The Senior Prom

Some parents complain that this year’s simplified prom is too restrictive. I think it’s exactly what proms should be.

I’m a tad traditional. I think poems should rhyme. I think movies should end with sloppy kisses. I certainly don’t endorse plastic “sporks,” or any hybrid really, though I’ll make an exception for anyone confused about who they are: man, boy, woman, llama.

Takes a while to find your real self.

Meanwhile, the other day, this new baby uttered what might’ve been her very first words:

Her: “Pappa?”

Me: “Yes?”

Her: “How do you think the Bears will fare against the Rams in the opener at SoFi? Think they’ll cover?”

That’s what I heard, anyway.

We hear what we want to hear, we think with our hearts. We see the world in the fuzzy, romantic ways we wish it to be, rather than how it really is.

Thank goodness.

I am a pagan idealist. I’m a blind optimist — ignoring the hard evidence, pressing onward through the traffic and the lousy news. War in the Mideast? Inflation? Gas lines? It’s like the ’70s all over again.


I loved the ’70s. It’s when I first fell in love with Emerson, Lake & Palmer, a band that sounded like a WASP law firm but played these big edgy electronic operas.

The ’70s were when I fell for Carly Simon and Susie “No Kiss” Kelly, the most beautiful girl in my high school. She didn’t love me back till decades later when I bought her a chicken dinner and a glass of Happy Hour pinot.

Had I only known.

Wasn’t there an awful John Travolta movie – they’re usually awful – where the babies talked like adults?

That’s the awful movie I’m living now. I hear this new baby talking, and like my late wife, she will not pause.

Many see Posh in this new baby’s eyes. I hear her in her mouth.

How weird, how Hitchcock would it be if a new baby voiced your late wife’s thoughts?

Well, enough of that. As I said, I’m a serial optimist.

I’m off to run the scoreboard at Smartacus’ baseball game. It’s a little complicated, as most electronics are these days. You could teach yourself the harpsichord in the amount of time it takes to learn this scoreboard. My backup is Jeff, a NASA rocket scientist. So that gives you some idea.

In the ’70s, every prom was like the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

The nice thing about operating a baseball scoreboard is that no one scores unless you say they score. I feel a little like a Mormon mom, the most powerful force in the universe.

So far, I’ve let everybody score who has scored. But don’t think I’m a moral pushover. At some point I’m bound to say: “Enough with all this scoring. You boys go home and read a book or something.”

Which brings us to prom.

Smartacus has his senior prom tonight. It is being held – as proms should be – at the high school, and not some ornate LA hotel/palace where you don’t know what the kids are up to exactly, or even where they are.

Some parents complain that the simplified prom is too restrictive. I think it’s exactly what proms should be.

Over the years, proms have gotten kind of gross. One year, Rapunzel and her friends rented what I think was a stripper bus limo, lit like Vegas and with dance poles up and down the aisles.

I remember Posh looking at it. You could read her thoughts: “Wow, that looks kinda fun. Why didn’t they have stripper bus limos when I was in school?”

As the prettiest 17-year-old in Florida, Posh went to 14 proms, as many as three a night. She was the J-Lo of proms (more boobs, less butt. Otherwise exactly the same person).

Back then, you were lucky to borrow Dad’s Buick to go to prom. If you wanted it washed, you washed it. You rented a baby blue tux, and spent three hours on your hair – and that was just the guys. The girls spent three weeks.

Big hair. Big dreams. Mixed results.

In the ’70s, every senior prom was like the midnight ride of Paul Revere. By 2 am, you were either home or pregnant, sometimes both.

Ahhhh, prom.

The biggest thing about prom these days is the invite, which is elaborate. Smartacus had one of his date’s friends make a poster. It looked a little female, this poster, but he didn’t care. Then he bought some flowers at the Ralphs supermarket.

Frankly, I don’t think prom invitations need to be much more elaborate than that.

There will be no stripper limo. I might lend him the Honda, and yeah, I’ll probably gas it up and have it washed, while knowing those are things he should do himself.

That’s how we raise kids now, doing things for them that we know they should be doing for themselves. Like a lot of parents, I complain about it, then do it anyway. We over-love our kids. I mean, I didn’t for the longest time. Then this grandbaby came along…

Her: Pappa?

