Prom Trap


No girl would go out with a guy who wore his pants backwards and used deodorant for breath spray—unless maybe I phoned instead of asking in person.

The Dating Dilemma is universal—many young men want to date when they turn 16, but are terrified by the thought of actually asking a girl out. Here’s how one high school student overcame his fears and embarrassments and learned that dating can be fun and free of pressure.

In my high school there was a sort of formal-dance mania that affected the minds of people in the student government, resulting in annoyingly frequent events such as the Halloween Prom, the Christmas Prom, the Welcome Back from Christmas Vacation Prom, the First Day of Trout Season Prom, the Bud Mulby Memorial Prom (Bud Mulby was our janitor who didn’t die, but was fired for taking part in a food fight in the school cafeteria after he was hit in the head with a burrito).

About eight weeks before each prom I would develop what medical experts call “promitis”—a condition that carries symptoms such as loss of appetite, insomnia, acne, hair loss, hyperventilation, halitosis, runny nose, mumbling, temporary insanity, and generally stupid behavior (such as absentmindedly wearing your pants backwards or using your deodorant as a breath spray).

Asking a girl to a prom when you’ve got some of the more severe symptoms of promitis significantly decreases your chances of getting a yes answer. Fortunately, about 98 percent of the guys in my school got promitis, greatly lowering the quality of the competition.

But, as petrified of females as we all were, few forgot the golden rule of preprom etiquette—never look any girl in the eye for fear she might think you want to ask her to the prom. The net result of all of this was a school filled with guys wandering the halls like a bunch of zombies, afraid to look anyone in the eye, wearing their pants backwards, with breath that smelled like Right Guard.

It was not surprising that most of the girls in our school asked their parents if they could move to another state.

But still, a distant voice in the back of my mind said, “Don’t be a loser. Go to the prom. It’ll be fun.” I was caught in the dating dilemma.

So, with only three weeks to go until the Twenty-Ninth Anniversary of the Invention of Clearasil Prom, I began the process of selecting a girl who might possibly agree to go with me. I immediately ruled out the cheerleaders, or any girl who looked like she could be a cheerleader, or looked like she was thinking of becoming a cheerleader, or knew someone who was a cheerleader. The thought of getting up the nerve to ask a cheerleader to the prom caused me to lose control of basic motor skills.

I also ruled out girls who were older than me, girls who were taller than me, girls who were smarter than me, and any girls who were in the cafeteria the day I had the coughing spell and sent raspberry Jello all over Lisa McKeever’s new blouse.

After three days of intensive research and coin tossing I decided that Donna Spirlozzi was the perfect girl for me to ask. I didn’t really know Donna Spirlozzi, but she rode my bus and I had sat across the aisle from her once about two months earlier, creating an important social bond that would greatly help my chances. More important than this, however,was the fact that not only was she absent the day of my coughing spell in the cafeteria, she was also out for a week after that and didn’t read about it in the school newspaper. A definite plus!

But now the real work began. Girls really have no idea what kind of agony guys to through when faced with having to ask one of them out on a date. They seem to think it’s merely a matter of walking up to them and saying something like, “Would you like to go to the prom with me?” Ha! Are they ever wrong. There are many important considerations to be made before taking such a drastic step. Did I slosh on enough quarts of cologne? Am I wearing my pants backwards? Answering one of these questions incorrectly could have ruined my social life for the next 40 or 50 years.

But, the time had come. I had sloshed on enough of my dad’s cologne to give the impression that an Old Spice factory had blown up nearby, my pants were not on backwards, and there was no trace of deodorant on my breath. Spotting Donna Spirlozzi by her locker, I walked up to her and became … a babbling idiot. As near as I can recall I said, “You, you, you wanna prom prom?” Fortunately she thought I was some sort of foreign exchange student. She smiled, I smiled back, and then I escaped quickly down the hall. It became obvious that I could not handle this momentous task face-to-face. I would have to rely on the telephone.

You would think it was simply a matter of looking up the number, dialing it, and asking Donna to the prom. This was not the case. Instead, I would dial two numbers, hang up, and watch TV. Then dial three numbers, hang up, and watch TV. It took me six hours to dial all seven numbers, only to discover that I had dialed the wrong number and had asked a woman named Blanche Lerchfeld to the prom. Blanche thanked me but said she had her bridge club that night. I watched more TV.

When I finally did get a hold of Donna things actually went quite well. She said she’d go to the prom with me, and we had a great time. It would be nice to say that Donna and I eventually got married and lived happily ever after, but that was not to be. But asking her out was a big step on the way to overcoming my fear of girls. In fact we even went to the Elvis Birthday Commemorative Prom when we were seniors. And that time I even had the nerve to ask her in person.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Rob Westerberg