Do British kids really need a prom? What’s wrong with a school disco?

June 11, 2012

In a few weeks time, AFTER she’s done her exams, my niece will be going to her first prom. Already, the panic about What To Wear has started. She wants a High Low Dress (no, I didn’t know either – it’s one of those ones where the front is shorter than the back, like you see on Strictly Come Dancing). No doubt she will want shoes. None of this will be cheap. There are prom dress shops opening up all over the place. The boys have to wear suits.

Meanwhile, No 1 Son is going to a prom with a sit down dinner. The tickets cost £40. ‘What happens to those kids who can’t afford to go?’ I asked him. He shrugged. ‘Not everyone wants to go,’ he said.

But I bet there are some kids who would love to go, who feel left out, but simply don’t have the money.

When I was at school, we had discos. Nearly everyone – girls and boys – wore jeans, and the boys stood awkwardly on the sidelines while the girls danced. Of course they were fun (although someone usually ended up in tears, someone was usually sick, someone usually snogged the face of someone totally unexpected, and so on). But I think the most it cost to get us there was about £3 and the bus fare home. Maybe a new top.

How did it happen, that we’ve bought into this US phenomenon of prom? What kind of social pressure does it put on kids – the ones who don’t have a date, or can’t afford a ticket or a dress or suit? In a few years time will we also be having homecoming parades, cheerleading squads and glee clubs? And will those kids who don’t ‘fit in’ be made to feel like social failures at the age of 15/16? Let’s hope not.

Proms add to peer pressure – in my opinion, the last thing our kids need. Is this really what we want, a Glee generation?

I’d love to hear your views.


You Might Also Like

  • Expat Mum June 29, 2012 at 1:42 am

    I live in the US and altho’ didn’t grow up with proms (mainly because I went to an English Catholic girls’ school), it isn’t that evil really. My kids go to a private school and although some families have a lot of money, the school has managed to keep the prom thing so low-key that it isn’t really representative of your typical American prom night. No prom king & queen, no limos, etc. And let me tell you, if our school can manage that, it’s pretty easy for any school to do it. Half the time I think it’s parents who promote the excesses by forking out for them.

  • family four fun June 11, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    I’m from London but live in Ireland where proms are the norm. I think it’s nice to have an official end of school celebration as we just wrote on our uniforms and then left with very little to mark the occasion.
    I’m closer to communion than prom and for both of these I think parents can get carried away with importance of expense etc.They risk spoiling a beautiful occasion stressing about ridiculous details. I will save to treat my girls & boys on both occasions within reason because I believe we should celebrate these times in their lives. However if they want tans, make-up, nails etc they can save their pocket money as I even did these myself for my wedding! x

  • Super Amazing Mum June 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    I’m pushing 40 and I have to say, the school discos I used to attend were always the girls and boys grammar joining up – whilst, the tickets cost peanuts (in a ballot no less) we always used to dress up. New dress, new shoes etc. The difference being bar 1 or 2, we ALL had saturday jobs – teens today don’t seem to do that??

  • Lulu Campbell June 11, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Hmmm. Tricky one. I agree with what you say but have a daughter VERY excited about her first prom post GCSE’s and I am in the process of refinancing my house to pay for the dress she wants (not really, but honestly this online access to dress options is driving me mad)…..

    That said, I grew up in HK which had a much more US influence so although we had discos they were sort of heading in that “date” direction and I’m not surprised given our obsession with the US that it’s finally arrived. I do love the idea of them all dressing up and looking smart but agree about the exclusion/cost issues (although my daughter is only paying £20 for hers). Lx

  • Christie June 11, 2012 at 10:06 am

    I think to a certain extent a formal event can be a lot of fun – it’s nice for once as a teenager to get dressed up and feel glamorous for one night. I’m 26 and 9 years ago I had a prom at my school – and I enjoyed every minute, even though my dress was a second-hand vintage cocktail dress, my hair was done by my mum and I did my own makeup…and I certainly didn’t fake tan. I wasn’t a social outcast though – I had a boyfriend who refused to go, but went with 3 of my male friends and split the cost of a limo. It was worth it just to feel like I was something special for one night.

    I think the idea of a prom, getting dressed up in something special for one night and it being a formal event is a good idea. However, from what I’ve seen – it’s the parents rather than the kids that let it get out of hand. No teenager would be spending £500 on a dress and then for fake tan and manicures – they don’t have that spending power alone. It’s the parents who bankroll it. I think the extravagance is not symptomatic of parents who are too soft with their kids, who don’t teach them restraint and give them what they want. Learning to make do with what you have is a valuable lesson that I don’t think most teenagers learn now.

  • Nell Dixon June 11, 2012 at 9:58 am

    There are fors and againsts. The school disco was still an agony of what to wear – new shoes, tops, jeans etc. Prom clothes don’t have to be expensive and there isn’t pressure to take a date. My eldest got together a group of friends and the limo they hired was about £20 each. they knew the costs a year in advance for tickets so a £ a week wasn’t too bad to save up. For girls it gives them chance to look like a princess for a night in a lovely outfit that they chose. They may never decide to amrry, have the big white wedding etc and if they do there will be other people to please. This night is for them, it’s special. Why not have a bit of glamour in their lives? Lets face it we would have loved it when we were 16.

  • Mary at Keynko June 11, 2012 at 9:39 am

    My son wore a suit bought in a charity shop for his prom – proper dinner suit and everything – £20! Shirt from Tesco – tie borrowed from friend. My daughter has been given a vintage 1950’2 evening dress by a relative which we have adjust to fit and shoes from a bargin bin sale £20 and £5 handbag from ebay. It horrifies my the amount of money people are spending on outfits. £500 on a dress alone so I’m told by my daughter! I like the idea of a great big goodbye to school, but there is a lot of pressure to out glam the other children! My daughter hangs her head in shame at the effort the others are going to – hairdressing appointments, fake tans and facials booked, nails, frock, shoes, undies etc etc etc. Very proud mummy every time she scoffs at them for it!

  • Cathy June 11, 2012 at 9:28 am

    I blame television in a way. My 10 year old daughter has asked me recently whether I had a ‘prom’, which I did in a sense, but it was called a ‘formal’. I went to high school in Australia. But as a teenager at the time there was pressure to go, and find a guy to take (if you didn’t have a boyfriend). I think it would be better to have more school discos because of the informal nature and the cheaper cost of them too. Kids are growing up too fast as it is.