1. In high school I was the kind of person who wore neon-orange pants and Beavis & Butthead T-shirts, yet I decided to wear a big, poofy, princess-style powder-blue dress to prom (that another girl also wore, to boot, though we realized we'd bought the same dress ahead of time). It totally wasn't my style, and looking back, I guess I'd felt a sort of unspoken pressure to wear "normal" formal attire to prom even though my everyday look was somewhere between pseudo raver/"alt" (this was the late '90s and early '00s)/punk/weird loser? I wish I would've had the confidence to wear something less cookie-cutter and more fun or unique. I had an awesome time, but looking at pictures, I just think, that was not me at all!
2. I wish I hadn't made my parents spend all that money on dresses. I literally never wore them again. Also, my friend talked me into going to his senior prom with him when I was a freshman in college. I highly regret that; it was very stupid. (I went like three years in a row and then as if that wasn't enough, did that, because hanging around a bunch of high schoolers seemed like fun, I guess.) Also, I don't know about anyone else's school, but most of my proms were just a dance in our gym and everyone getting locked inside the school, so I wish I had placed much less expectations on it in general, looking back.
3. Don't worry about stepping on your dress, because you're going to do it. A lot. But guess what? So will everyone else. I quickly learned to just embrace it and act like that's what I meant to do. It didn't really work, but I still had a great time. You can spend half the prom carrying part of your dress like you're the people who carry the bride-to-be's train, or you can just ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and focus on the awesome people you're with.
4. Don't stress out about a guy not asking you out, and don't make yourself feel bad for asking a guy out first — if anything, your future consciously feminist self will be proud. Don't put so much pressure on having a date in general, though the pressure is understandable. You will be the only one in your group bringing a friend instead of a significant other, but you'll also be the only one still friends with your date to this day. You'll feel left out because you'll be the only one not having sex during after-prom, but don't feel bad about that either. You'll end up dancing (actually dancing!) with your friend all night and then staying up watching The Soup on an air mattress while everyone else retreats into their separate rooms. You'll eat snacks and hang out and not worry about a thing. You won't realize it at the time, but your senior prom was perfect.
5. Because I went to prom on Long Island in the early 2000s, my look involved a VERY intricate updo, complete with those face-framing curly tendrils. The higher the hair, the closer to god, right? Anyway, since the whole process took like an hour and a half in the salon, I got it done while wearing some comfy jeans and my favorite Bright Eyes T-shirt — but I didn't think about the fact that I wouldn't be able to get my shirt off once my hair was all done up. By the time I got home I was running late and feeling frantic, and in a moment of desperation I let my mom cut the shirt open and off of me, straight down the front. She calmed me down by saying we could turn it into some kind of button-up. We didn't do that. So I guess I wish I had worn a button-up shirt, or at least thought to cut a wider opening around the neck.
6. When I went to my senior prom, my two best friends and I were worried about splitting our time between the two different larger groups of friends we had at the time. We decided to spend pre-prom with one group, which is who we took our pictures with and who we took a bus with to the actual event. The three of us and our dates ended up having such a great time at prom itself — just like we do when we go to parties now, we shut down the dance floor and closed out the party — that we didn't want to take the bus back with our original group. My mom drove us back to our first after-prom party, and then about an hour later my friend's dad picked us up to drive us to another after-prom party with our other group of friends. We had a great time, but not because we were spending time with everyone we went to high school with. The best moments of the night consisted of the three of us laughing alone in a corner and having fun by ourselves, regardless of which larger group of friends we were with. In sum: Don't worry about party-hopping or participating in every possible option you have because you're afraid of missing out. As long as you're with a couple of good friends, you'll have fun and make memories wherever you go.
7. I went to a private school, so there was only one prom for juniors and seniors. I wasn't having the greatest time my junior year until my senior friends from the academic quiz team invited me to go bowling with them. While none of us did particularly well, there is something to be said for pairing bowling shoes with a fancy dress. You'll look a little ridiculous, but that's part of the fun. No matter what the cool kids say, bowling after prom is fun and not (too) nerdy.
8. My junior year of prom, I asked a crush of mine to be my date, and he said yes, because he was a nice dude. I went into prom totally thinking THIS IS MY CHANCE TO GET MY MAN. Anyway, the night goes SO WELL (in my mind) and towards the end of prom, I decide to declare my feelings. Needless to say, he does not reciprocate, and spends the rest of prom uncomfortably avoiding me, and sitting on the opposite side of the limo on the way home. Even worse, he was from another school, so I clearly made it so awkward that he was more comfortable hanging with strangers than with me. The moral of the story: Don't go with a friend who is also your crush, unless you know that crush is requited. No matter how many movies you have seen, prom is NOT THE TIME to confess your long-held feelings to your friend. If it goes badly -- and it goes badly A LOT -- it can ruin your whole night.
9. I never went to prom and I have zero regrets. Advice: Don't go if it's not your thing.
10. I went to prom during my senior year and it definitely wasn't my thing. It was super boring and I left early. I ended up going to my best friend's house and having a movie night instead — immediately taking off the ridiculously expensive prom dress as soon as I got to her house. You don't have to feel obligated to go to prom just because everyone else is. You're better off doing what feels right for you! Go if you want to, but don't feel bad if you just want to stay home and have a movie night instead. I would've saved so much time and money if I just listened to my gut. Pizza + Netflix = better than prom!
11. Don't get too excited about it because later on, in retrospect, when you're like 25, that night will seem very mediocre and totally uneventful. The only thing I remember is that I won $200 at the after-party lottery.
12. You don't have to go, and you will still grow up to be a person of value and worth!
13. I went to prom THREE times in my four-year high school career. My first time going, I went with a Myspace friend at a different school who I had never met in real life beforehand. Naturally, I had some social anxiety being a stranger amidst a fairly intimate social event and this was only made worse by my terrible decision to take a psychedelic substance earlier that day. Basically, all night long I was a smiling, mute weirdo with no exit strategy because my only ride back was in the limo I arrived in. Lesson learned: I drove myself, sober, to the next two proms.
14. Prom gets a bad rap for some reason; I'm not really sure why. I went to six — yes, SIX proms — during high school, because the town I lived in held a separate prom for juniors and seniors. It actually got to the point where I had to buy a tux because renting was getting ridiculous They were all to my memory positive experiences (like the time I was senior prom king), and mind you, they were ALL Breathalyzed too: Imagine how awkward several hundred sober high schoolers must be! The funny thing about prom is it is like pretty much everything else in life: what you make of it. Maybe it's because I'm an extrovert, but getting dressed up, dancing the night away, and spending time with your closest friends sounds like a pretty swell time to me. If it's not your thing, then that's fine too! But don't get wrapped up in the peripheral stuff like who you're going with and whatnot. Instead, think about how fucking fly you're going to look, work on your dance moves, and round up all your best friends. To quote my sister, who is a senior in high school and recently was showing me prom dresses, "The look I'm going for is 'fierce' or 'you should have dated me.'" Life is your dance floor. Get funky!
15. I didn't go to my senior prom because my boyfriend and I at the time were too... "against the establishment" to go. I don't regret that decision at all. I always hated school events and I don't see why prom would have been any different (later on, I also skipped my college graduation — YOLO). Instead of prom we got dressed up and went to one of our favorite restaurants then went back to his place. The plan was to dance in his basement as our own prom, but unfortunately I fell asleep on the couch before any dancing could happen. I do regret falling asleep! But all and all it was a night to remember and it was fun to create our own version of "prom night." F the system!