"As lame as school dances can be, there's always that one moment." Dawson's Creek
"It was a crazy night because many of us did things we never expected. Some of us got drunk for the first time and others lost their virginity, like me. I look back on it and remember how special it was...." Prom Attendee
"Don't let prom put you in a panic! With one month to go, you've still got tons of time to get perfect skin, beautiful hair and a hot bod. Just follow our head-to-toe guide to getting gorgeous." -- Young Miss Special Prom magazine
The date, the gown, the tux, the theme, the corsage. Everyone remembers the prom. For many teenagers the prom is the highlight of their high school career, seen as a rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood. For Amy Best, the prom presents an ideal forum to explore teen identity and to show how this seemingly trivial event speaks volumes about the world of today's kids.
Today's proms have gone upscale; no longer held in the high school gym, many schools hold their proms at luxury hotels, complete with full banquet facilities and professional entertainment. Students arrive in limousines, dance the night away in rented tuxes and skin-tight sheaths then leave for a weekend of unsupervised activities with friends--for many their first extended trip without parents. Amy Best interviews countless teens about their prom experiences, and she looks at popular media to understand today's teens. She finds that with the rising purchasing power of youth culture, the prom is now an industry unto itself with its own magazines, films, clothing, accessories and services.
Best shows us that, while the prom is often trivialized, most kids take the prom seriously. The prom is a space where kids work through their understanding of authority, social class, gender norms and multicultural schooling. Proms are often the sight of public and personal struggle, especially for gay teens and inter-racial couples, who are often excluded from the prom. Many kids don't go to their prom or, as with gay teens, have begun organizing "alternative proms."
Proms are more than just pictures and puffed sleeves--they are a mythic part of youth culture and, for better or worse, will always be a night to remember.