Prom 2K6

What do seniors really do on prom night? The Houston Press investigates

The kids all enjoy dinner, and the restaurant does a good job of managing the crowd, mostly prom groups. As things wind down, camera flashes start going off and groups of girls head to the restrooms. While Dana and Marly are taking their trip, a cute girl in a pink dress stops at Dana's empty chair.

"Where's your date?" she demands.

"In the bathroom." I have no idea who this girl is. Then I start to notice her wobbling and realize she's completely trashed. Apparently she and a friend have been doing shots in the bathroom. Clearly it was a few too many for this girl. She starts to hobble away, clinging to chairs, as Casey remarks, "She's not going to get in."

Click here to view our "Prom Economics."
Click here to view our "Prom Economics."

I find out later that her date was smart, skipped prom (maybe they saw the 90210 episode) and took her elsewhere to sober up. The girl in the pink dress is the only one I see before prom who is obviously drinking, although I suppose everyone else might just be better at holding their liquor.

In the main foyer, Marly is a social butterfly. She served on Prom Committee, and her mom is there, having spent all day setting up the decorations. Dana and I get in line to pick up our tickets, while Casey is stuck following Marly around.

There's a problem with my ticket. My name is on the envelope, but it's mysteriously missing from the master list, the list I have to be on in order to get inside. I think back to the phone call I made to the district's spokeswoman. "Wait, you're going to prom? I don't think you can do that," she'd said. She eventually relented, but I had to agree not to use the names of anyone I met only at prom. But now my name's not on the list.

I flash my best Eddie Haskell smile and work some charm on the volunteers. "Maybe there's a page missing," I suggest. After some consultation, they double-check my ticket and write down my name. I'm in.

Once the initial anxiety is gone, I'm struck by intense dj vu. Every single high school type is here. There's the shaggy-haired kid in Chucks. Two kids have dressed up in light blue and orange Dumb and Dumber tuxes. The same thing happened at my prom. A couple of BFFs are wearing the same black dress. I went to school with all these kids.

Casey can barely contain his excitement. This kid wants to dance! So Dana and I follow him and Marly up to the floor, where the DJ is playing Chubby Checker's "The Twist." Unlike at my own prom, I want to dance.

Actually, there's some prom karma I have to make up for.

In 2001, I was an awful prom date. I had started dating this girl who was already going with her ex-boyfriend. So I asked out my ex-girlfriend's best friend. Things were fine until we got to the dance and I ditched her to spend the whole time with my girlfriend. I wasn't really much of a dancer then, and I think I only danced with my date once. I was also nervous and a little jealous that new girlfriend was there with old boyfriend. It wasn't that much fun.

So I'm determined to make sure Dana has a good time. When the DJ throws on the Isley Brothers' "Shout," I make sure I go all the way down to the floor. I throw my hands in the air. Everybody's having a good time, and the dance floor actually looks like all those prom movies. The DJ switches to hip-hop, and next thing I know, I'm dancing with an 18-year-old girl to Juvenile's "Back that Ass Up." Awkward? Yes. T-Pain's "I'm in Luv with a Stripper," a slow song, comes on next.

At 11:30, the room fills up, and the Prom Court heads to the stage. The names are announced, and people cheer for their favorites. The DJ reads off the King and Queen, and the pair heads to the center of the floor for a slow dance. At one time, this would have been news: He's black and she's white. Now, all I hear from the crowd is "That's who I wanted to win" and "They look so cute together."

It's impossible to go back to prom and not play amateur sociologist. On this night, the kids are more than all right. Prom is really the last rite of passage from childhood to adulthood. It doesn't surprise me that the kids here call Clear Lake "the bubble," the same thing we called my suburban hometown of Sugar Land. Tonight, that bubble gets popped a little bit. It's why the parents were all misty-eyed pre-prom.

Prom starts to wind down, and all the girls have long since taken off their shoes. Barefoot, Dana and Marly start to gather up our stuff, and we head to the beach house. Time for the sex and drugs.

Just kidding. As far as I can tell, there's definitely no drugs. And because most of our second group are "friend" dates, no sex. Sorry. For most kids, prom seems to be an alcohol affair.

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