Most of us have experienced it, the high school ritual known as Senior Prom.
The Willamette River runs through downtown Portland. An esplanade bordering the river is crowded with restaurants that are popular on prom night. For years Mrs. C. and I have made a habit of parking ourselves on a bench to watch the parade of young people dressed in finery on their special night. Stretch limos come and disgorge self-conscious teens trying their best to look nonchalant and grown up. Mrs. C. and I have fond memories of our prom, which we attended together forty-two years ago.
It’s hard to ignore how mature the girls look beside gawky guys in tails or white tuxedos with top hats and canes. (I kid you not.) The young men often look ill-at-easy in their rented tuxedos while their dates look like elegant Grace Kellys. But there’s something amiss with these young women—the way they walk. More correctly, the way they struggle to walk.
They wear high heels, even those towering over their dates, and they wobble about like nineteenth century Chinese women with bound feet. They totter and lurch like they’re on stilts. I guess it’s understandable that young women these days aren’t practiced at walking in heels; who’s going to teach them? It’s unlikely their mothers wear heels and teens don’t like to emulate their parents at this age anyway. Finishing schools once focused on walking with grace and poise but today young ladies get their culture tips from The Bachelorette and Jersey Shore.
Every now and then we spot a young lady in sneakers that match her outfit. Our last prom night expedition provided the rare sight of a radiant girl, her pink satin gown accessorized with matching bunny-shaped slippers. Returning home with aching feet wasn’t in her future.
After exiting limos, many of the girls remove their heels and lug them around. Their dresses have been designed for that extra elevation and hems are now dragging on the ground. And the dancing hasn’t even started, not that the boys look interested in dancing. If memory serves, most of them will stand around the edge of the dance floor with their hands buried in rented pants.
But dancing isn’t what terrifies these guys most. Two concerns at this stage of the evening make it likely that before the evening is over they’re going to sweat through their rented tuxes. First: how will they know when the moment is right to kiss their dates, and will they be brave enough to seize the opportunity? Second; they wonder if they have enough money to cover the cost of dinner if she orders anything more expensive than the chicken special.
The boys are too distracted to notice that their dates are struggling with their shoes. They have yet to notice that their dates even have feet.