Millennials & the Prom – PROMposals in the Digital Age

For their fifth birthday they rented a bouncy gym, for their tenth a pirate ship, and for confirmation the country club with DJ, dance, and photography. The millennials (and their parents) do nothing by halves.

Asking a date to prom is a rite of passage into adulthood with its requisite sweaty palms, once private anguish, and personal courage. Teens today are opting instead for an orchestrated performance, often with audience, participants, and script. The thinking may run along these lines: certainly things might go better with your four best friends working with you and half the school watching.  She (or he) can’t say no.  Right?

Welcome to adolescence today and the PROMposal.

The trend is a natural outgrowth of a life of high self-esteem and prolific social media; teens no longer climb the mountain to climb the mountain. They want to get the selfie at the top. It’s not enough to know Suzie wants to go to prom with you, but that everyone knows Suzie is going with you, and that everyone is involved in the process. Or at least maybe they’ll get a ribbon for the effort or a few hundred likes on Instagram.

Shakespeare predicted this well:  all the world’s a stage. Search promposal on Youtube and you’ll get over 50,000 results.

WHAT’S IN A WORD?

Here’s the connotation of the word, PROMposal. The language involves dropping the “pro” and combining the words prom and proposal: prom-posal.  But there’s more to the second word. Once the gateway to engagement, the term “proposal” was used for existing relationships, serious ones where both parties made a commitment to each other. There were no surprises that he or she liked you, the players already agreed and expressed interest; proposals followed courtship. Unlike the marriage proposal, the promposal may come as a surprise or maybe even an ambush.  The lucky girl, or victim, may not see it coming.

The prom-posal seems sweet.  But there’s an aftertaste.

A local school banned them. Probably because the peer pressure is “soft bullying” and it’s an ironic trend given the politically correct, play-it-safe-world of tolerance these teens have grown up in.  How can a girl refuse when everyone is watching?

There’s also an aspect of cowardice. It’s easier to get a bunch of people behind you and muster forces to your aid than to go it alone. Going it alone means risking the face-to-face earth-shattering moment when you receive the reply which might just be “NO” or “I don’t know.” And there’s the possibility of the intimate “yes” and the roaring, toe-curling sensation that goes with it. Granted, today’s prom-poser runs the risk of a public turn-down and humiliation, though I would argue the probability of that happening is lower than that of the personal invite.  It’s easier to tell one person to ‘bug off’ than twenty.

Norman rockwell young love

Normal Rockwell’s “After the Prom” depicts a bygone era

My fifteen year old daughter received her first invitation to the prom, complete with photos and video to regale us. She didn’t know it was happening when it happened, caught in the headlights poor deer (or dear ;-). She thought she was in deep doo doo because a friend lured her to the gym on a ruse that the athletic director needed to see her.  Sweating her potential missteps and reasons for such a meeting, she arrived in the gym to discover a junior and his four friends holding poster boards with the letters P-R-O-M-? on each poster, a bouquet of flowers in the boy’s hand.  He did ask her to the prom verbally, saying the words that is. I give him that.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND PEACOCKING

Yet isn’t this flattering and fun?  It’s nice to be asked to a dance and the show is a display of interest and effort. Flashy cars and loud music come to mind, because isn’t that what it was in the day? Here’s a term from the movie, 17 Again. Ned Gold, a middle aged bachelor takes Mike to meet with his attractive principal over some issues Mike’s having and Ned decides to wear an open shirt, fur lined leather jacket, and cowboy hat to the meeting because he likes the principal.

  • To the untrained eye, I look like a total idiot.
  • You do, in fact.
  • Ah. But it’s actually a seduction technique known as “peacocking.”
  • My outfit serves the dual function of icebreaker and attention-getter.

As much as things change they stay the same.

Teens are using a new outlet for peacocking in a digital age, the personal ad campaign with props, actors, and requisite video. Google it yourself and find everything from staged antics to skydiving, not to mention the average cost of $324 (Huffington Post, 4/2015). My generation could leave our youth behind us where it belonged, but for millennials, the promposal and all their adolescent adventures will follow them through life because digital content is after all, trackable, traceable, and retrievable.

Maybe we’re a product of our generation and that’s a bridge we can’t cross, try and understand it as we may.  I spoke with a young girl about it today and she recalled her promposal with glee. Afterwards she laughed and confided in me.

“If I have a son, I’m going to make sure he has the most creative and best promposal ever.”

DADD Shirt

A  T-shirt for the occasion, Link to Zazzle.com

My husband and I are army veterans and we haven’t met the young man who invited our daughter to prom. We’re trying to get used to the idea of the promposal, so in the meantime, my husband thought this T-shirt was worth the investment.

May 16, 2015

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

Stay Up to Date

Become a better reader and writer today and try the TreeHouseLetter for free. Always learning with a bit of fun.

Latest Posts

What Music Teaches Us About Writing

7 Min read The Music in Prose Creative Writing Forum, West Point Sentence rhythm, Beryl Markham and David Foster Wallace Writer's Toolbox, Improve writing immediately * I met with the Creative Writing Forum at West Point to discuss what music can teach us about...

The New Words Are In, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

2 Min read 13 New words Late to Coffee with a Baker's dozen * New words are in. And, 370 words have been added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary this September. You likely know many and below are some of my favorites. The editors break them down by category, but I...

Reading for Foodies

5 Min read 2 Book recs, memoir and craft Improve writing immediately AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes * "Buy me five, ten, okay? That's 50, make it a 100," my mother says, leaving a Ben Franklin on the counter with two packs of TJ's peanut butter cups.* I order the...

Bringing Writers and Readers Together: Why I Write

2 Min read Short Take Creative process For writers and readers AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * Maybe the better way to think of this letter is, why you read TreeHouseLetter. For me, it's about why I write. Which, are two sides of the same coin. I updated my site...

“Old Age is Not for the Young”*

6 Min read 2 Book recs, by elderly writers Serial comma 10,000-hour-rule Explicit language, 13 to 103 AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * If you believe 10,000 hours of practice will help achieve mastery, say, on the violin or as a volleyball player, then the...

Books I Love

5 Min read 17 Books, 19.5 including mentions in footnotes Genres: Memoir, Essays, Fiction, Writing, Love, Poetry, War Toolbox, Texture in writing Contemporary and classic books from the top of my stacks, my more current reading. * The most common question I get is,...

What Book Would You Take to a Desert Island?

7 Min read 2 Book recs Film rec Article abstract, on Virtue and Vice* Toolbox, Improve writing, ages 9 to 99 AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes * What book would you take to a desert island? I didn't know and hadn't given it much thought until Saturday when I told my...

Topics

Become a better reader and writer today and try the TreeHouseLetter for free. Always learning with a bit of fun.