Diary of a Marriage: The High School Prom (Take Two)

This Friday, J. and I are doing something that not too many thirtysomethings get to do: We are going to the prom together.

Having a husband who’s a high-school teacher means that, unlike most couples, we get the chance to do (or, in some cases, re-do) all the sweet, semi-innocent high-school stuff — like the prom — all over again, only this time with the right person, and this time wearing a dress that I won’t later regret (unlike the pink tulle McClintock monstrosity I wore to my own junior prom).

Our prom-going is made even more amusing by the fact that neither one of us went to our own senior proms (he was off playing in some tennis tournament; my friends and I decided to go to a concert instead, where we smoked Marlboro Lights and applauded ourselves for being so over that high-school stuff).

And now we sit at the faculty table with J.’s other thirtysomething colleagues and talk grownup stuff — jobs, family, vacation plans — while the high-school kids squeal and laugh and hug and take pictures. Every year I see the same high-school girls crammed into the bathroom — all too tan, too thin, too similar, in their frothy, sherbet-colored confections, already wearing flip-flops because their high heels hurt — shellacking on their makeup, tugging at their strapless dresses, assuring each other that they look so cute and yes, their hair looks really, really great, even that errant tendril in the back. There’s always one or two who cry, usually over a snapped spaghetti strap or some boy who’s not worth it.

It’s always then, as I shimmy out of the ladies room, that I get what people say about it all going so fast, because it seems at once five minutes and five decades ago that I was there wearing that pink tulle dress, with the boy who would, months later, make me cry. And it’s always then, as I slide next to my husband at the faculty table, that I feel lucky at having emerged from the whole mess of high school relatively unscathed.

This Friday, I will adjust the itchy corsage on my wrist (even though we’re married, J. still gets me a corsage. I guess he’s just good like that) and maybe if they play our wedding song, we’ll slow-dance, and we’ll look at the girls parading around and pick out which one we think our future daughter, Grace, will look like (not the orange girl with a string covering her breasts, of course, but the one in the pretty vintage-style dress). And I’ll look at the sea of almost-men and -women and think that I would do it all over a million times — hideous pink tulle dress and tears and itchy wrist corsages and skipped proms and cigarettes and concerts — if it means that I get to go to the senior prom, ten years later, with J.

Are there any times or experiences that make you look back on your past — and appreciate how you came to be in the place you are today, with your husband or fiance by your side?

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