Meet the couple behind the first ‘promposal’ in recorded history


Brad Bain and Jen Tharp (now Bain) before the Plano West Senior High prom in 2001. (Courtesy Jen Bain)

Last week we brought you a short history of the “promposal,” wherein we learned the history of this quirky-slash-infuriating millennial tradition is actually not as short as we thought. The proverbial “kids” have actually been engaging in this shenanigan for years. Enough years, in fact, that some of its first practitioners have graduated, grown up … and gotten married! Seriously.

To further test this observation, I tracked down the two couples mentioned in the first ever promposal story, which ran in the Dallas Morning News and was syndicated in other papers in 2001. (It’s obviously impossible to pin down who delivered the first promposal in history, but these guys were at least the first mentioned in a major newspaper.)

One of the couples, Scott Rodgers and Amanda Gibson, was never actually a couple: Gibson, who now goes by her married name, Gahan, explained in a Facebook message that her then-boyfriend was away at college, so her friend, Rodgers, invited her to the big dance instead. (He kindly rewrote the words to Adam Sandler’s song in “The Wedding Singer” and serenaded Gibson at her house. What a pal!)


(Courtesy Jen Bain)

But the other couple — Brad Bain and Jennifer Tharp, then seniors at Plano West Senior High outside of Dallas — were an actual item, albeit a new one, when prom season rolled around. They had met at the local Tom Thumb, the grocery store where they both worked, and had dated for a few weeks.

One night around 7:30, Bain commandeered the store loudspeaker and paged Tharp: “Will Jennifer Tharp go to the prom with me? If she will, call ext. 2243.”

“But I thought he said, ‘will Jennifer Tharp go to the pharmacy,’” laughs Jen Tharp — now Jen Bain — from the couple’s home north of Austin. “So when I called his extension he had to repeat it.”

Needless to say, Tharp agreed to go to the prom. Bain’s elaborate proposal actually won them free tickets; they met at a friend’s house to take pictures and then eat at a Chick-fil-A before heading to the dance. (“It was a lot of fun,” Bain says, “but it was basically just a normal high school prom.”) The couple continued dating post-graduation, when Tharp headed to college at the University of North Texas. After seven years, Bain attempted a much less elaborate — but more important! — proposal, strewing rose petals around the couple’s house before giving Tharp a ring.

The Bains now live with their dog, Coco, and work for the same company in Austin. They celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary earlier this month.

This is all, of course, very adorable. (Who doesn’t like a good high-school sweetheart story?!) But it’s also a bit more than a cute romance or a trip down memory lane: It’s an instructive case study in how “teen trends” play out — even the baffling, empty-headed ones that seem so ripe for adult bemusement. Today’s promposals regularly earn eye-rolls from disapproving olds; one writer went so far as to interpret promposals as a sign of generational decline, a manifestation of teens’ “unabashed exhibitionism” and “need to be noticed.”

But when all is said and done? The kids are alright. In fact, the kids are grown up, married and having kids of their own.

“I think it’s neat,” Brad Bain said of promposals. He is, of course, a fan. “It adds a little extra flare! And it forces kids to not just work up the courage to ask, but to be creative, as well.”

Amen to that.

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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