No one forgets their senior prom–the dress, the dinner, the anticipation fraught with drama. I, however, have no prom memories, because I never went to one.
Before anyone feels sorry for a Restaurant Gal who was left home alone on one of the crucial archetypal moments of passage in a teenage gal’s almost grown-up world, understand that I spent my senior year of high school at a then-groundbreaking alternative program once known as “The Early College.” And, being at the end of the hippie era, holding such a prom was never even considered at such a groundbreaking-ly alternative school.
Last night, however, I unexpectedly and unwittingly attended my first prom. I styled my hair myself, tying its fly-away untrimmed length into a tight ponytail while pinning my layered bangs off my forehead with gold clips. I hadn’t seen the inside of a nail salon in weeks, but, oh well. Who could see my nails, anyway, my toes enclosed as they were in clunky black non-skids, and my exposed hands a wreck as they always are from serving and tending bar.
I wore an all-black ensemble identical to at that of least 20 others wearing the same. But in a crowd of 600, no one noticed this prom faux pas.
“Okay, listen up!” our captain shouted at the Darth Vader-esque-clad army of which I had been recruited to be a part at the last minute.
“Remember your prom?” he smiled when we had all quieted down. “All the things you did and didn’t do, and all the things you did that you weren’t supposed to?” The band of soldiers laughed, as I did, even though I had no prom memories of any sort. “Well, it’s all about to happen here tonight, and we’re here to make sure it goes smoothly and that everyone has fun.”
With that, I was assigned to a team of two in charge of placing bread-and-butter plates next to forks, and polishing and precisely placing fancy butter knives on said plates.
My first prom had begun.
“Spring rolls?” I asked impossibly thin, beautiful girls clad in floor-length, jewel-tone gowns trimmed in sparking rhinestones as I passed hors d’oeuvres.
“No thank you,” most shyly smiled into their laps.
“I’ll take one,” most of the guys said, flagging me down every time I passed by.
“Chef doesn’t want to see any leftovers!” barked the captain at one point.
Don’t give me a sales challenge, because I’ll win every time. I made sure to revisit every handsome young man who had eaten more than one of my spring rolls, encouraging them to “take as many as you want.” By the end of the “mocktail” hour, I had them grabbing the tiny rolls by the dozens off my tiny tray. Chef was pleased with my first prom’s first memory–winning the spring-roll maven crown.
Dinner was a somewhat rushed affair, but only by formal banquet standards. To the all-dressed-up-wth-every-place-to-go teenagers longly ready to dance and romance and launch themselves into one of final events of their youth, the pre-set salads and dessert, along with a plated chicken dish, amounted to nothing more than a final hurdle to cross into young adulthood–the sooner the better.
“Are you ready to dance at your prom?” shouted the DJ.
“Are you really ready” shouted the DJ.
“Let’s dance!” shouted the DJ.
It took roughly 4.5 seconds for the dance floor to fill with all 600-plus attendees.
“Clear, clear, clear!” shouted our captain behind the scenes. “Everything! We’re outta here by 11:30!”
Don’t tell me to make quick work of a last-minute on-call job. I’ll clear my station and the one next to mine–teetering stacked plates laden with stripped chicken bones slathered in uneaten bites of mashed potatoes be damned.
“Hey RG!” shouted the captain in my ear as I cleared my last water glass and privately worried that the pulsating and bouncing over-crowded dance floor was about to cave in and bury us all in the basement four levels down.
“Yes?” I shouted back.
“You’re cut! Go home! Thank you!” shouted the captain.
Really? Before the prom queen is crowned? Before the group of misfits at one table finally doesn’t care and dances anyway? Before the cool sports guy finally notices the never-before-noticed cool drama-club president? Before passionate kisses are stolen and after-party plans include rules to be broken?
Don’t ask me twice to go home after a double day, when I have to do it all again at 5 a.m. tomorrow.
Good luck to the beautiful and the awkward, to the brazen and the bashful, to those sporting overly inflated confidence and those about to forget they ever lacked it. Dance the night away, store it away forever, and remember that one night–no matter how perfect or perfectly horrible it is–is but one night. Even prom night.