Promposals, preparations create potential stressors


During high school, many students highly anticipate what is oftentimes the final dance of the year: prom. This year, it will be held at The Exploratorium in San Francisco. Last year, the dance was held at City View at Metreon. In the lead-up to prom at Gunn, classrooms, lunch lines and bike cages are filled with conversation in anticipation of the yearly event. Yet all of this excitement comes with a cost, according to Dance Commissioner senior Adele Davis. “It’s a much bigger dance (than others), not in terms of how many students go, but (in terms that) it’s a really big part of high school,” she said. “Prom is a huge part of the high school experience for a lot of people, so there’s a little bit more pressure about making sure that it is the dream night everyone wants.”

This dream night also comes with possible pressures, such as finding the perfect dress or attending with a date. Junior Elizabeth Jackson notices the obligation that comes with public promposals. “(Promposing) in a public space (brings) a pressure in and of itself to say yes,” she said. “You don’t want to embarrass the person asking and you don’t want to make everybody who’s watching upset.” Jackson underscores the importance of not feeling like you have to say yes just because the promposal was in front of other people. “If the person who’s asking in public to go to prom with you is confident enough to do it in front of a group, then they should be prepared for you to say no because that’s just how asking someone works,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to say no because it’s definitely not your fault if they feel hurt, since they should have prepared for either situation.”

As the Vice President of the Title IX club, Jackson emphasizes that the expectation to agree to a promposal can be a form of unhealthy communication. “Promposals are along the same lines as love-bombing: a grand gesture of love that makes it really hard for someone to escape that situation.”

While at times there is a forceful culture surrounding asking a date to prom, students oftentimes abide by an etiquette when it comes to public promposals. “Most people don’t do promposals if they don’t already know that the person is going to say yes,” Davis said. “There aren’t a lot of promposals (at Gunn) that get rejected because it’s mostly done by established couples, but then I bet there is a kind of pressure for people who are asked out of nowhere.” Jackson also notices that many promposals at Gunn are between established couples. “I’ve had friends who have done promposals, and most of the time they say yes,” she said. “But most of the promposals I have seen have been between people in relationships.”

In addition to feeling pressured into saying yes through promposals, there is also a lot of encouragement among peers to find a date. In comparison to other dances, there is more emphasis on attending prom with a date. “A lot of people feel the pressure of having a date where homecoming is a little bit more casual (and) a lot of people are comfortable just going with their friend group,” Davis said.

In addition to finding a date, many students are pressured to spend large sums for a perfect outfit and ideal prom experience. “There’s definitely an expectation that you have to spend a lot of money on prom,” Davis said. “You have to buy the tickets, dresses or tuxedos—and even renting them is expensive. People get a lot of stuff done in preparation, and prom is an expensive event for a lot of people. There is that pressure of looking your best. There is also that culture of spending a lot of money for this one night.”

Jackson agrees that the prom atmosphere compels many to ramp up their spending. “If you’re planning on going to prom, there really is no escape from spending that much money. While (some) people at Gunn can already spend the money, it isn’t fair for everyone,” she said. “There’s a whole atmosphere that’s built around prom to just spend money, to buy the ticket and then get some type of outfit together.”

To combat these expenses, Gunn has initiatives in place such as scholarships for students to help pay for tickets and the Prom Dress Closet, a project which collects donations of prom dresses, suits and tuxedos to be donated. In addition to school-provided solutions, there are also other ways for individuals to spend less on prom, according to Jackson. “Even if they don’t seem obvious, there are ways to go to prom without spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars,” she said. “You can borrow a dress from somebody else or rent one. Thrift shops also have amazing dresses.”