By David Raether
In one of the greatest miracles in human history, I had a girlfriend in high school.
It was my senior year, and she went to a different high school. I mean, come on, no girl from my high school was going to date the doofus I was then. I had to go to one high school over to find a girlfriend. We only ever hung out with her friends at her high school because I didn’t want to run the risk of her meeting my friends and taking them aside saying, “You do realize that Dave is a doofus, right?”
Anyway, this was the early 1970s and my girlfriend was a bit of a hippie. Not the Super-Fun, Hallucinogenic-Drugs, Ecstatic-Dancing-type of hippie girl. She was more of the Making-Her-Own-Cloth-on-a-Loom and Growing-Her-Own-Cucumbers type of hippie girl. How I managed to convince her to do something so utterly American cliché as prom, I have no idea. But I did.
I wanted to look good so I decided to wear what my mother called my “Weddings, Funerals and Piano Recitals Suit.” We got it at Montgomery Wards, so you know it was made from the highest quality polyester available. It had the appropriately wide lapels and flared pants legs that were de rigueur on all suits in the 1970s. For the shirt, I had a white shirt with an ornate floral pattern in blue, and I wore one of my dad’s wide ties. “Look at Mr. Snazzy, ”said my grandmother as I walked by her. That was deflating. What high school boy wants to be called Mr. Snazzy by his grandmother? None.
I have totally blown it, I thought, as I went out to the car I was driving for the night – our family’s 1969 chocolate brown Pontiac Bonneville station wagon with a little bit of rust over the rear wheel wells. I’m “snazzy,” which, as we all know, is a synonym for Doofus.
I got to my girlfriend’s house and was greeted at the door by her mom, who was a bit stressed out.
“She’s almost ready,” her mom told me. “Maybe a half hour. She’s just about done sewing her dress. “
“She’s sewing her dress?” I asked. “I thought you guys were going downtown to buy her a dress.”
Her mother turned and yelled up the stairs. “I told you we should have bought you a dress!”
Mom stormed upstairs and an argument ensued with lots of yelling and, I think, crying too.
Which left me stuck in the living room alone with her dad and one of her little brothers, who was playing “Greensleeves” on his recorder over and over. Finally, her dad had had it.
“Enough!” he yelled at the brother. Who promptly put the recorder down and joined his father in staring at me.
“What car are you driving?” her dad asked.
“A Pontiac station wagon,” I said. “It’s our family car.”
Long silence with the background noise of yelling and crying.
“What kinda mileage are you getting on that thing?” he asked.
“I don’t really know,” I said.
More silence. Finally, I decided to see if I could start a conversation ..
“So….” I said. “How about the Twins… huh?
“What about ’em?”
“They’re doing pretty good so far this year,” I said.
More silence. This is the longest half hour of my life! I thought to myself.
“Do you think I should go and maybe come back in a little while?” I asked her dad ..
“I have no idea,” he said.
It seemed like a good idea to me. So I stood up and was heading for the door when her mother announced my girlfriend was coming down the stairs. You know, the classic prom moment. The dress? Not so great. It had all the grace of a pink, cowl-less burqa. But she was my girlfriend and she looked just beautiful to me, so who cares about the dress? Besides, I was hardly James Bond, myself.
As far as the prom went, it was a blast. It was held in a ballroom of an older downtown Minneapolis hotel that had seen better days. My girlfriend’s high school was overwhelmingly Black students, and we were one of just four white couples there. The DJ and the music were fabulous and we danced ourselves into exhaustion. It felt like we were living an episode of Soul Train.
I can only hope your prom turned out to be as much fun as mine did. To get yourself in the mood, here are some movies about prom.