Homeschool Prom

It’s not true. Just because you’re homeschooled doesn’t mean you don’t get to go to prom. I did. I went to the homeschool prom. I was sixteen. That might not be the right age for prom, but no one told me I couldn’t go. I wore a red dress, with a brown leaf pattern on it. I wore my hair back in two butterfly clips. I put on red lipstick, and I thought I looked very sexy. I was with my best friend Emily. She was wearing red lipstick too, and a red dress. We spent most of prom in the basement, trying to convince other homeschoolers who wandered down for the bathroom to give us some spare change, so that we could call for a ride home.

Homeschool prom was a bust. The DJ was playing the soundtrack from The Lion King, there were only about four boys there (do schooled boys ever really want to go? Or is it the girls who drive the prom machine?), and we didn’t know anyone except for each other.

(maybe if I’d worn this it would’ve gone differently? source)

We knew plenty of homeschoolers. We hung out in a group of them that contained maybe ten other kids our age and a lot more who weren’t. But they weren’t the prom kids. We thought the prom kids might be Christian homeschoolers. They looked pretty blond, in general, and pretty modestly dressed. We had nothing to say to them and they had nothing to say to us. My Jewy nose probably warned them off from across the room.

Before we left, I danced with a really short boy wearing cowboy boots. I figured I should at least give it a shot, since it was prom. He knew how to dance a little bit more than I did, and he was very polite, if a little indignant about my superior height (I’d been sitting down when he asked me). It was not romantic at all and I was simultaneously disappointed (secretly) and triumphant. Triumphant because for about as long as I’d been interested in boys, which was a long time, school girls had asked me, “What about prom?”

When grownups found out that I was homeschooled, they said, “What about socialization?”

Some kids said that too. But the girls always thought of prom. As though they were living for it. At the end of all that homework they were always doing, and all the grades they kept getting, and the college prep, and the PE classes with a rope people were expected to somehow climb, there was a glorious, magical wonderland of balloons and streamers and pure romance. Or at least, that’s what you thought when you were twelve. Which is probably when I got this question the most.

“Nope,” I said. “No prom.” And I smiled and shrugged to show them that I didn’t care. They felt sorry for me. But I really didn’t care.

And then Emily found out about the homeschool prom, and we had to go. Sort of as a joke. Because we’d never really cared. But sort of just to see. And to prove all those girls wrong. Not that we had, we agreed in the basement. It was lame because it was homeschool prom. We didn’t have a ton of evidence that regular prom was as bad.

That’s how it was. We were clearly the weird ones. The school kids were the regular ones, and everyone knew it. There was no pretending that we were the only ones in the world. They ruled the world. Even when we didn’t see them, we felt their presence. They were in every book we read. They were the ones all the clothing was marketed to. The whole back to school season seemed mysterious. Everything was suddenly plaid and argyle and maroon and navy. I didn’t think they all really wore that stuff, even as a little kid, but I imagined them that way for a while. The girls in knee-high socks and pigtails and pleated skirts.

We felt sorry for them. They ruled the world, but they were stuck in the same building every day.

I didn’t think I’d last a minute in school. I had heard all these stories about how mean everyone was, at least in middle school. The way they teased you about everything that you were. As a kid, I read book after book in which the central conflict for the protagonist was how badly the other kids treated him/her at school. I knew the stories were true when I was ten and went to Hebrew school, and two girls immediately recognized me as the nerdy teacher’s pet.

“What are you wearing?” said Lauren. And to the girl beside her, “What is she wearing?!”

(what about this one? would this have made prom better? source)

All of my clothes were dorky, dumb, and ugly. I was in the bathroom, crying, staring at myself in the mirror, and wondering how they’d known so quickly. And wondering how anyone ever became popular, and why it mattered so much, and why it was somehow cool for Lauren to wear a bra-strap headband. It was going to go out of style really soon, I thought. But at the same time, I believed her capable of making it a national trend. I loved clothes. I kept a chart of the outfits I wore every day, so I wouldn’t mix them up. I included accessories. I thought peace signs were very cool. Lauren did not. No matter how coordinated my look was, she wasn’t going to like me. I didn’t want her to like me. I wanted—to be able to be cool, too, even if she didn’t.

I was very cool in the homeschool groups I was in. When there were five or ten of us who were fourteen or fifteen or sixteen years old. Then I was cocky and daring and awesome. Because the truth was, I was confident. Or was I confident? I was confident there, but I never got comfortable in Hebrew school. The other homeschoolers were my peers, so I felt like I could say I was good with my peers when people asked me to answer honestly about socialization. But at the same time, I felt like that was a lie, because they weren’t what people meant by “peers” when they asked me to answer honestly about socialization. The other homeschoolers were insignificant. The real peers were the majority of kids, who were locked up in school, waiting to be released in a gigantic flood on the world. And I had no idea how to act around them, because it seemed like they operated by completely different rules. My day-to-day life happened while everyone else was in school, except for the other homeschoolers and the adults (especially the senior citizens). By the time I was seventeen, I felt like I had practically mastered that world. But there was another world, hovering at the edges of mine. And it was waiting for me. It was going to swallow me, one day, when I crossed over. I couldn’t quite think about it, but it was always there. One day I was going to go to college, and the worlds would collide. And when that happened, I had no idea who I would be.

So there was prom, but it wasn’t real prom. And we didn’t care, because we’d never really wanted prom in the first place. But at the same time, it would’ve been nice to know that we could do prom. Maybe if we had done it, we could’ve proved to everyone else that we had everything our peers had. Which we didn’t, of course.

( I was still dressing up as an eflyn princess sometimes, alone in my room. I don’t think prom was ready for me. Or vice versa.)

* * * *

Wild fun list: On a warm night, find some grass and lie on it and look at the sky for a long time. It’s funny how infrequently I’ve done this, since every time, it’s completely amazing.

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