Traci Barker-Ball knows high school students. She has worked at Poway High School for 33 years and took the position of student services coordinator 20 years ago. As the student services coordinator, Barker-Ball runs peer counseling, organizes events for mental wellness on campus and has one-on-one meetings with students.
Barker-Ball watched the evolution of prom from the 1980s to today. In the ’80s, how people got asked to prom was not a big deal. In the ’90s, an evolution began, starting with a more creative or public way of asking, Barker-Ball said.
Charlie Jackson, a math teacher at Poway High and a Poway alum, said that 25 years ago prom was still a big deal, but not quite as over the top. He remembers helping his friends make big signs to ask a girl to prom, but it wasn’t as common.
Over the past few years the term “promposal” has gotten increasingly popular. The word is a combination of prom and proposal. The word makes how a student gets asked to prom into a life event, rather than just part of prom. The “promposal” has taken on almost as much importance as prom itself.
There is a new name for asking a girl out
“The promposal idea is not new,” Jackson said. “There is a new element of bigger and better because all promposals are very public.”
Colin Jensen is a senior at Poway High and is gearing up for the upcoming prom season. Last year, Jensen asked his date in a creative and funny way.
“There is not a lot of pressure to spend money; it’s more about trying to do what they like,” Jensen said.
Creativity is the biggest thing, Poway High junior Spencer Vierra said, but sometimes you have to spend money to be creative.
Vierra asked his date, who goes to Cathedral Catholic High School in Carmel Valley, with a sign that said, “I’m praying you say yes to prom with me” and brought a Bible with him. His date thought it was funny and creative, and it was cheap, Vierra said.
“There is a side of promposals that I really like,” said Jackson. “It encourages the boys to be creative and have fun with it.”
Public promposals are problematic
Many promposals take place on school property, during school hours and occasionally during class time.
Kristin Hartsfield, a junior at Poway High, said she hopes to get asked to prom this year. One of her friends was asked in front of a lot of people in library during school. The girl said yes, but after ran to the bathroom and cried because she didn’t want to go with him.
“Huge, public promposals, people don’t really like. People don’t want to say no in a public place,” Jensen said.
The amount of stress that girls feel about getting asked to prom has increased, because they are terrified of getting asked in a major way by someone they do not want to go with, Jackson said.
“I have seen a lot of girls get asked in public settings and say yes in the moment, but say no the next day because they already had a date or they felt it would be awkward to go to prom with the person who asked,” Barker-Ball said.
Twitter adds expectations and humiliation to prom
Social media has added another layer of pressure and humiliation because now everyone knows everything, Barker-Ball said.
There is an endless number of Twitter accounts dedicated to highlighting the best, failed and expensive promposals. There are many
accounts dedicated to specific high schools. The twitter account @besttproposals has posted 771 tweets since August 31, 2014, gaining a following of 39,100.
Vierra agreed with Barker-Ball. Social media has made the dance and the promposal more about the pictures that people can share than the actual event, he said.
Social media makes everything massively public. Now you have people seeing the pictures who you don’t even know, some even from other schools, said Jackson.
“Social media raises the bar for guys and then girls expect or really want an elaborate promposal,” Hartsfield said.
In general is not good for high school students to have social media because they are not secure enough in themselves yet, said Jackson.
The best proposals are the ones that are a complete surprise, but boys have to get pre-approval that their date will say yes or they face very public embarrassment. There’s no risk anymore, Jackson said.
Prom season is always fun and exciting, promposals have heightened it some, but it’s still very exciting for the students, Barker-Ball said.
“Prom only happens once or twice in your life; people really do want to have that experience,” Hartsfield said.
If you are going to “prompose” make it a story that people will want to tell rather than an opportunity to share a photo. The story is always better, Jackson said.
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