This time of year, friends post pictures of their kids’ proms and graduations. Better than cat videos, it’s something you just can’t turn away from. These teens are transformed for prom. The girl who slouched in her jeans and hoodie looks svelte in a form-fitting dress. The scruffy boy who was caked in soccer mud looks dashing in his tux and shiny shoes. Graduation is a joyous collection of action shots: getting the diploma, jubilant kids tossing their caps in the air, hugs and group shots with proud families.
I was in college before I realized that my high school prom and graduation were different from most. I attended a coed public school, but it had started as a school for girls. I always assumed, but can’t confirm, that the girls’ school beginnings were the reason graduating girls wore white dresses. Yes, 250 girls in long white gowns, each holding a dozen red roses. The 250 boys wore white dinner jackets with rose boutonnières, bow ties, and black pants. Not a mortar board in sight. This was a proud tradition that we didn’t question, though now I wonder if we looked more like a mass wedding.
It was probably a long, long ceremony for our families, as each one of us walked up to collect our diplomas, but we all had something else on our minds: prom. A couple of hours after graduation, we were going to our prom at a downtown hotel. I’ve never heard of another school scheduling prom on the same day as graduation – were we even still considered students of the school since we graduated? But it seemed to make sense at the time; we could get more mileage out of our debutante-grade white dresses, and it certainly made that one day a huge high point of our high school careers.
In college I had plenty of opportunities to dress up for dances, collecting a rainbow of gowns. And when I graduated, I was thrilled to finally wear a black robe and mortar board. I love pomp and circumstance. I’m ready to cry for anyone’s big day. Congratulations graduates!