Since I was a kid, I never really fit in with the popular crowd. I’ve always rooted for the underdog and craved the counterculture. So it’s always a surprise, even to me, that I attended four proms. I remember them all with crystal clarity, including the cars — because I grew up in suburban Detroit, where those kinds of details matter.
I was in 10th grade. Our first year in high school, my girlfriends and I had a lot of guy friends who were seniors. When it came time for prom, I really wanted to party with the senior guys and my sophomore friends who had senior dates. So I hooked up with another art student, a really nice guy, which meant he was not really my type.
My mom helped me pick out a very pretty tea-length, strapless, powder-blue dress covered in a soft white lace. It was not exactly my style (I favored black vintage attire), but remember — my date was a nice guy. He rolled up in a Pontiac 6000, wearing the same tux as our mutual friend, whose date was wearing a red dress. In other words, my date wore a bright red tie that didn’t match my baby blue dress. We didn’t really start off in sync and it didn’t get any better throughout the night. Afterward in the hotel party room, I spent my time on the phone with the guy I was really into: a senior from a different high school who was morning DJ on the school’s radio station. What a jerk!
Same year, same dress
My best friend from elementary school, who lived in a different school district, called to ask if I would be her brother’s prom date. Hell, yes! Back in fourth grade I had a huge crush on her older brother. His dark brown eyes made me melt. And I loved how he teased me constantly.
Unfortunately, we had lost our spark at 16 and 18. His turquoise blue tie and cummerbund with bright-white tux weren’t a good match with my powder-blue/soft-white-lace number. He was awkward about having an arranged date. And we didn’t know much about each other anymore. Our prom night started with a cruise around town in his Chevy Chevette, seeking someone to buy booze for the after-party. It ended with a sober me pretending to be sick so I could go home. My parents were pissed at me for coming home before midnight.
1987: My own prom
I asked the hot drummer I was chasing to be my date, but he had graduated high school three years prior and was too cool for the prom scene. Instead I took my co-worker from the record store. He was a few years older and had never been to his prom, so he was pretty psyched.
I dictated his wardrobe: black tux with bolo tie and Cuban-heeled boots. I scored an iridescent orange bubble dress at a vintage shop. I was really into the Cure, so my hair was a huge ridiculous mess accented by a shiny gold headband to match my shoes and gloves.
He was a sweet, fun guy — but notoriously flaky. He picked me up in his Volkswagen Golf nearly two hours late, so we missed the prom dinner. Alternate plan: A&W drive-through, where the staff gathered at the window to laugh at my ridiculous get-up.
For the after-party, I guilted my soon-to-be-divorced parents into letting my friends and I take over the house for the night. We ordered pizza, played truth or dare and drank booze that my drinking-age date bought for us. That night in the shower not a drop of water hit my body as the water created a three-foot-wide Aquanet umbrella when it hit my hair.
I don’t know if enough time will ever pass for me to not be embarrassed by my rebellious prom wardrobe. I live in dread that photos of this particular prom will surface ... and yes, by putting this out there, I realize I’m pretty much asking for it. I guess I’m ready to laugh at myself after all these years.
1988: First year of college
My mom’s cousin’s ex-husband’s nephew, a super geek from a wealthy family who’d probably never kissed a girl, needed a date to his prom. Thinking it might win forgiveness from my grandmother, who’d blacklisted me for trashing her place when I was housesitting, I quarter-heartedly agreed and gave up an evening with my hot drummer boyfriend, the same guy I was chasing the previous year. Once again, I donned my nice-girl blue dress. I absolutely did not care at all what he wore. I’m sure it was very classy. I was picked up in a chauffeured 1920-something Ford Model T, one of a dozen or so ever made. His friends were equally geeky, and their dates equally arranged. I spent most of the evening hiding out in the bathroom, craving a cigarette and pretending to console another nerd’s date, who was pretending she was sick. Afterward, the guys wanted to go hang out at Denny’s. Horrified by the notion of being one of “those” people, I suddenly remembered I had to do “inventory” at work the next morning and needed to get to bed early. Once again, I made it home before midnight.
For one last time, I couldn’t get out of that powder-blue dress fast enough. I threw on jeans and a T-shirt, sparked up my Players menthol and drove off into the night in my brown 1982 Chrysler LeBaron to find my hot drummer boyfriend.
Heidi Andermack traded in her freelance writing career to be a caterer, co-founding Chowgirls 13 years ago.