Me: Yes?

Her: Who do you like in the Preakness? Is Medina Spirit really juiced?

Smartacus did speak the other day of getting a bus boy job this summer. Makes me think this whole COVID experience might’ve done him some good.

These grads, these miracle kids, who have come through a pandemic and still face the world with such hope and sparkle. I know, that’s not a complete sentence. Not at all. Just an observation without a predicate.

Their predicates will come later. Right now, they are just subjects, royal subjects with big dreams, who still futz too much with their stupid hair.

Some things never change. As always, it takes a while to find your true self. The answer, I suppose, is to look inward. To learn your own heart.

I will talk to these grads soon, I was invited to speak at some graduation function. Before we start, my plan is to collect their cellphones, wrestle them from their clammy little hands. If they fall for that, I’ll take their moms’ debit cards.

Then I’ll give these grads some advice.

The message will largely be: “Love you guys. Do the world proud. Seek a simple and worthwhile life. Have kids if you can.

“Because they will be your predicates.”

So maybe, one day, your kids can grow up too fast and and go off to college too soon, drilling a hole in your hearts big enough to drive a stripper bus through.

That, my friends, is a simple and worthwhile life. Hugely profound and frightfully quick — and kind of grand.

I cannot recommend it enough.

Please join me tonight for a jaunty one-hour benefit for the Cancer Support Community, a Pasadena organization that offers expert support and advice for patients and their families. We’ll celebrate this great organization with the biggest glass of gin you ever saw, as well as entertainment, awards and a live auction. I promise we will do a lot of good while having a lot of fun. Here’s how you can tune in:

10 thoughts on “The Senior Prom

  1. “A simple and worthwhile life” is what you give us in every post you write. Thanks for the walk down memory lane about my own 70’s prom and a laugh about how things have changed…yet not. You are a treasure. I wish you had been my graduation speaker. Lucky kids.

  2. We also have prom here tonight held at the high school. Yes, very different with girls. Dress was acquired at some huge dress-a-pallooza place by Midway Airport, then she’s got hair and makeup and pictures…like it’s the Academy awards. (I wouldn’t mind hearing, “I’d like to thank my mom for making this all possible.”)
    I love your life advice. So true. Can you call my daughter and tell her? And keep chatting with the baby…it’s so good for her! Now I’m searching for Karn Evil 9 on my phone.

  3. My senior prom in 1965 was a little different. There were about two dozen “chaperones”, all carrying Thompson submachine guns. My date’s father had locked her in a titanium chastity belt and promised me eternal damnation if I came closer than three feet while dancing. (To her, not him.)

  4. Captured holding a rosebud and looking adoringly at her. Charged with loving her. Convicted by a jury of peers, and given a life sentence without parole, to be served in her presence. Now serving a concurrent life sentence for providing a washed and polished gassed up car to a prom attendee with keys in hand, without injunctions.Case closed..

  5. I can’t be the only one that remembers it being referred to as “the prom”. Never called it prom and it was in the 70’s. Am I delusional? That baby has the sweetest face and those eyes!! Love that you are smitten with her.. whole new world, for you both!!

  6. Ah, the Seventies…when everything and anything seemed possible! The whole world was our oyster and life was eternal! Prom was the ultimate high school party and I had so much fun attending several! College was in the offing,looming as our next exciting adventure.The next thing one knows, you’re sending a kid off to a Prom and they’re going to college, graduating, getting married and having babies!!! It all starts again. So like your daughter and now your precious, beautiful granddaughter, you get to circle around and experience it all again. She is not only gorgeous, but intelligent too, just look at those eyes! Have fun Grandpa! P.S.My son just informed the family their baby, due in September, will be a girl! Can hardly wait!

  7. No, you’re going to post the transcript of that graduation speech so we can hear every word. Not what you planned to say, what you did say. Sometimes not one in the same. Love, bossy fan.

  8. Emerson, Lake & Palmer really DOES sound like a WASP law firm. Feeling like a Mormon mom. Those will stay with me all day. Thanks for the great laugh. Oh, and my ’70s prom date wore a pale yellow tux with black velvet trim. The best!

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