Guest-written by: Mark Hernandez
Photo courtesy of: Mark Hernandez
Our group started as six couples, but by the time prom night rolled around, we were down to three couples. Dan found out at the last minute that he was invited to Los Angeles for a tryout with the Cubs. His departure meant that the best-looking girl in the school, who had been working as a model for years, was suddenly dateless. (For her part, my date was not receptive to my semi-joke that as Dan’s best friend, I was obligated as a man of honor to take his date with us.)
Peter and Alex had caved into their dates’ demands that they split from the main group. Their dates had the courtesy of making up some story about how they were allergic to seafood, but we all knew the real reason: when this group got together, we’d end up spending the whole night talking about pro sports. (This fear was not unreasonable: the six of us rotated hosting responsibilities for nightly viewings of the 11:00 Sportscenter.)
Tiffany and Francesca weren’t there to see it, but we would have proved them wrong. We didn’t talk just about pro sports. We also talked about Dan’s chances of making the bigs. Shockingly, our dates did not find these conversations that riveting, nor were they especially impressed with the amount of bread we ate, or our complaining about how expensive the restaurant was, a restaurant Peter—who, remember, had since bailed—chose. But it would get worse.
Our dates were in the ladies’ room when the check arrived. After we quickly scanned our wallets, we conferred and discovered the impossible: we did not have enough money to pay for dinner. This deficiency was especially embarrassing given the fact that at a fancy seafood place, the boys had all ordered burgers, precisely to avoid this predicament.
Now, we had been in a mess like this before. On New Year’s Eve, we had decided to go to the Claremont Hotel, whose marquee promised “Five Parties Under One Roof!” So we showed up and said, “Yes, we’re here for the five parties under one roof.” And this woman behind a registration desk said, “Wonderful. Welcome. That’ll be $75 each, and of course we’ll need to see some ID.” Impossibly, we were dumbfounded at the idea that one, someone would charge for a New Year’s Eve party (or five), and two, that we would need to present ID to prove we were of drinking age. Penniless and ID-less, we were in tight spot. But I took control and played it cool. I said, “Certainly. We’ll just go get both from our mom; she’s waiting in the car.”
Take a second and think about how stupid that sounds.
But this time, we would try a variation and it would work. Matt called his mom, who came by the restaurant; he excused himself to the restroom and met her at the entrance. Elias and I ran some interference and covered for him. Problem solved. Our dates were none the wiser. For the moment, we maintained some dignity.
That wouldn’t last long. Because we were so late to the dance, our dates insisted we get pictures right away. We assented, but then made some more ill-advised decisions. Specifically, in the group photo, we boys decided that under no circumstances would we sell out by smiling. Of course, the girls didn’t know of this plot until later, but when they found out, they, again, were not impressed. To this point, our failures were collective. But the last, perhaps most spectacular, failure, was all my own.
Instead of enjoying our last major dance together, Jodie (my longtime girlfriend) and I annoyed each other to no end. After one particularly petty argument, we stepped outside for some fresh air and agreed to have as much fun as possible in the last hour of the dance. We headed back to the dance floor.
Within moments, I began dancing like a maniac, like, as the song goes, “MC Hammer on crack.” Without regard for social conventions, rhythm or Jodie’s feelings, I began kicking and flailing. (The next day, I would hear rumors that I was slobbering drunk at the time—untrue.) It was a few moments before I realized that a circle had formed around me. It took a few more to notice that Jodie had started walking off the dance floor, humiliated.
I spent the rest of the dance apologizing to her.
Jodie and I broke up a month later. I can’t say that it was because of what happened prom night, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t help.