Dami Kim, culture editor
For the past three weeks, four simple letters have been repeatedly painted on posters, frosted onto cupcakes, sung in serenades and even fluttered in the sky on a banner attached to the tail of an advertising airplane. And with the addition of a cute, fluffy teddy bear and an aromatic bouquet of pretty flowers, it’s almost impossible to reply to the four-letter word with a firm “No,” especially when there is a cheering crowd nearby.
Prom. The word itself is tantalizing to girls. Ever since the day we understood and sympathized with Disney’s princesses, we have dreamed of our own fairytale night. But in a modern setting, fairy godmothers and wishing lamps do not just appear out of the blue to help a dreaming girl find her perfect dress. The glass shoes in Cinderella may have cost nothing, thanks to magic, but in reality they are not only impractical for dancing, but also very expensive.
According to a survey conducted by USA Today, families who plan to spend money on the annual festivity will spend an average of $1,139. Most of the budget is spent on the one-of-a-kind dress and complementing shoes every girl wishes to have. The vast majority of the remaining money is divided and spent on makeup, hair and spray-tan appointments, limousines and an overpriced entry ticket to the venue. As usual, the money adds up quickly.
So this realization of needing financial aid is undoubtedly the girl’s first step toward making her fantastical night become a reality. Sadly as it seems, prom becomes a competition of who can spend more money for a single night’s dance. And members of the upper class in the social hierarchy, of course, are crowned winners.
The media and popular culture also fuel girls’ desires to wear designer dresses. According to a survey conducted by USA Today, dress store David’s Bridal reported that this year’s color trend in prom dresses, coincidentally, was pink blush, the same color worn by “Hunger Games” actress Jennifer Lawrence at the Oscars awards ceremony. With media pushing for a trend, a girl helplessly falls into the dilemma of choosing between a cheaper, less stylish dress or a dream dress with a sacrifice from her daddy’s wallet.
Consequently, the event produces a mirage-like effect, with its bright lights beaming down on the exceedingly happy couples. And when the sweet sense of stress-free night is over, it leaves us with a transparent reality that we could have gotten a better dress, and a bitter regret of spending an inappropriate amount of money on a dress that we are never going to wear again.
Prom’s competitive aspect does not end with the cost; it continues with girls broadcasting every minute of their prom-tale on social media. On Instagram alone, there are over three million pictures tagged with “#prom.” Facebook statuses and Tweets often deal with girls being asked to prom or dictate how girls are getting ready for the night. With the excessive use of social media, it’s only likely that girls begin to compete with one another for appearance, based on how many “likes” a girl can get on her picture.
Prom is supposed to be a fun night for deserving high school students who have fought through school with sweat and tears. Moreover, as the changing culture demands that girls blend with the trend, prom represents more than just a school dance: it remains a deep analysis of society’s cultural perceptions of superficial beauty, mainly created by the media and strictly enforced by peer pressure.
Despite prom’s burdening costs, the average spending on prom will unfortunately, continue to increase unconditionally. As long as fairytales still exist in their childhood, girls will always be girls in dreaming for the perfect night.