The Junior Prom
My high school sweetheart died last week.
Sweetheart is the perfect way to describe Greg. He was sweet and all heart.
The suddenness of his passing (a heart attack) left everyone who knew him with a hole in their lives that they were unprepared to accept.
Less than a year ago, my graduating class attended our 50th high school reunion. Greg had taken the lead in organizing the event, and as emcee, we all could see that he was still as sweet and gentle as he was fifty years before.
Greg was a Spanish teacher – who decided to become a teacher at the age of fifty. From the outpouring of love from his students on his social media page, he was as beloved as a teacher as he was as a classmate.
Back in the 60s, I was a self-conscious and insecure teenager. (I know, I know… like most teenage girls.) I had dated a little, but was hardly sought-after. So at 17, Greg was one of my first boyfriends. He was kind of an accidental boyfriend. I started out not very interested. I had a crush on another boy. I tried my best to let John, my crush, know I liked him. But looking back, I have no idea whether I was obvious and he was oblivious, whether he just didn’t like me, or whether I was a complete failure at flirting.
But in the meantime, there was Greg.
A group of kids from my church went on some kind of hayride – my memory must be failing me because it was Spring, not Autumn, but that’s what I remember – and sitting on the hay on the truck, Greg asked me to the Junior Prom. I didn’t want to say yes. I wanted to wait to see if John would ask me. But I am nothing if not practical. And there were multiple practical reasons to say yes:
- His cousin was dating my best friend, Karen.
- If I said no, and John (or anybody else) did not ask me, I would be sitting home instead of wearing a beautiful gown and white gloves.
- If I said no, and then John did ask me, I would feel awful anyway, because it would just be mean of me. I couldn’t see myself turning down a nice boy and then saying yes to someone else. That would hurt Greg’s feelings. And it didn’t seem fair.
- I didn’t know how to say no.
- Greg was nice. Really nice. Maybe I could like him.
So I said yes.
My oldest sister was getting married in a month, and my parents had already spent a fortune on the wedding. So although my mother offered to buy me a new prom dress, I just didn’t feel I could add to their expense. But my sister had a bridesmaid’s dress from my cousin’s wedding a few years before. It was a bit short, but it was pretty, a light green overlaid with gorgeous white lace. I decided to wear it.
My short Twiggy hair was all wrong for a formal dress. so I went to a salon to see if they could dress it up. It was a horrible mistake. I came home in tears – as ‘bouffanted’ as a backup singer for the Shangri-Las. Mom managed to tame it down somewhat, so that I looked like the white girl version of Diana Ross.
I told myself it didn’t matter. But I felt bad. It was my Junior Prom. I wanted to be beautiful. I didn’t even like Greg that much, but it seemed rude not to look nicer for him.
We double-dated with my best friend and Greg’s cousin. To go to my first formal dance with a nice boy and my best friend took all the anxiety out of the event.
We ate in a fancy restaurant, feeling very grownup. We complimented our friends about how beautiful we all looked. We danced every dance in our fancy clothes in the high school gym. I forgot about my too-short dress and my terrible hair.
We were both sweet, innocent kids and kissed a sweet, innocent kiss at the end of the evening.
We had wonderful time.
There was no great romance. Greg and I dated for a few more months, but just gradually fizzled out. We stayed friends for fifty years, and that certainly means that Greg was the perfect date after all.
I have a new novel coming out before Christmas. It’s set in 1969 and the main character is seventeen. She badly wants to go to the Junior Prom. Her idea of a perfect date is based on her adored older sister’s experience. This is how she describes her sister’s Junior Prom:
Jeannie was asked to the Junior Prom by this very ordinary guy, Walter Brooks. Walter had Buddy Holly glasses and he was about two inches shorter than Jeannie. She thought he was nice, though. They had been to the movies together twice and she said he was smart and kind. She told me that the Junior Prom is usually everyone’s first formal event, and that it was important to have a sweet memory of it for when you got old.
I’m old. I have a sweet memory.
- Posted in: Humor