Strapless in Laguna
Those nuns were determined to see to it that everyone was paired up for the prom. I had waited most of junior year for Alfredo to ask me out and he had finally done it. He’d even asked me what color my dress was so he could get a matching corsage. But my dream of going out to the prom, with just the two of us in his turquoise ’55 Ford was not to be. Sister De Paul informed us that Dickie Reese and Kathy Thornell would be double dating with us. They weren’t girl friend and boy friend. I don’t think they were even interested in each other. We would have a nice audience in the back seat, a couple who would be awkwardly not holding hands or doing anything else distracting.
The instructions from sister headquarters were, “No strapless dresses!” Now here is that odd push-pull, temptation-guilt set-up that was so built into our education that I never questioned it. Better be sure you’re paired up and going to the prom, but a strapless dress might just be an invitation to take this pairing up concept one step too far. There was a threat—the chaperones would be instructed to pin ribbon straps on any dress that did not have its own built-in supports.
My mom took this all very seriously and saw an ad in the classifieds for a used pink bridesmaid dress, $25. This dress had no straps. It didn’t need them. It had a complete lace bodice with a high neckline and lace sleeves. I didn’t care that I had no role in choosing the dress. It was special, poufy. I got new shoes. I was happy.
Little did I know that meantime Alfredo was working weekends chopping cotton to earn enough to buy the tickets, the corsage, the tux, the gas, the dinner afterwards….and graduation fees were coming up too. His parents with one wage earner and 11 other children were reliant on his $40 a month earnings as janitor in the school. He would never have considered their contributing to this luxury prom outing.
That prom night was memorable: before, with the suspense of waiting to be asked, and the preparations, and during—we did have some romantic dances after all, and a kiss good-night. (We had managed to take Kathy and Dickie home first.) And many years to remember. Fifty to be exact. I hauled out my scrapbook and the program says May 11, 1962. Here I am still with the same generous, reliable, romantic prom guy.
At Laguna Beach High School, prom night is May 19. We can only imagine the intrigues that are going on about who is going with who. And these kids have no nuns to do their match making. Their surely are dilemmas over clothing, but now it’s fancier. Probably going strapless doesn’t even deserve a mention. I don’t think the moms get to pick the dress any more. Instead of a ‘55 Ford, there’s a limo.
But its essence is about the romance, the specialness. Careful with that choice, it might just last a long, long time.
Landscape architect Ann Christoph is a former council member.