7 Ways Prom Can Be A Toxic Experience

by Chrissa Hardy

For the amount of time we spend picking out the right dress, the right shoes, the right hairstyle, and the right date, the amount of fun many people actually have at prom is shockingly minimal. That's because prom can be a toxic experience for some people, leaving you with an icky feeling of, "Why didn't I just stay home and hang out with my bae pizza and watch TV?" I totally get it.

Prom seems like a harmless formal school dance at first, right? That's how basically every movie and TV show make it seem, anyway. It's supposed to be a night in which everyone is bound to have a blast, make memories that will be cherished forever and ever, and then (safely and responsibly) rage at an epic after-prom party with their BFFs. And for many people, that is exactly how prom goes down. It really can be a memorable night with friends that perfectly caps off your entire high school career. But, there are certain prom tropes that can make prom memorable for the wrong reasons, and it's important to watch out for them so that you can prevent them from ruining your experience.

Here are all the ways prom can turn into a toxic mess, and how to watch out for these classic prom crap traps.

1. The pressure to get a date

Prom should be about having fun with friends while looking like your most beautiful self. There should be no pressure to attend with a date, and no restrictions on who that date can be. If you want to take your BFF as your date so you can have a kick-ass girls' night while flirting up your crush during slow dances, fine. There should be zero judgy eyes on you upon making this choice.

2. The money it costs to attend

The dress, the shoes, the matching clutch, the hairstyle, the limo, the corsage, the actual prom fee — the list goes on, and it shouldn't. Wear whatever you want to prom, and arrive in whatever mode of transportation fits your budget. There's no need to create your first batch of credit card debt just to go to prom.

3. The over-the-top promposals

When I was in high school (my heyday was the '90s), we just asked people to prom by, you know, asking them to prom. Elaborate promposals didn't exist. To me, the cost and stress needed to pull off the whole ordeal really does not seem worth it. It's not a marriage proposal, it's a date to a dance. Don't overthink it.

4. The sexual pressure

Dated high school rom-coms have taught us that it's tradition for people to experience sexual pressure on prom night — and that absolutely should not be the case. Only you can decide if having sex after prom is the right choice for you. If it feels right, if you feel ready, and if you are safe, then go for it. But don't just have sex because "it's prom and that's what you do." Besides, the hype that surrounds prom night sex often leads to disappointment anyway. There will be much better sex in your future, should you decide to skip it after prom.

5. The clique-y limo roster

In high school, everything is a big deal. And when it comes to choosing seats in the prom limo (or whatever vehicle of choice your friends are using), classic teenage-dramz usually follows. That's because whoever is in the limo will probably take pictures together before going to prom. And those same people might even get ready together. It's the selection of your prime prom crew, so it seems like a crucial decision, but I promise, it isn't. Once you arrive at prom, you can be with everyone, so don't stress about the pre-prom roster.

6. The dress codes

It's utterly baffling that some schools will still turn students away for wearing "inappropriate attire" to prom, especially since this is usually directed at female students for dressing "too sexy." A lot of thought and consideration goes into a selected prom outfit, so for it to then be deemed essentially Not Good Enough by anyone's standards is BS. Wear whatever you want to wear. Wear whatever you feel beautiful in.

7. The heteronormative slow dance assumptions

When a slow song comes on, friends clear the way for couples to take the floor. Why? Anyone is free to dance with anyone during any song — no matter the tempo. So if you choose to grab your BFF and do a waltz to K-Ci & JoJo, then so be it. (Again, my heyday was the '90s.)

Sure, prom has its down sides, but it can also be an amazing time. At the end of the day, it is what you make of it. If you want to go in with no expectations, don't care about what other people think while you dance with your friends, and celebrate the end of the school year, you're likely going to have a good evening. But, if for any reason you feel like prom isn't worth the trouble, it's totally fine to skip it as well. In fact, you'll probably be happy you did.

Image: Touchstone Pictures; Giphy (7)