My high school didn’t have a prom — we had an inclusive annual affair called “Boat Dance” on an actual boat in Boston Harbor — but that didn’t stop me from making it to the big ball.
You should’ve seen me.
My junior year I was dating a senior from a different school, the one I now refer to as “my high school girlfriend” even though we only dated for a year. I had long since discovered punk by then, but our relationship was forged at basement shows, anti-war protests and film screenings at an anarchist bookstore. It’s to Laura’s credit, or really her dad’s, that I know who Gang of Four are, and she’s the one I first made a ’zine with.
It was with great pleasure that we crashed the prom at her all-girls high school. Sure, we were invited, and straight-edge too, but like any good teen punks, our looks were enough to distinguish us. She rocked a polka-dot dress that she had made herself — doesn’t get more punk than that. My DIY game wasn’t as strong, but what I came up with was pretty out there.
Underneath a patterned blazer, an ill-fitting piece I likely picked up at the legendary pile of clothes inside the Garment District in Cambridge, I rocked an anti-Bush T-shirt that said “American Psycho.” (I had not seen the film by the same name released a few years earlier, though — I was too busy watching documentaries.)
I borrowed my sister’s studded belt, no doubt from Hot Topic, for added effect and rounded out the ensemble with a clip-on red bowtie.
But what everyone who sees a picture of Laura and me on prom night comments on first is my long, straight black hair with a splotch of pink right in front. We had dyed my hair in my bathroom — after my dad had previously made me sign a contract that I would pay to replace the hallway carpet if any dye or bleach landed on it. And by junior year, I knew how to tame my wild mane of curls so they’d fall more closely in line with my desired Kurt Cobain look: shaving cream.
Yep, that’s right. I combed shaving cream into my hair, and when it dried it functioned like a less aromatic version of gel. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect from a horror punk, even though I always considered myself more nondenominational and preferred Leftover Crack to the Misfits.
What a freak.
We had fun at prom in spite of the music and more mainstream friends, but I dreamed of a more democratized gala, one unleashed from specific schools but still a step above the “dancing” that happened at underground punk venues. Is a punk-rock prom the kind of thing we could pull off now that we’re adults?
Pink-haired Eric would punch me for suggesting something only accessible to a certain age bracket, so maybe there’s a way to keep such a thing out of a bar or to have multiple rooms geared towards different age groups. But regardless of the details, someone should step up and organize a quasi-formal dance, replete with punk anthems and ridiculous get-ups, somewhere in the Triad.
I know I didn’t invent this idea. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if this has happened around here before. But it’s time for another, here, on a grand scale.
People responded enthusiastically when I suggested ’90s dance-party nights in these pages months ago, and several of you vowed to take action though nothing formal has come to fruition. I’m hoping this idea will light a fire and remind you of that preceding idea as well; the bottom line is, the local dancing options are incredibly limited, and most of what we do have sucks. So let’s do it ourselves.
How punk rock is that?