Ah, high school prom — that teenage rite of passage that will yield a lifetime’s worth of memories about a night of pure perfection.
No matter how much planning goes into it, almost nobody’s prom goes off without a hitch. Maybe you found out too late your date was the spawn of Satan. Or your haircut went so badly awry that a homeless passer-by sized you up pityingly and suggested you shoot your barber.
With prom season wrapping up, we asked Salt Lake Tribune readers to share their horror stories. Even if they were not quite on the level of “Carrie,” we were hardly disappointed.
St. George resident Doug Stanley was attending Brighton High in Cottonwood Heights and decided to punch above his weight and ask out a cheerleader. Because she hadn’t been asked by any apparently superior options but couldn’t bear the humiliation of not going, she accepted.
On the big night, though, she made it apparent that she wanted little to do with him: “I could tell right away it was gonna be a long night,” he said. “She didn’t want to talk to me, didn’t want to dance, wouldn’t even take a picture with me.“
The only thing that made her perk up was mention of dinner at a fancy restaurant. Once in the car, Stanley told her to put on a blindfold because the destination was a big surprise — which proved true enough. He had driven her back home to drop her off.
“I said, ‘To crap with this.’ I really didn’t want to spend another $50 on her,” Stanley recalled with a laugh. “She was livid with me. I said, ‘What do you want me to do? You made it clear you didn’t want to be with me.’ My friends got a big kick out of it when I showed up to the restaurant without her.”
‘The big boys league’
Salt Lake City’s Jeremy Cloward actually had two memorable proms a few years apart.
As a 14-year-old, he was at his friend’s house, “planning on just hanging out,” when the friend’s older sister approached him with a sob story about her boyfriend being in jail and asking him to fill in so she could go to Alta High’s prom that night.
“I’m in eighth grade, and a friend’s big sister wants to catapult me into the big boys league,” Cloward recalled.
Their oddball foursome of punks and goths had a nice Italian dinner, went to the dance for all of three songs before deciding the “cheesy cover band” was too much to bear, then bailed to The Ritz Club, which was more their speed.
His date brought him a picture a few months later, which he tacked up on his wall. Problem was, he’d sneaked out that night without telling his parents, and the photo got him busted. “Grounded for a month!” Cloward said with a laugh.
A few years later, now old enough to attend his own prom, he and his best friend decided to wear matching kilts, without informing their dates. His friend’s date laughed. His was furious.
To make matters worse, they were late picking her up, and en route to her house got pulled over for speeding. The officer was in the middle of reading him the riot act when he suddenly noticed the boys’ attire.
“And then he couldn’t stop laughing,” Cloward said. “He was going to give us a ticket but said he couldn’t bear to bust some high school kids heading to prom in kilts, and he let us off with a warning.” Which was more mercy than his date showed him. After that night, “She never spoke to me again!”
You can go … with your brother
Anna Pottier-Hickman grew up in a tiny town in Nova Scotia — “If we’re excluding cats and dogs, we’re talking about 150 people,” she said with a laugh. “It was a dying village. Not a lot of youngsters coming up. Not a lot of people my age.”
Between that and her being “at least 70 pounds overweight,” she knew her chances of landing a date to Sainte-Anne-du-Ruisseau High School’s prom were not good.
“Everybody wanted me to go, but nobody wanted to go with me,” the West Valley City resident said. “Me being overweight was not very conducive to the kind of things kids like to do on prom night.”
Pottier-Hickman’s incredibly strict mother, who had surprisingly given her permission to attend, suggested she go with her older brother, as he hadn’t gone to his own prom. They still had a hard 10:30 curfew, though!
“It was so embarrassing I was almost proud of it,” Pottier-Hickman said.
The awkward evening had an unexpectedly pleasant denouement, though. Upon seeing her sitting at a table alone while her brother went to grab some punch, two boys she had crushes on approached her and each gave her a kiss.
“They felt kinda sorry for me,” Pottier-Hickman said. “They came over, and it was like a pact between them — ‘Let’s go make her night. She’ll remember it forever.’ And I did!”
Chivalry isn’t dead, but it can be wet
When Sterling Barker rounded toward the passenger side of his dad’s white Cadillac to open the door for his date, he realized he’d parked a bit far from the curb, and he’d be stepping into a bit of standing water.
No biggie, he thought — maybe his shoe or sock would get a little damp, but that’d be the worst of it. Except …
“It was kinda like getting to what you think is the bottom stair,” he recalled, “but there’s actually one more.
“My first thought was a sensation of shock at feeling the cold, slushy water go up my leg,” the now-Bountiful resident added.
And his second thought? “Oh crap, I’m wearing white.”
Upon entering the Hotel Utah, where Cyprus High’s prom was being held, Barker made a beeline for the restroom to “assess the damage. I pretty quickly realized that I just had to make the best of it.”
It helped that his date, his friend and his friend’s date had all put him at ease about it on the walk over, and that the photographer working the event was willing to reposition him out of the standard pose to hide his soaked leg.
By night’s end, “We were all laughing about it. … It helped that it was dark in there!”
A cheap date
These days, Mike Mower wields some influence as deputy chief of staff to Gov. Gary Herbert. Back in high school, though, his powers of persuasion were insufficient to persuade his prom date not to bail on him.
The evening got off to a bad start when he realized that his dad’s truck, which he had hurriedly borrowed, was almost empty and wouldn’t be making it all the way to Emery High in Castle Dale without a fuel stop. Things got worse when, after he put in $10 worth of gas, the truck suddenly developed a mysterious sputter and threatened not to make it there at all.
Then, came the pièce de résistance: “It was awful — my date told me in the middle of the dance that we were there ‘as friends,’ and that she’d be leaving with some other people,” he said. “I knew it was a lost cause.”
It hurt at the time, but these days Mower will acknowledge, “Maybe she was doing me a favor — we lived 30 miles apart.” A good perspective, considering it wasn’t gasoline he’d put in his dad’s truck, but diesel.
“As my dad said to me the next day,” Mower recalled with a laugh, “‘At least you were cheap!’”
If your night ends in the E.R., something has gone horribly wrong
In the days leading up to Skyline High’s prom in Salt Lake City, Aaron Smith was not in peak physical condition. For one thing, he was battling severe spring allergies and had been loading up on Benadryl. Then, between the allergy medicine and too many late-night study sessions, he was out on his feet by the time the big day arrived.
“I was not about to let my long-awaited evening with an attractive date be cut short because of sleepiness,” said the dentist now based in Astoria, Ore., “so I popped a few caffeine pills before slipping on my tux.”
The dance itself went without incident. But at the after-party in the Red Lion Hotel pool, he knew something was wrong.
“My heart was racing. I told my friend I really wasn’t feeling well, and he told me to man up,” Smith recalled. “Then I started having tremors, and I said, ‘I really think I need to go to the hospital.’”
The Benadryl and caffeine pills had proven a potent mix, and he soon found himself in the emergency room, hooked up to an IV and trying to gulp down vile-tasting activated charcoal — all while his date sat in the waiting room watching “Will and Grace.”
“Other than from my worried mother,” Smith said, “I don’t believe I got a goodnight kiss that evening.”
This story was informed by sources in the Utah Public Insight Network. To become a news source for The Salt Lake Tribune, go to bit.ly/PINTribune.