Prom season: It’s show time |

Prom season: It’s show time

Alison Osius

Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Alison Osius
Staff Photo |

As Karen and I hiked down the polished rock steps of the classic Mount Sanitas Trail near her home in Boulder, three teenage boys loped up from below carrying items. The first two held posters, and the third, a big cone of roses.

They were smiling, and we asked their mission.

“It’s for our friend, for prom,” the one in front said. His cardboard sign bore the words, “Go to prom?”

The sign the middle boy carried first posited, “No?” with a sad face, then the perkier choice of “Yes?” followed by an arrow aimed at the third boy and bouquet of yellow roses.

Of course we two moms were as charmed as you can possibly imagine, and they offered that we could soon see their friends, coming up the trail.

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Naturally I then scrutinized every single person. The trail is crowded, but after a while I spotted the asker and unwitting invitee: a handsome olive-skinned boy with dark hair, in front, and a girl in shorts, wearing makeup, with long blonde hair twisted on top of her head. Passing, I said hi to the boy, who nodded politely, though without smiling.

I peered eagerly at the girl, said hello, and was taken aback by her extremely sulky expression. She did not answer, nor look at me.

Then I realized all. She didn’t want to hike. She had probably just said, “We’ve gone far enough.” He’d urged that they continue. Far ahead, his three friends hurried unknowingly toward the summit. We were currently below halfway.

It didn’t bode well.

It is prom season, far and wide. Just the week before, I was leaving the rec center in my sweats when I saw a tall, cheerful youth standing in a splash of evening sunshine against a brick wall, holding up a hand-lettered poster while his friend carefully took photos.

“Was that one good?” the tall boy asked, and then they moved to a different location. That girl was going to get asked from all over town.

I never went to prom, though my spouse did, rocking a powder-blue tux with ruffles. I attended a hippie high school in a slightly post-hippie era. We wore long dresses for our graduation, but prom? We were more the faded-denim, straggly-haired types. Some played banjos.

My sister — six years younger — went to her senior prom. Her schoolmate Allen phoned to ask her, and when she said yes, he said one of the cutest things I’ve ever heard: “Harvard, Yale, who needs you? Lucy’s going to the prom with me!” My mother bought a pretty dress, pink with gold threads, intended for us three sisters to share, and indeed we would later mail it around to each other. I actually didn’t look very good in the colors, but it suited Lucy. Mom took her to get her hair done, “this once.” A classmate who saw Lucy and Allen at dinner said they were both leaning forward, talking eagerly. Late the next morning when our mother knocked on Lucy’s door and shyly asked, “Well … how was it?” Lucy rolled over and breathed, “It was wonderful.”

My older son, now in college, went to prom twice. I think he just invited his girlfriend the old-fashioned way, but kids today stage their invitations, in funny and creative ways. Microphones, musical instruments and props are involved. They line up friends to hold up letters on signs or, as if at a basketball game, paint them on their bodies.

The Internet is full of clips of kids who sang or acted out invitations, including in front of whole classrooms or in school yards or hallways. (Though girls ask, too, all the clips I saw were boy instigations.) A plethora of how-to websites offers “6,” “10,” “12,” “20,” “24” and “30” different “creative,” “cute,” “cool” and “hilarious” ways to ask.

Karen told me that when her shy son Will invited a girl in his class to prom, though he admired the creativity of others, it was hard enough — taking long past the time when he meant to ask, and by which she clearly expected to be asked — without having to drum up live theatrics, too.

But many kids seem to thrive in planning the event, involving co-conspirators, art, gymnastics, flash mobs or dramatic views. If they can just get the date to hike up to see them.

— “Femaelstrom” appears on the third Saturday of each month. Alison Osius lives in Carbondale, where she is a climber, skier and magazine editor. Contact her at

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