Last Saturday evening I attended my first prom as a chaperon for the Franklin High School Junior/Senior prom held at the El Paso Convention Center. I guess you may need some of the back story for why it took me so long to go to prom. Besides the fact I was a border line high school nerd my senior year at Texas High in Texarkana. I boycotted the prom because I believed dancing was sinful and that prom was nothing more than an excuse to get drunk and do things you were not suppose to do. I guess you could say I was a bit stiff in those days–obviously I had the makings of a great Southern Baptist preacher!
I remember my mother grieved for me missing such a significant night in my life, and to be frank I don’t remember what I did that evening, but I felt good and noble in my stand against sin. Not that anyone noticed I was not there or even cared that I was taking such a stand for “righteousness.”
As I look back on it now I am thankful I followed my heart, but I fear my heart was a bit too judgmental and legalistic at the time. You have to look out for young preacher boys with all the answers. Of course it is much easier to have all the answers before you have even begun to really live.
Over the years I have bought a number of fancy prom dresses, and joined in the spectacle of the parents taking all the pictures before prom like a convention of paparazzi . Prom dresses and black tuxes add years of maturity to high school students. They make little girls grow up way to fast from a father’s perspective. In fact, it can be a bit scary for a father sending off her beautiful daughter in the company of a young “wolf” dressed in black. (You see fathers remember all too well when they were teenage boys hyped up on hormones).
This year, my wife signed us up to be chaperons at prom. I prayed for a job in the back of the room, and definitely out of the spotlight. I wanted to stand back in the shadows with the nerds, and hope no one would notice the Baptist preacher at the dance. But I guess God had other ideas. Upon arrival we were assigned guarding the entrance to the prom like gate keepers asking to see the wristbands that gave entrance to the festivities. Two uniformed police officers flanked us on either side with the assignment to check purses, and bulges in jackets to make sure nothing inappropriate made it into the room like alcohol, drugs, weapons etc…Security checks at prom stand out as one of the sad realities of our modern world.
Needless to say my daughter was as mortified as I was to see me standing front and center as everyone of her classmates enter the prom. However, this front row seat to the evening did open my eyes to many harsh realities faced by our teenagers–especially the young women. I witnessed the cliques and the vying for position among peers. I saw boys trying to be “men” and I saw young women dressed seductively trying to catch the eyes of gawking teenage boys trying desperately to stand out as the most beautiful in the room.
As the father of four beautiful young women I must admit my heart went out to the young ladies the most. The pressure on them to be outwardly beautiful was almost oppressive, and I could tell many of them did not have a positive male role model in their lives because a good father would have never let their daughter out of the house dressed in such revealing outfits. I hurt more for these young women than I was disappointed because I knew deep inside they were trying to do the best they could with the rules imposed by our society.
We also had an eye-opening experience as purse after purse revealed “condoms” obviously stashed away for the extra-curricular events planned for later in the evening. Again my heart grieved for the hurt and shame that would follow in the days ahead spurred on by bad choices made on this special event set aside to celebrate the great accomplishments of high school.
I must admit, in spite of some of these eye-opening experiences, I had a great evening. The mood was fun and festive. The staff and administration were attentive and enjoyable to be around. The students were polite and considerate. It was not nearly as bad as I had imagined as an 18 year old Baptist preacher with all the answers.
My daughter had the time of her life, once she got pass the mortification of all her friends telling her that they saw her parents at the door.
It dawned on me that the condition of your heart creates the environment of your life.
Prom is what your heart makes it to be. I am so thankful that I let my daughters go to prom. I wish I had gone long ago, but at least I got to go at fifty-two with the love of my life Robyn. Not a bad prom date I must admit, since she is still way out of my league. It was the classic nerd dating the beauty queen. For those inquiring minds, I did not dance nor did Robyn…because Madison told us in no uncertain terms “do not dance…do not embarrass me!” For once we did what she asked us to do.