Remember your senior prom? You could have danced all night, and possibly did.
The school gym was decorated with miles of crepe-paper streamers; the ceiling probably blue and studded with stars. A 12-piece band played martial music for the Grand March and then turned languid for the crowning of the prom king and queen.
At least that's how parents of this year's prom-goers may remember their high-school proms.
Are the proms of yesteryear extinct? In some ways.
Velma Leigh, senior-class adviser at Wilson High School reports that Wilson, like a number of other schools in the area, no longer names--much less crowns--a prom king and queen.
And the prom in the gym is certainly an endangered species. Annandale (Va.) High School danced at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill; Camp Springs' (Md.) Crossland High School seniors at the Mayflower Hotel. Among schools booked for the Shoreham: the District's Spingarn High School, Silver Spring's Springbrook High School, Rockville's Wootton High School.
But some things remain the same.
"Kids still get very excited about proms," says Ken Kraft, Wootton math teacher and senior class sponsor. "The only way proms might have changed in recent years is that kids do them up much bigger: bigger pre-prom dinners and bigger parties afterwards."
"It's the one thing you look forward to in your senior year," says David Brooks, Annandale High School senior. "Everybody makes a big deal about it."
"It's the biggest event of high school for most people," chortles an enthusiastic Chi-Chi Mallari, Bowie High School senior and prom co-ordinator. She predicts that three-fourths of the senior class will attend the June 3 prom.
But despite an aura of excitement, there are perhaps more pockets of resistance than a generation or two ago. For one thing, the intense pressure to attend--or the concomitant embarrassment if you don't--seems to be diminishing.
Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School senior Abby Silver says she and her boyfriend, who attends a prom-less private school in the District, are pondering their decision together.
"We could go either way on the question of whether to go. When I talk to my friends they make it sound like so much fun. It's the last event of high school, a tradition, and it would be fun to see everyone dressed up.
"On the other hand, it's very expensive--prom tickets alone are $39. When we think of all the fun we could have for that--or even less money--we lean towards not going."
In an era when girls are comfortable about asking boys out, the senior prom appears to be one of the last bastions of boy-asks-girl, at least until several weeks before the prom. This does not mean, however, that dateless senior girls who want to go sit back entirely and wait.
"Today, girls tend to get guys to ask other girls," says Wootton's Kraft. "In years passed the girls would wait to be asked. Guys are still doing the asking, but they're being manipulated."
At Whitman High School, Bethesda, a morning announcement on the public-address system several weeks before the prom advised senior girls who didn't have, but wanted, a prom date to wear red the next day. (There are no reports available on the number who did.) And at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, a few days are usually set aside for girl-asks-boy.
As prom day approaches, senior girls who aren't going and decide they want to, have been known to delve into the junior class and ask boys--preferably ones who can drive--to escort them.
While teen-agers today are more casual about their day-to-day dress than their parents, that distinction doesn't apply to the prom. Attire is formal: Girls wear floor-length dresses that can cost anywhere from $100 to $200. Although most of the gowns are bought at major department stores, several senior girls report buying their dresses at bridal shops. One budget-conscious Whitman senior picked up a sleekly styled dress for $35 at a secondhand clothing store.
Audrey Weston, Springbrook High School senior, says she and her friends asked their mothers to make their prom dresses.
"It's less expensive, and you know no one will have one like it," says Audrey, noting that the burgundy chiffon fabric, lace trim and pattern for her dress ran the price up to $76. "But it's a much nicer dress than anything I could have gotten in a store for $76."
Boys rent tuxedos. Among the more popular styles this year are white tuxedos or white dinner jackets with black pants and shirt and bow tie to match the girl's dress. Michael Harrold, 18, a senior at Wilson High School, says he will wear a white dinner jacket with a pink cummerbund and bow tie to match the pink of his date's dress.
Several senior boys--to borrow an image from the Redskins' John Riggins--are topping off their tuxes with top hat and cane.
David Brooks tried a different tack at the Annandale prom. In order to cut expenses, Brooks decided to wear his own three-piece suit. The only others in suits were junior class officers invited to observe. "I felt a little self-conscious," says Brooks, "but my girlfriend assured me I looked nice, so I didn't mind."
Proms still feature live bands--sometimes two--and food. Bowie will serve hors d'oeuvres; Springbrook plans a dessert table. In addition to punch, most proms have soda cash bars. There are also souvenirs: pictures, key rings, "memory books."
The price for such trimmings--hotel ballroom, food, punch, band, souvenirs--is not insubstantial. Michael Harrold, who is on Wilson's prom committee, reports that the committee will spend $9,500 for its Friday prom at the Shoreham. Ticket prices are $45 per couple.
The total evening, however, usually eclipses the prom itself. Kelley Schoonover, vice president of the senior class at Bowie, outlines the typical plans of her classmates: pre-prom dinner at an elegant restaurant, prom, a drive to the beach in Ocean City or, for those who stay in town, an all-night pool party or champagne breakfast at a friend's house.
However it's managed, an important ingredient of prom night--and one tradition shared by parents--appears to be staying out until morning.
Several Whitman seniors who are on the track team had to make a choice. With the regional track meet scheduled for the day after the prom, would they stay out all night?
One runner has finally resolved her priorities.
"It would be embarrassing," she says, "to come home before dawn."
As Lord Byron wrote in "Childe Harold":
On with the dance! let joy be unconfined;
No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
To chase the glowing Hours with flying feet.