8 ways prom has changed since we were teens

I don’t like to remind parents of their ages, especially since it reminds me of my age, but sometimes we need to be told that times have changed since we were in high school. Prom season is here, and while we all have stories (and unspoken memories) of those glory days, we shouldn’t expect our kids’ experiences to mirror our own.

Below are the 8 Parts of Prom every parent should understand.

1. It begins with behind the scenes texting. The modern day version of getting friends to advocate on your behalf or make suggestions to potential dates is almost entirely electronic. Whispered words in the hallway are passé. Since most kids attend prom in groups (see #3), group texts facilitate discussion and keep everyone in the loop.

2. The promposal is almost as important as the prom. Move over Brangelina, there’s a new nameblend in town. Promposals, defined as elaborate ways to ask a date to prom, usually in the most public way possible, are expected and expensive. It made big news last year when average prom costs rose to $1,000, but it’s even bigger news (IMHO) that promposals make up $324 of that cost. Capturing the big moment on video is almost more important than who asks. Friends advise and may even take part in the plan. Entire Tumblers are dedicated to promposal suggestions and ideas.

3. The vast majority of kids attend in groups. Gone are the days of the couples-only mentality. In fact, many kids take a date purely for photo purposes. It is much more common for kids to attend as friends, rather than love interests. This is reflected in their music preferences (see #4).

4. Turn Down for What?  Ballads and love songs are out and energetic dance songs are in. While our generation couldn’t wait for a romantic Lionel Richie song so we could get close to our dates, today’s teen prefers getting down to Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk.  Upbeat party songs that entire groups can sing along with are what it’s all about.  And here’s a freaky thought – they also like the “oldies,” which for them – get ready – came out in the 2000’s.

5. Prom is a production. Forget about the one-venue event prom used to be. Kids today have a designated location to meet up with the group and take pre-prom photos. They then travel by limo or stretch Hummer to a restaurant where they can all be seated together and post photos to Instagram. Then it’s on to prom for dancing and more photos and live videos uploaded to Snapchat, followed by after-prom.  Prom is about seeing and being seen. Many times, in various locations and with several wardrobe changes.

6. It’s important to look 10 years older. While the rest of us are scrambling to turn back time, teen girls are pulling out all the stops to make themselves look as close to 28 as possible. Plunging neck lines, slips up to there, scoop backs, bare midriffs, and strategic slits all contribute to the lets-forget-I-was-fighting-teen-acne-yesterday persona . It’s up to parents, and oftentimes schools, to determine what’s acceptable. Guys still coordinate with their date’s attire and generally dress traditionally with a teen flare – a statement tie, a hat, Mad Men shoes – anything that shows a spark of personality and color in a sea of black and white.

7. Prom costs big bucks. Remember that $1,000 average cost I mentioned? If you’re a parent of a boy, you may be pitching in for the elaborate promposal, tux, limo, dinner, after prom activities, photos, and at least one prom ticket. For girls, expect nails, hair, tanning, makeup, dress, shoes, accessories, and possibly their own ticket. Beauty doesn’t come cheap, mom and dad.

8. Acceptance is encouraged. While intolerance still exists, this generation has grown up in a society that more readily accepts differences. The integration of kids with special needs, the blending of races and cultures, and the visibility of same-sex couples has changed the way prom looks today. Check out the plethora of posted photos and videos and you’ll see kids accepting kids, showing kindness toward those who are different, and welcoming others into their circles.

As different as prom may be decades later, it remains a once-in-a-lifetime snapshot of the evolution of a new generation. Embrace it, parents. And imagine what prom will be like on the next go-around with your grandkids.

prom kids dancing



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