Sydney Parker, 21, before a Prince George’s County high school prom. Her little sister, Savannah, is wearing the same gown this year. Mom frets that she will look slightly like a Vegas showgirl. (Lonnae O’Neal)

Is prom supposed to be fun? Because I’m not having fun.

I’m spending a lot of money — not fun. I’m arguing with my 16-year-old about false eyelashes and side breasts — not fun. And at the cleaners, as I attempt to gather up the scores of blue sequins Savannah’s prom dress is shedding like ficus leaves — not a bit of fun — it hits me.

This is why people pay to see teenagers get mangled at prom in horror films.

Prom is primal. In some ways, it represents the first version young people see of their grown-up selves, and that trips control issues for all concerned.

Seamstress Kyu Nan Lee is muttering to herself in a thick accent.

She is not having fun either.

She is working on a prom dress that she says “is a thousand inches wide! I’ve never seen anything as wide as that one. I’ve been in this country 45 years.”

“It’s got seven layers of fabric,” confirms Paul Pang, manager of Mount Oak Cleaners in Bowie. “It’s more complicated than a wedding dress.”

Paula Holloway is nodding. It’s her daughter’s dress. Her daughter, Jalyn, is a senior at the same high school where Savannah is a junior. Jalyn wants to be a princess for prom. Sure, it sounds like fun, but turning a live girl into a Disney projection? Too much. Too much work, matching, planning. “It’s a lot of everything,” Holloway says. “She has a tiara.”

As Holloway and I are talking, Savannah does her big reveal. She’s wearing her older sister’s prom dress, but Sydney was 18 when she wore it. Lee has taken it in to emphasize the slimness of Savannah’s waist. Her shoulders and back are almost completely bare. Two strings hold the whole thing up.

“She looks like a Las Vegas showgirl,” I joke nervously with the other mom.

“Yeah, that I wouldn’t do,” Holloway says, and I’m crushed. Great.

Now all I can think of is how Savannah’s date’s mom is going to judge me when she sees her in that dress. It’s not my fault, I want to protest. I’ve fought the good fight with my girls on short-shorts, tank tops, fake nails and barely-there bikinis. I held the line on high heels longer than most. But my oldest, Sydney, fell in love with the Vegas dress first, years ago. She was a ballet dancer all through high school, she had gotten into her top college, and, I don’t know, I just gave in!

Sydney had an image of herself on the cusp of womanhood — which, by the way, I get — and faced with her certainty, I caved.

Then Savannah came begging for her sister’s dress. She called it cost efficient. She shot me plaintive looks with her beady teen eyes. She wore me down. But only on the dress (and let me say we are buying a shawl as a coverup). I said no to the false eyelashes, no to the makeup artist.

Aunt Dana is doing your makeup, I told her.

When she asked if Aunt Dana had any professional experience, I simply ignored her.

“Our kids have different levels of aspiration, and they are much more influenced by popular culture,” says Washington stylist Monica Barnett. They want to keep up with the Joneses, “but the Joneses aren’t next door. The Joneses are the Kardashians, Miley Cyrus” and Beyoncé.

Girls now “want to figure out how to give you that flash! bang! whiz!” Barnett says. “They are all bought in.”

I confided my prom dress woes to a friend from Atlanta who has a young daughter and some good advice. “Sometimes it’s not worth your mental health to fight,” she said. “Ten years from now, who will really care?”

She’s right, I know it. The prom/identity wars will be largely settled. I can’t wait to look back on the pictures in 10 years. That might actually be fun.

For more by O’Neal, visit wapo.st/lonnae.