8 Complaints About the Prom From 60 Years Ago

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Spring Fling. Midnight in Paris. Romeo & Juliet’s Ball. Whatever your student council wants to call it, a prom is a prom. But no matter the name and no matter the year, teens’ concerns, anxiety, and complaints have always been the same. Just peruse these grievances from the days of yore.

1. Shopping is stressful and takes forever.

“After visiting almost every dress shop in the vicinity we were tired and discouraged from so much walking and not seeing just what I wanted… Another harrowing experience occurred when I went to the Loop shopping for shoes and other accessories. I couldn’t find what I wanted and ended up making several trips in order to get all my purchases.”

Diane Lundberg in "Prom Is the Glamor Event of School Life: But Getting Ready Puts Teen in a Tizzy," Chicago Daily Tribune, Jun 26, 1957. 

2. And it’s all so expensive!

“In addition to the cost of the tickets, a boy must rent a tuxedo ($10-$15), buy a corsage ($6-$12), go to at least one night club ($15-$20), ride in a horse-drawn carriage in Central Park ($6), and spend money on taxi fare ($5-$10) and breakfast ($2-$4). The total minimum, therefore, runs from about $44-$67, plus tickets.”

Martin Tolchin in "High School Graduates Big Evening is Worry and Expense for Parents," The New York Times, June 4, 1960. 

3. A girl just can’t go alone.

“...no group of high-school girls would ever consider going to an all-school dance without dates. The business of making sure that they will be dated for a school dance is, for a number of girls on the less popular side, a major activity during the school hours.”

Carroll C. Hall in "High School Chaperon: 'A Sultan to the Realm of Death Addressed,'” The Clearing House, Jan. 1950.

4. Nobody wants to chaperone.

“If the teacher is weak enough to succumb to the invitation (and not leave it up to the Dean, who has to be there anyway), he or she is in for an evening of studied, formal neglect. An evening of utter boredom.”

Carroll C. Hall in "High School Chaperon: 'A Sultan to the Realm of Death Addressed,'” The Clearing House, Jan. 1950.

5. Parents (and teachers) just don’t understand.

Mrs. Clifford Jenkins, the president of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers said,

"The prom has become an excuse for continuing a party in all directions on an adult level. I hate to think that any function which gets high school boys and girls together has to be expanded to an adult level in order to be desirable."

From "Has High School Prom Grown Too Big?" The Washington Post, Times Herald, Jun 2, 1961. 

Eva H. Grant, the editor-in-chief of the National Parent-Teacher, the official magazine of the National Council of Parents and Teachers, said,

"Are swank sophisticated night clubs the place for teenagers to go? Aren’t we giving our children too much too soon?"

Martin Tolchin in "High School Graduates Big Evening is Worry and Expense for Parents," The New York Times, June 4, 1960. 

6. Curfews are downright cruel.

“My parents are quite strict with me and I just can’t get anywhere with them... All the kids in our class go somewhere after the prom...You can’t get home much before 1:30 or 2...and my mother and father say I’ve got to be home by 1 o’clock or else I can’t go at all. I don’t want to tell the boy I go with I have to go home right after the prom…”

Elizabeth Watts in "After-Prom Problem: One Principal Suggests 'Stay Through the Prom,'" Daily Boston Globe, Jan 28, 1949. 

7. Everyone is pretty clueless.

"Dear Miss Woodward: If a boys asks a girl to a prom and she doesn’t have a gown, is it up to him to see that she has one in order to go? And if a girl asks a boy, must she buy her own corsage?" "It’s entirely up to a girl to see that she has the proper clothes to wear on all occasions. If a boy asks her to a prom, she should buy her own dress or borrow one if necessary. And if she can’t dig up the proper outfit, it’s too bad. She can’t go."

Elizabeth Woodward in "Your First Prom sometimes Raises Perplexing Questions," Daily Boston Globe, Apr 5, 1955.

8. Especially boys. They need everything spelled out for them.

You’ve bought your bid and have your eye on a small, delectable blonde you’d like to be your date for the big evening. Do you: [a] Play hard to get and postpone asking her till just a night or two before the big evening, so that she won’t feel too sure of herself? [b] Give her at least a week or 10 day’s notice, preferably more, so that she’ll be able to get glamorous for the number one event? [c] Put your bid in a month in advance, just to make sure she’ll be ready, willing, and available? You don’t like to dance and are no expert at moving your feet around, but decide to go to the prom anyway. Do you: [a] Dance at least three times with your date, and see to it that she has other partners for the rest of the evening? [b] Park your girl on the side lines and go off to join the other big and brawnies who would rather talk baseball and go out for a smoke than waltz around again willingly? [c] Decide that you and your date will ‘sit this one out’ all evening long?

Sheila John Daly in "Here's Gauge for Rating as a Prom Escort Daly," Chicago Daily Tribune, May 14, 1950.