No Date, No Problem

By Valerie Lemke

March 6, 2009 4 min read


You can enjoy yourself at prom no matter who you're with

Valerie Lemke

Creators News Service

Each spring, the high school prom, often a teenager's first formal affair and a guaranteed lifelong memory, brings with it anticipation as well as angst. Now, as it has been for decades, having a date to the event is the chief concern for many of the potential participants..

In America, this rite of passage had its beginnings about 100 years ago in formal teenage dances intended to instill social skills in young people.

Fifty years later, the evening had settled into a strict formula: A boy invited a girl, rented a tuxedo and bought a corsage. A girl bought or made an evening gown for the event. Couples dined in a restaurant and drove to the dance in a family car or school bus.

The prom in the school gym, banquet hall or hotel ballroom featured live music as couples posed for formal photographs in front of a backdrop emblazoned with the evening's theme, such as "A Night at the Oscars." A chaperoned after-party sometimes completed the activities.

While the prom varies by community, until recently the mid-century trend continued, often in a grander fashion -- complete with limousines, designer dresses, professional hair and makeup sessions, but still adhering to the couples-only tradition.

Fortunately for today's teens who do not have or may not want a date on this major occasion, there's a new way to enjoy the spring ritual. Going to the proceedings with a group of friends rather than as a couple is a recent major trend. It's a healthy change and it appears to be catching on around the country.

"Some come with dates, but it's not a requirement anymore and I think that's wonderful," said Dawn Kastner, principal of Westview High School in San Diego.

"This is a big plus," agreed James Coyne, principal of Fairfield Warde High School in Fairfield, Conn., who estimates he's attended more than 40 proms in his tenure. "Kids no longer feel they can't go if they don't have a date. It's not unusual for them to come as a group now."

And it's definitely OK for girls to ask boys to the prom, added Casey Lewis, a journalism major at the University of Missouri. Lewis advises teens about fashion trends and prom-related concerns on the Web at

"It's also acceptable to bring a best guy buddy or girl friend from another school," Lewis said, adding that there are lots of alternatives. "It's very rare to be completely left out unless you want to be."

Sheri Roonan, a Fairfield High parent, also sees giving the students this choice as a step in the right direction. "If the kids really want to go to the dance, that's what they'll do," she said.

There's a trend toward today's events being a lot more interactive than their earlier counterparts, too. In the case of Westview High, the proms, which are joint junior-senior events, have been held in such exotic venues as an aerospace museum, a major league baseball park and a floating aircraft carrier that is now a museum. Each location offers many interactive things to do in addition to dancing -- a plus for those who may not be so into the event as a dance, but rather for hanging out with friends.

"We get a big turnout at the prom," said Kastner. "It's a fun night."

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