There has been a frenzy of activity over the last few weeks here at Middleaged Towers, most of it revolving around the 'Prom outfit'. It seems the texts and online chat have been mostly about the what the girls are going to wear and whether teen son and his friends outfits will co-ordinate with the girls. Apparantly the girls have been shopping for months and managing to fit in their GCSE's around hours and hours in Top Shop.
The Prom is a relatively new phenomenon in the UK, being previously the domain of the US High School kid. But in the last few years it seems to have reached epic proportions in the UK, with stories of 11 years in limos and designers suits on boys who still secretly like playing with lego. Luckily in our manor the 11 year olds are content with an end of primary school camping trip and so far only the 16 year olds are doing the Prom thing.
Being an inner city school with an amazingly diverse group of pupils, teen sons Prom night was sure to be a spectacle. Off we set to the parents assembly (the bit we were allowed to attend, before the real night began) with teen looking resplendent in his finery, a handsome boy, any girl would be proud to have on her arm. I was a little confused, as I imagined taking a girl to the Prom actually meant taking her, I mean like picking her up and walking her there, but it seemed not!
We arrived at the school (not a limo in sight, thank God) nice and early to ensure a good seat as teen daughter and I were here to indulge in one of our very favourite activities - observing people - sometimes known, as being nosey!!
In they came, every shape, size and nationality, transformed from awkward teens in school uniforms to beautiful Asian princess's in stunning Saris, Turkish Prom queens with the most amazing hair styles and make up I have ever seen, indie kids in vintage suits, cool black boys in three piece suits topped off with Trilbeys and tall, thin model material girls in the shortest skirts and highest shoes I have ever seen.
They strutted their stuff and looked fabulous, for some, the first time they had ever looked properly 'grown up'. They eyed each other up and handed out compliments, (well the girls did!) before joining their respective style tribes. All around there was an air of excitment and anticpation of what the evening would bring.
We had the usual speeches, presentations, kids performing and the odd tear from parents. But for me the most poignant part of the evening was when the deputy head quoted the words of Mary Schmich written in 1997, for the Chicago Tribune.
- If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.
- Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.
- Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.
- Do one thing every day that scares you.
- Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.
- Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.
- Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.
- Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.
- Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.
- Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.
- Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.
- Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.
- Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.
- Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.
- Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.
- Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
- Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.
- Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.
- Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.
- Respect your elders.
- Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.
- Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.
- Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.
- But trust me on the sunscreen.