl, you understand this phenomenon) and b) it works out better logistically.

    Freak dancing is easy, too. Just move your hips back and forth while grinding them into the girls, in a way such that your hips move opposite hers (not matching hers) in order to generate maximum friction. You’ll also want to grind INTO her hips, although to what degree varies from girl to girl. Generally as you get older (senior and beyond into college is when I began to notice it) girls begin to expect you to grind harder, to the point where you eventually have to ensure stable footing for yourself and almost lean into the grind to brace yourself so you don’t fall backwards. Of course, this will always vary based on what the girl wants. If she is shy, don’t just go ahead and dig your hips into her as hard as you can. Wait for her cues.

    Good luck, and happy grinding.

  3. bond says:

    Like the post states, unless you and your date really have something special, or the two of you like exclusivity, don’t cramp her all night. I’ve seen plenty of girls that went with a guy just as friends and he automatically thinks he has to follow her around all night to get some. Trust me, you will NOT be taking this girl back to a hotel or something afterwards (unless you live in some cliche teen movie). The best plan for after-prom plans is an afterparty. There are most likely a bunch happening, and the combination of alcohol and raging hormones is a likely key to success.

    Also, don’t go alone. Sure, it’s cool if you do, but it’s just so much easier to find an underclassman to go with, or even someone that isn’t even good looking. The funny thing about prom is that you don’t even have to know your date all that well. Just ask her.

    One more serious note, don’t do the whole way blown out of proportion thing of asking your date to prom. It can just be a casual, “Hey, do you want to go to Prom with me?”. You can even set it up with the potential for you not to get shutdown. Just hint indirectly by asking “Oh, so, Prom’s coming up. Do you have a date?” If she answers, “Yes,” there you go. If she says “No,” then you can build up to the real question slowly. Casually ask if she has her eye on anyone, or if she’s waiting for that special someone. Most of the time, girls will just be happy to get a date. It secures them from looking bad by not having a date, and it also is an ego-boost.

    Most important of all is not to overthink everything. Just play it cool, and realize that Prom is not the end of your life. With that, I think you’ll be just fine.

  4. Anonymouse says:

    The best decision of my senior year of high school was not to go to prom. I always considered the prom to be a girl thing, where she gets to be treated as princess for the night, at the expense of a poor sap she will most likely end up leaving once she gets through the door.

    Guys, if you MUST go to the prom, go stag. You save a lot of money and can meet up with girls who did not have a guy to go with there (there will be quite a few, and they will be lonely).

    If your interests are in your pants, my best suggestion would be to find out where the after-party is, and meet up there. Most of the girls will be drinking heavily and easy to pick up.

  5. FroTheLulz says:

    I don’t know about you guys, but at my prom there wasn’t any grinding. It was really just kinda simple breakbeat dancing.

  6. Anonymous (australian) says:

    When I went to my high school formal (this is australia, it’s not called a prom. the only practical difference is that it’s only in the final year, so no practices in juniour years) I went single, but so did all my friends. This made for a comfortable ‘no expectations’ atmosphere at our table and we all had a great time. I didn’t go to one of the larger afters parties but instead I went to a lanparty (with the girl I liked at the time). everything wen’t really well for us all.

    In terms of dress, I would suggest go simple, but not necessarily normal. I went in a japanese full length kimono and I was the only guy there not wearing a suit. Don’t be afraid to break a few of the rules above to establish your independence, just be careful which rules you choose and think things through properly before hand. most importantly, if there’s something you need to know to make accurate plans, ask someone, nobody will think any less of you

  7. Tyciol says:

    I want to know what school Yossarian went to, lol. Unfortunately I can’t offer any input on prom since I never went to mine. Once you’re out of high school that’s not an option anymore I guess, unless a high school senior invites you to hers and they allow non-students to attend.

    Mouse, I sort of like your idea, though that’s only an option for students, and if there aren’t any single girls to hook up with it could be lonely, but it does sound like the gentlemanly thing to do. After all, most girls you want to ask out probably have some other guy willing to take them, and he might blow it and then you can be in there to save the day and be all “I was meaning to ask you, lucky me.”

  8. Eric R says:

    When I went to my senior prom it was alright until the end of the night when she broke up with me at the end of the night.

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