Straight Talk Advice

Prom can mean dancing with wolves

Apr 14, 2015

Why many teens avoid dates for prom and school dances

Dear Straight Talk: The time for tuxedos and puffy dresses is here. The trouble is my parents won't let me attend prom without a date. Last year, to accommodate them, I asked one of my guy friends to go. However, I felt guilty taking him "hostage" — plus there was the awkward factor. Now, at 16, my parents have the same unfair requirement. Should I follow my own wishes and go to prom alone? —In the Parent Trap

Jessie 17, Sebastopol, Calif. Ask me a question

This is my first prom and my friend and I got consecutively Ron Weasley-ed by our guy friend (a clueless, “hey, I'm assuming you'll go with me”). His parents only pay if he takes a date. Believe me, it did not feel good to be asked for this reason. And you are right, things can get awkward. My advice, including to myself: Go however you'll most enjoy yourself. Unlike my mom's generation, it's normal to go with friend(s), solo, or be the one asking. I suggest writing your parents an argumentative essay explaining this.

Lisa 23, Eugene, Ore. Ask me a question

While many prefer having a date, the necessity is archaic. Teens commonly attend prom as large groups of girls and large groups of guys — that's how I went. The only time having a date mattered was during the mandatory slow songs. Then all the dateless guys were like “wolves” looking for girls standing awkwardly alone. At proms, like all school dances, most people only grind. Even during slow songs, half the couples aren’t face to face. My school breathalyzed, so drinking was mostly at the after-parties.

Elle 19, Mifflintown, Penn. Ask me a question

Do your parents think a guy will keep you safer? Ask them to explain. I went to prom with a guy who liked me, but we labeled it a “friend date” and thus avoided the overt grinding and groping scene. Barring a bad track record, your search for independence seems reasonable. If they insist, honor their wishes. However, I suspect if you go with a few girlfriends, your parents will ease up — and you can glam up and have fun.

Ryann 18, Tustin, Calif. Ask me a question

I absolutely love dancing, but the fad at my school is grinding on one another in big clumps of people. Only a few venture outside this norm and actually dance and move their feet. I've always gone with a friend and actually danced, which is fun. This year I'm riding solo to forego the awkwardness and expectation of grinding and sometimes more afterwards. Your parents should be proud of your independence and maturity.

Samanatha 23, Toledo, Ohio Ask me a question

Your parents may recall their own prom experiences and be nervous about throwing you “to the wolves.” Explore their reasoning. No matter how you go, be careful. Some kids get super messed-up. I had the privilege of attending prom as a freshman because I was dating a senior. My freshman best friend was dating my boyfriend's best friend so we doubled. I spent half the prom comforting her because he left to go buy marijuana! Then senior year, my date left me at prom to go get drunk! Ironically, I was comforted by the same girlfriend who was ditched freshman year.

Dear In the Parent Trap: I concur that needing a prom date is archaic. And with “grinding” being the unfortunate dance norm, being pressured into an awkward date could mean being thrown to a “wolf,” as opposed to “wolves” if you go solo (I'm betting wolves are your parents' concern). No wonder most unattached teens who brave the dances go in groups, and the panel's suggestion to lobby for this makes sense. If your parents hold firm, make sure to clarify with your date up front and hold your ground later about it being a “friend date.”

Editor's Note: Suggestion box idea: Since I have heard so many kids complain about freak dancing, or grinding, as it’s usually called now, as language as well as dancing have gotten down to basics, why don’t schools start dancing clubs and also teach dance in PE, and then the clubs could sponsor dances where the students really get to dance. Whether it’s swing, salsa, ballroom, jitterbug, hiphop, or freestyle dance, all of it is more expressive, more relational, and excellent fun compared to grinding, which I’ve had teens tell me is everything from traumatic to disgusting to a source of embarrassment. This has been the dominant dance form for at least 12-14 years, so I think a change could be wanting. Maybe I haven’t just heard the glories of grinding. Please enlighten if there are some. Wait... I already know, but at school?  —Lauren

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  1. By Karlee, age 17, from Bentleyville, Penn. on 04/14/2015

    You don’t need a date to go to prom. It’s nice for grand march and pictures and all, but absolutely not a necessity. Both years I went to prom I had a date as a formality—dances as well—and at all of these I ended up ditching my date to dance with everyone. Having a date can actually be almost a burden sometimes, especially if they’re interested in you, because prom is supposed to be fun. You don’t need one person breathing down your neck all night. My senior prom was probably better than my junior prom only because I realized I didn’t need to stay with my date all night. Unfortunately my school bleeped out all the curse words in the songs and tried to play slow jams all night. I don’t know if it’s just because I like to dance with everyone or what, but constant slow jams really killed the mood. Prom is like a PG rave. You dance, you sweat, and you drink LOTS of water. Neither of my proms had drugs or alcohol as a problem, although there were a few parties afterwards. My high school was pretty small so drugs weren’t really a problem. The staff and faculty didn’t breathalyze or drug test anyone 1) because we don’t have money for that and 2) because most of the adult staff was drunk themselves. Small school.

