Prom's artificial world is just a limo ride away

29th February 2008 at 00:00
How I hate the school prom. It is harmless teenage fun that brings so much pleasure to the community, but I can't help it. To me it is an unnecessary American import and any self-respecting government would ban it. It is nothing more than a fancy dress disco, with salmonella on a stick lurking in the buffet. It is true celebration of artificiality and superficiality. I always thought schools should promote high expectations.

Of course, it keeps the local economy ticking over. All those absurd dresses and kilts for the boys, hairdressers and make-up artists, as well as those men in suits who hire out stretch limos.

Teachers, who should know better, use it as a bribe. Our profession is so morally bankrupt that the prom becomes the central plank in the disciplinary policy for senior pupils. If you behave, you can earn "prom points". But it does little to motivate Scott, who wants to turn up on someone else's motorbike and shout obscenities at the head.

An entire term is taken up with endless negotiations about prom dates. Staff feel the tension as well. The young women in the English department will inevitably realise the impossibility of finding a suitable date within the staffroom.

Girls cry in toilets when they realise that only Mario is unattached. For who is prepared to go with poor Mario? He is the Vesuvius of Acne. He is so socially inept that he doesn't actually understand rejection, but it has to be a truly desperate girl who saves the last dance - or indeed the first - for him.

When the fateful day arrives, there is no hope of teaching anyone anything at all. After all, Year 11 are to be found elsewhere - the beauty salons and hairdressers. Hair like plywood, eyelashes like birds of prey, and faces like plates.

In the evening, the entire extended family turns out to watch the departure, lining the street to wish "Princess Chantelle" a happy evening and a safe return. For goodness' sake, she's only going to a scabby hotel with a function room 10 minutes down the road.

The event is characterised by social ineptitude. Boys bump into each other and sip secretly at a half-bottle of smuggled vodka. But it's not all bad news for the girls. You can actually have your picture taken alongside the head of history. He might be a "minger", and when you look at the picture in 10 years' time you will wonder who the hell he is, but he has a proper dinner suit.

You can lose days of your life looking at all the pictures - all of them exactly the same. Younger kids stare in envy at blurred pictures on mobile phones. How they so much want that dream. But don't worry Year 10: one day all this truly will be yours. It has to be - because we've already booked the hotel.

John Sutton is a pseudonym. He teaches in a north Wales school.

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