Randi Kreiss

It isn’t your grandma’s senior prom night


Prom 2021 is an act of faith. It is kids needing to shake off more than a year of lockdowns, shutdowns, sickness and isolation. It is a down payment on good times ahead after an avalanche of disappointments. It is teachers and parents and administrators wanting to make something good happen for the kids. Prom looks different from school district to district as everyone struggles to plan a safe evening.
This was a different kind of challenge pre-Covid. The worst moment I remember from my prom was someone showing up drunk and getting sent home before the evening began. It isn’t hyperbole to say this year the stakes are life and death.
So much red tape festoons prom 2021 that it’s almost not worth the effort. I said almost.
One school has so many forms to fill out that students who have been writing reports and taking tests online all year may find this joyless bureaucratic process just too much. But I get it, it’s necessary. There are forms for proof of a Covid test and forms for proof of vaccination. There are rules for wearing masks and for taking masks off. There are forms for a date who’s from a different school year, and if your date is from another school, good luck! You’ll need forms and photo I.D. and permission slips from everyone and his mother.
One school basically didn’t want to talk about their prom. I’m not sure whether they’re hyper-security-minded or, as the folks who are responsible for our children’s safety during a pandemic, they’re just burned out.

If we were in any way a normal country, vaccination would be universally accepted, and the kids could get the jab and then party on. But since we are now apparently America the Dysfunctional, we must work around a wildly infectious virus instead of neutralizing it.
Districts are promming in different ways, from outdoor venues to mini-proms to virtual proms. Some towns have moved proms to the park or closed off streets to create block party proms.
In 1964, caught up in the drama of being 17, I probably thought I’d die if I didn’t go to the prom. Now the threat is reversed.
My husband, who graduated with me from Lawrence High School in 1964, says I wouldn’t go to the senior prom with him because I was dating someone else. I wish I could remember. I went to a few proms during my high school years, and they pretty much followed the program: girls in long gowns, corsages on wrists, boys in jackets, boasting boutonnieres. A couple of the proms were at clubs in Atlantic Beach.
The go-to after-prom event in my crowd was building a bonfire on the beach and hanging out until dawn. Someone brought a guitar, and we had a hootenanny. Go ahead, laugh. We really did sit around and sing. I’m sure couples wandered off into the dunes occasionally, but who can say? The answer, my friends, is still blowin’ in the wind.
When my son went to his prom, the stakes had changed. We agonized over giving him permission to go out to the Hamptons afterward, and for some incomprehensible reason, we let him go. I mean, who ever let me become a parent? When my daughter was a senior, I wrote a column advertising for a suitable prom date. She was in on the joke, having already agreed to go with some dude who disappeared into the dustbin of one-night wonders.
Last weekend, we traveled to our granddaughter’s graduation and prom out of town. It was seniors only, and “dates” were very optional. The best part was a small dinner our son hosted at home in her honor: intimate, joyful and a great relief after this year of wonder during which she lived through a global pandemic, and applied and got into college.
The prom itself was a dinner at the school, and then there was an after party in the big city, which witnesses tell me was wet and wild with booze and vomit.
My hunch is that in our own communities, the school proms will be just a small part of the actual partying that takes place, from at-home gatherings to outings to the city to who-knows-what-the-kids-will-think-of-now. Thank heaven for the parents, teachers and students who are working so hard to find joy in an anxious time.
Good luck and God bless. Let the good times roll, and let everyone turn up at home after the ball, safe and sound.

Copyright 2021 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.