    Even though they tried to keep the dancing PG rated, it got a little more wild when some songs were played. I personally don’t see a problem with dancing… unless it becomes so risqué that it’s basically porn. My first dance was my freshman year, and a senior boy and junior girl were doing the “Turnpike” which is basically doggy-style sex with clothes on. I was scarred for life.

    Overall, I love prom and I always encourage girls AND guys to attend, ESPECIALLY if they’re going alone. Have fun, stay safe, and don’t be afraid to drink forty cups of water throughout the night..

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  2. By Charlene, age 17, from Westminster, California on 04/14/2015

    I am gay and my parents will not allow me to go to the prom with my girlfriend or alone, even though our school allows gay couples to attend and dance together.  It is against our religion to be gay, and they refuse to accept the fact that I’m gay and say that I’m just “confused.”  They make me go to a church counselor who does nothing but tell me that I’m not really gay and that I can resolve my feelings through prayer.  BULL###T!  My parents have arranged for the son of another family from the church who did not not have a date for the prom to take me and say that if I want to go to the prom, I must go with him!  He’s a nice guy and I have nothing against him, but I would not be comfortable going with him and think it would also be unfair to him, considering my sexual orientation.  I don’t want to miss the prom, and am willing to go without my girlfriend, but not with this guy.  They allowed my sister who is straight to go to her prom last year without a date, so I think I should also be allowed.  But they want to force me to go with this guy because then people will see that I’m “not really gay.”  But I am whether they like it or not!  My sister is totally supportive of me and like others with gay sisters who have written to Straight Talk has no problem sharing a room with me or with nudity in front of me just like with any sisters.  But my parents refuse to accept me the way I am.


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  3. By L.M., age 17, from Carmichael, CA on 04/15/2015

    My parents also will not allow my sister who happens to be gay go to her prom with her girlfriend and say that she can only go without a date if she promises not to dance with other girls.  She refuses to make this promise, so she can’t go, which I think is sad and unfair.  I didn’t have a date for my Junior Prom last year, so I went with some girlfriends and had a great time and actually danced as much as the girls who had dates and got to dance with several guys who did not have dates, as I was not committed to one guy.  My parents had no problem since I am straight as are the friends I went with.  Our parents claim that they accept the fact that my sister is gay, but they are not going to allow her to “advertise” it by going to the prom with her girlfriend or dancing with other girls.  However, I do not see this as “accepetance.” Like Charline’s sister and many others who have written to Straight Talk, sharing a room with my sister and things such as undressing and nudity are no different than they would be if we both were straight.  Why should they be?  We are still sisters with the same female bodies, so what exactly is there to worry about? 

    I think there is a big generation gap on this issue as my generation is far more accepting of those with a different sexual orientation than our parents’.  At least at my school, while it is not 100% true, most kids are pretty accepting of those who happen to be gay.  I have not seen the problems like people being uncomfortable in the locker room or at slumber parties undressing in front of girls who are gay that others have written about.  I have a hard time understand how anyone would have a problem with this since just like with my sister, we’re still all females.


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    1. By Ricky, age 17, from Petaluma, California on 04/16/2015

      It is similar at my school.  I am gay and went to the prom last year with my boyfriend.  There were 3 or 4 girl-girl couples, but we were the only guy-guy couple.  We got a few strange looks, but everybody already knew we were gay anyway, and most of the kids had no problem.  I have 2 sisters and one of them also happens to be gay while the other is straight.  My sister who is gay plans to go to the prom with her girlfriend, and so far it has not been a problem and it has not been a problem with our parents for either one of us.  My sisters are just as close as any sisters could be, closer than some I know who always fight and argue, and the fact that one of them is gay is not an issue between them.  They share a room and get along great.  I don’t know what goes on when they undress in their room with the door closed, but I’ve never had the impression that this is any problem.  Since we only have one bathroom, they share it in the morning and seem totally comfortable with it.  I hear the toilet flush when they’re in there together, so I know that they even share it when they’re “using the facility.”  Since I’m the only guy in our home, I’m lucky enough to get to use the bathroom in private just like I’m the one who gets my own room.  Unlike some sisters I’ve read about, they only undress in their room with the door closed.  They don’t walk around naked or in their thongs like some I’ve read about, luckily for me.  Even though I’m gay and it would not raise sexual issues for me, it would still make me very, very uncomfortable and embarrassed if they did this.


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