It’s time for prom! I’ve refused to go prom all these years but decided to go this year since it’s my senior year. Besides, the prospect of mocktails is just too much to decline…
Anyway, I’m always fascinated and agitated by the prom traditions. Having emigrated from Korea seven years ago, prom is something still foreign to me and since this is going to be my first and last prom, I can’t say that I’m not secretly excited for it. I’ve reserved a table with a few good friends and without any pressure of dates, we’re going to spend a jolly good time (in other words, I hope to spend a ninety-dollar-worth of time).
Inevitably, I started noticing a sequence of flamboyant “asking.” Without hesitation, boys assume the role of alpha male; they give bouquets, serenade the girls after school, and (since it’s a boarding school) fill the girls’ rooms with balloons. These are lovely gestures in most cases, but there are times when the boys, aware of the impossibility of getting the girls of their choices, resort to public displays of asking. These desperate guys blatantly announce to their friends that they are going to ask publicly so that the girls can’t reject them. While not deliberately malicious, this reflects on the reality of the absence of “just-say-no.” A handful of girls have been confronted by this kind of mentality already; they complain afterwards about how they didn’t want to say “yes” but felt obligated to do so for the fear of being mean. It’s a legitimate reason since her refusal would automatically label her as the villain who brutally stamped on a boy’s feeble attempt to bring her to prom.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it but I find this inability to say “no” in girls stems from the fear of being labeled as mean, bad, or intimidating—a bitch. Most girls grow up, believing that they have to be polite, nice, and affable young ladies who are also to fulfill sexual desires of their husbands. When a girl rejects these master-narratives, she is almost immediately labeled as “difficult.” In Elizabeth Wurtzel’s book Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women, she discusses that these “difficult” women are often the ones who are free-spirited and strong-willed. These women fully exercise their voices: they say “no” if they so choose to. I get the sense that girls are too preoccupied with preserving a complaisant image and too frightened of the consequences that they forget just how much power they have, once they execute it. Perhaps this inability will magnify into something more dangerous in the future.
A similar idea occurs again when a girl decides to ask first. So far, we have one senior girl that asked a sophomore boy by taping a poster on the school wall (she had already asked him for an answer prior to the public display). Many reacted with surprise and discomfort: they would walk by the wall and wonder out loud as to why a girl would ask a guy out for prom. It seems to me that most students expect girls to wait quietly until the right date asks her to prom. But when a girl asks first, she’s marked as “weird.”
Fortunately, some girls, after days of pondering, have found a polite way to reject the offers by using the “friends” excuse (“Oh, I was just going to hang out with my girlfriends”)—which is totally fine. Prom is ninety-freaking-dollars. We should be able to have a great time with great friends. And if that means saying “no” to an unwanted date or asking a boy first for him to say “yes,” so be it.
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