The prom stories came out last weekend for my 50-year class reunion.
Mine bordered on the pathetic. Through a fluke in the voting process, I was elected to the 1972 senior prom court, even though I had no intention of going.
Out of the blue, one of my teachers mentioned a girl classmate who wanted to go to the prom but didn’t have a date. A second teacher mentioned her name as well.
In some ways, it was like an arranged marriage. Two weeks before the prom, she and I went to a movie together. Afterwards, I nervously mentioned that I had no plans for the prom unless she would go with me. She accepted.
There is nothing about formal events that I like. I showed up with my date on time, waded through “Moon River” during the prom court waltz, applauded when Doug DeRyckere was named prom king, and spent the rest of the night standing near the punch bowl.
Most likely, I was among the worst prom partners in LaSalle High School history.
My wife’s junior prom, at a school in southern Ohio, went nearly as badly. Judy was invited by an acquaintance named Shane. On the big night, he picked her up in a blue Corvette. They spent about a minute at the actual prom and the rest of the evening in the Corvette, cruising Highway 27 near the Frisch’s Big Boy.
She never got to dance. When she complained about that to her friends in the school cafeteria the following Monday, she learned the truth: Shane didn’t really want to go to the prom. As a bribe to get him to go, an older brother told Shane he could drive the Corvette if he got a date to the prom.
She’s guessing his prom photos show Shane and the car but no Judy.
Then there’s the story that includes a Facebook message I received several months ago. It was from Val, and it went like this: “Hey Ken, I was going through my yearbook and came across what you wrote in it which cracked me up. ‘Val, to the most attractive and least intelligent girl at LaSalle – stay dumb and cute and marry someone rich.’”
I was horrified, and I didn’t remember writing that. I’ve always thought of myself as a person who treated women as equals and who shied away from remarks about anyone’s appearance. But look up the definition of “misogyny,” and my comment to Val just about covers it. I am a sexist cretin.
There was a prom connection to this, which I will explain later.
With our 50-year reunion coming up, I knew it was likely I would see Val, and I knew she would receive one of at least three apologies I needed to make.
The other two were: One, I needed to apologize to my prom date for being such a stick-in-the-mud in 1972. Two, there was a classmate whose mailbox was blown up by four cowards because he, in the opinion of some, asked the wrong girl to the 1971 junior prom.
As for Val, I barely knew her at LaSalle. She was among a popular crowd while I rode the Farm Bus home from school almost every day at 3:05 p.m. Still, because she was an exceedingly nice person, she would smile when our paths crossed in homeroom or in Glee Club.
She had a serious boyfriend at another high school, or maybe in college. But as our senior prom approached, she wanted to go, and her boyfriend wouldn’t take her. Word soon spread among LaSalle’s boys that Val had broken free and was now available.
Val began paying abnormal attention to a friend of mine. She was irresistible. In a trance, he asked her to be his prom date.
She ended up with a nice wrist corsage, a fancy dinner and a ride to the prom. As soon as she got there, it became clear the courtship was over, and she left him without even a slow dance.
My pal spent his prom night next to the punch bowl with the rest of us who were wondering why we were there. Over the past 50 years, that moment has become one of our favorite comedy sketches.
Still, it had been an offense against us. In other times, I might have chosen to join a carload of boys who had the means and training to blow up her mailbox. Instead, I wrote a totally out-of-character, untrue comment and signed my name to it in her yearbook.
As expected, she came to our reunion banquet. I was sincere in my apology to her, and we both laughed. She admitted she felt a little guilt over that prom thing, and we laughed again. We were 17 then. What did we know? After a few more stories, we walked away like old friends.
This all took about 10 minutes. I had plenty of time left to find my old prom date and the guy with the blown-up mailbox. I chose to wait for another day.
Some apologies can’t be rushed.