Here’s hoping our kids enjoy a ‘courageous’ and memorable prom
The date escapes me, except that it was sometime in the spring of 1982 when I donned the ugliest tuxedo known to man.I was a junior in high school at little Mapleton High School in southern Minnesota, and long before “promprosals,” I had stared at the phone for hours before finally mustering the courage to pick it up.My heart was beating wildly out of control as I placed the call to see if I was going to land a prom date, and either Kari Peabody felt sorry for me or I was the last, best — emphasis on last — option, and she said yes.So there I was on that Saturday afternoon putting on a bright beige — if that’s even a color — tux, complete with a “ruffled” shirt.Years later, my daughter Abby would be rummaging through old pictures and came across my prom photos and valiantly tried, for a few seconds at least, not to laugh.“Oh my God, Dad, you wore that,” she asked with a look that can only be described as incredulous.I told her to hold on, because my senior tux was even more gaudy — a UCLA baby blue affair that made my junior tux look tame.Much has changed in the 35 years since I first went to prom. Thankfully, one of those things is fashion sense.Let’s face it: The 1970s and early 1980s leave a lot to be desired when it comes to fashion. Just ask my any of my kids, who don’t even try anymore to not laugh when they see pictures of me and my friends as we trekked off to proms so long ago.As a newspaper reporter, I have had a love-hate relationship with prom.When I worked in Forest City, the Summit put out a “Prom Tab,” one filled with pictures of each and every couple that took part in the annual grand march.In one sense, it was cool to see kids — many of whom I knew only in sweats and t-shirts — all dressed up.I knew most of the kids, but every now and then, I’d have to ask for a name, which was a little embarrassing at times.There was the time I asked, “Name?”And Whitney Cobb, one of the Cobb twins who I knew mostly through her excellence on the basketball court, looked at me and laughed.“You don’t recognize me all dressed up?”“Oh my gosh, Whitney?”“Well, it’s the first time you’ve guessed right between me and Wendy, so I’ll forgive you,” she said with a laugh.But putting together that special section probably took a few years off my life. I’d snap the photos, return to the office and literally work through the night so we could have it printed and put in that week’s paper.By the time I arrived home in the very wee hours of the morning, I was on one hand, exhausted, and on the other hand, so hyped up on Diet Mountain Dew that I couldn’t fall asleep.I, though, really didn’t mean for this column to be a meandering remembrance of proms gone by; instead, there really is a point to it.Of all the regrets I have from my high school days — and there are more than a few — the biggest is this: I got wasted during my senior prom.I literally remember very little about that night, and my date — rightfully so — never wanted to see me again. And for good reason, too.I can still see the look on my mom’s face when I walked into the door that Sunday morning so long ago; in fact, that might be the only thing I remember from that night.So as Saturday approaches, I’m more than a little nervous about Prom 2017. Both my boys are going, and my hope is that they and their friends will not make the same mistake I did 34 years ago.Last week, they sat and listened to Mark Bigler, the basketball coach at Davenport West, talk about his family’s tragic tale — one in which Bigler’s son was critically injured and his 5-month-old grandson was killed in an accident involving a drunk driver.What Mark Bigler asked New Hampton High School’s students to do was this: Be courageous when it comes to saying no to alcohol and drugs.So my hope for Josh, Noah and every other New Hampton High School student this weekend is simple.Show courage that this guy couldn’t muster 34 years ago, and have a safe and, yes, a prom you can remember when you’re an old guy like me.