By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
The day of prom, I have nothing to do. The corsage is in the refrigerator. My tux is laid out. I'm supposed to be in Clear Lake by 5 p.m., which gives me at least four hours to psych myself up. I've been watching prom movies all week: She's All That, Pretty in Pink, 10 Things I Hate About You. The only constant I've come away with is that tonight someone is going to cry, I will learn an important life lesson, and everyone will be a fantastic dancer.
Dana's been getting ready since noon. First, there's nails. Then hair and makeup. All I have to do is shave. I decide to make a mixtape, Prom Mix 2K6. I check out Dana's MySpace for her tastes and throw on some Weezer. I have to include Wheatus's "Teenage Dirtbag," my personal prom fave. Green Day's perennial prom song, "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)," gets a spot. And, just to mix things up a bit, R. Kelly's "Bump and Grind." I still have three hours to kill.
I pace. I practice pulling my notepad out of my jacket pocket. Breathe. I'm getting nervous already. I try to remember whether I was this nervous before my own prom, and the answer is a definite no.
Finally, it's time to go. I've borrowed my buddy's Acura RSX, a much sweeter ride than I normally drive. I pull up to Dana's house in Seabrook and throw on my jacket. I grab the corsage and ring the doorbell.
I'm hoping that Sixpence None the Richer's "Kiss Me" will be playing as I walk in, but it's just Dana and her folks.
"You look great," I say, remembering my lines. Wow. This is a real date.
I introduce myself to Mr. Prentice. Dana's mom has her camera out and we do some posing while I slip on her corsage. Dana has the harder job, pinning on my boutonniere. We're waiting for another couple, Casey Guhl and Marly Williams, to show up. The four of us are planning to do pre-prom with a much larger group ("the popular kids," Dana tells me) by taking pictures and eating at Rudy and Paco's on the Strand. Post-prom, the four of us are heading to a beach house with a bunch of Marly's friends.
When Casey and Marly get there, we take another few dozen photos out in the backyard, which meets the water. Next, we head to another house in a nearby neighborhood, where our group is meeting up with a dozen other couples for more photos with all the parents. Walking into the suburban home, I'm greeted by one of Clear Lake's housewives.
"Hi, I'm John's mom," she says.
"Nice to meet you, John's mom."
The place is buzzing with anxious couples. Reservations are in 30 minutes in Galveston, and no one has started organizing photos. When the last couples finally arrive, we circle up around a couch, girls in the front, and the onslaught of flashes starts. Some 20 cameras are popping and whirring and clicking. I'd bet a million dollars there's not a single photo with all the kids looking in the same direction.
A lot of these kids are on the basketball team, so at six foot four, I blend in pretty well. As I was starting this story, nearly all the adults familiar with Clear Lake High warned me about the kids there. A Clear Creek ISD spokeswoman warned of the "lake culture," ostentatious displays of wealth I wouldn't have found at other the high schools, Clear Brook or Clear Creek. If I'd listened to only the adults, I would have expected a bunch of snotty, snobby, privileged kids straight from a Brett Easton Ellis novel.
These kids were all really nice. Sure, they were scheming. (One couple had to ditch part of the photo shoot to go hide ten cases of beer so their parents wouldn't see.) But they all seemed exactly like the high school kids parents would want. There was no stretch Hummer out front, and the only people taking the whole affair too seriously were a handful of parents.
We've just spent two and a half hours taking pictures. Finally, the parents say good-bye, and we head off to the restaurant. I follow Casey as we book it down I-45. We park across from Rudy and Paco's and stroll in a mere 20 minutes late.
I ordered my filet mignon medium rare, and the hunk of meat I'm chewing on is medium well at best. But the calamari is fantastic, and Casey can barely stop talking about how good his chicken is.
Casey is wearing an all-white suit with blue underneath to match Marly's dress. It's pretty pimp, and just the first sign that Casey is a card. As we make our way through dinner, ordered from a prix-fixe prom menu, he tells me about life as a knife-set salesman (Clear Lake's housewives love him) and how he's going to study business at Texas Tech in the fall. He's "stoked" about surfing tomorrow morning. I've never been and don't have trunks.
"Some one'll be passed out," he says. "You can just take 'em off them. I'll have you out there by then, dude. I want to be out by 7 a.m."