The Duke and Duchess of Prom

Scan 2“Oh, Mom,” my daughter Anna crooned dreamily on the way home from Junior Prom last Saturday. “We went outside for a walk, and he gave me his jacket and held my hand… it was so romantic!”

She floated off to her room, her head swimming with fresh memories of Prom Night that will stay with her forever.

In fact, 21 years of attending military balls as a Navy wife have not clouded my own memories of Junior Prom.

It was the spring of 1983. Despite a disappointing first kiss the year before, I couldn’t quell my teenage optimism and believed that I’d soon meet the boy of my dreams.

But three weeks before Junior Prom, I was still dateless. I was so desperate, I threw a note with my name and address on it out the track team bus window at an away meet, in hopes that some athletic stud from another school would find it and write to me. A few days later I got letters from two pitiful geeks who had fished my note out of a mud puddle on their way to the library.

The following week, a boy in my science class followed me to my locker. He was nice enough, but had a seemingly perpetual sinus infection. A mouth-breather, the bottom of his upturned nose was always red and chapped. Speaking in a nasal tone through a full set of metal braces, he asked, “Woodyu wan do go wid me do da prom?”

Caught off guard, I stuttered, “Uh, wow, great, but I might be going with someone else, I’m not sure, I need to check … I’ll let you know….”

I had no idea what I was talking about. I had to come up with another date fast, unless I wanted photos of me and Mr.Crusty-Nose arm in arm under the balloon arch.

I thought of a football player I knew — well, actually, he was the water boy who got promoted to 3rd string lineman. A likable, husky kid with a jolly disposition, he was a mascot of sorts to the team, who had nicknamed him “The Duke.” He seemed the perfect candidate to be my prom date – not popular enough to reject me, and free of excess nasal mucus.

I cornered The Duke after school and proposed that we go to the prom together “as friends.” “Excellent!” he responded with a smile.

The next day, I broke the news to Mr. Crusty-Nose. I felt like schmuck lying to him, but good thing I did, because he asked another girl who ended up becoming his wife. So, I guess you could say, he owes me.

My cousin and I swapped dresses – I gave her a violet taffeta monstrosity with huge puffy sleeves, and she gave me a pink lace number that wasn’t much better.

The Duke showed up in a thoughtfully coordinated rental tux – a mauve poly blend with matching velour around the cuffs and collar, a ruffled shirt, and an enormous mauve bow tie. Although there was no romance in our arrangement, we both felt like a million bucks, and were hopeful for a fun night.

We sat with The Duke’s football player friends at dinner. They had always intimidated me, and I was glad to have the Duke as my buffer. Halfway through the cordon bleu, the boys were exchanging insults and inside jokes, when suddenly one of them pointed at my date and me and shouted, “Hey, it’s The Duke and The Duchess!” I swallowed my humiliation and faked a laugh.

Later at the dance, The Duke requested his favorite song, “You dropped the bomb on me” by The Gap Band, and we danced a mauve streak. All in all, my Junior prom was a pretty good time. I might have sacrificed the romance that all teenage girls dream about, but not everyone gets to be The Prom King and Queen.

Some of us have to settle for being The Duke and Duchess.

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