Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Power of Words - Going to the Prom?

"Prom" vs. "Ball" (or: Why not the prom?)

Okay, here comes my inner Prude. I've learned to embrace her. Prude is my friend and moral helper. Dear Reader, meet "Prudie".

Maestro made a comment on the way to church this morning that really got me thinking. His comment revolved around my insistence in using more specific words for various things and events in life: "prom" vs. a "Ball" (in this case military); "Dating" vs. "Courtship"; "Young lady/man" vs. "Teen", etc. Since I have talked with my very word-specific husband for hour upon hour, I suppose a bit of his... obsession... has rubbed off on me!

"What's the difference?!" says a very exasperated Maestro.

With my best friends in high school

Though the differences in such words may seem subtle, they are there - and our societal tendency to ignore "the difference" is leading our youth off to the Pied Piper's Mountain (or Pleasure Island in the movie Pinnochio, if you like.) in which things appear to be inconsequential, but the future may hold unforeseen problems as a result. For my own children as well as those who might stumble across my little corner of the Internet, I'll illustrate the differences over the course of a few blog posts - starting with Proms and Balls (and other such black-tie affairs.)

This website - - gives an excellent overview of the origin of high school proms, from the word "Promenade". In short, the high school prom was a middle-class version of the upper crust Debutante Ball. As proms became more accepted as an annual event, the young ladies would be dressed in their finest formal dresses, and perhaps her first pair of high heels. Her escort would be a young man of good moral image (and hopefully truly good moral standing as well!) and would dress in his best suit or tuxedo.

He would escort her to the front of the hall or church, then to her chair for dinner. Debutante Balls and Proms were a way for young men and women to learn how to properly behave in polite society. The young man was often a cousin, male relative or older brother, someone bound by blood, love and duty to protect her honor.

His willingness to escort the young lady said, "Here is my lovely sister/cousin, today a young woman and ready to become part of adult society. Take good care of her. I am here to help guide and protect her."

There was ceremony involved; there was formality; there was meaning and elegance. The closest adult equivalent that I've experienced is a military ball or a similar black-tie affair. Men and ladies dressed to the nines to attend a dance that begins with a ceremony. I've been to many such balls.

With my Military Guy at the 2010 Ball
Regardless of service, each ball has had certain elements in common: opening with a flag ceremony, the National Anthem is sung, an invocation is said, the POW/MIA Ceremony (click the link to see a picture and hear the words spoken at the ceremony.) Somewhere in there, dinner is served, perhaps followed by a brief intermission, then the guest speaker - later, after around three hours, a band strikes up or a DJ plays and then dancing begins for those who want to stay. We talk, laugh and socialize during the formal portions, but the evening runs according to a Code. So too do other black tie galas, formal dinners, etc.

But senior and junior prom night? I'm afraid (in my opinion), any such positive comparison ends at the girl and boy dress up and go out to dinner. The formal aspect is often missing. Girls playing dress up mill around, everyone trying to be adults and sophisticated, when really no one has shown them how. At the same time, adult chaperones circle the floor, shark the parking lots or man the entrances, looking for teens who have left the tedium of a finely-decroated, but otherwise dull ballroom, in search of the excitement brought on by hormones, drugs or alcohol.

Dear Maestro. Dear Reader of my little-noticed blog:

Is there a difference? Is a prom something to be lauded and remembered as one of the best moments of ones life? Or is it simply an expensive box to check off on the to-do list of life?

Further: Would it be worthwhile to try to return some of the earlier ceremonies and formality to our prom nights? 

I look forward to your thoughts - and your own memories of such occasions!


  1. That is so interesting, Mike and I were talking about the difference between "a goal" and "an objective." I am getting ready to write a little something on my work group about it! I always enjoy your postings. Thanks

    1. Thanks, Lady! Hadn't thought about goals vs. objectives - hmmm... want to write a guest post for me? Either way I'd love to read what you write for your work group if you don't mind sharing!

  2. I talk to my children (and husband) all the time about this point "Words have MEANING!" They are getting it, some after 20+ years, some in their formative years. I agree with you that we need to say what we mean and not take the easy way out.

    In reference to Proms and Balls or no prom, hmmmmmm. My son is 19, homeschooled, went to 3 proms with various young ladies. He went as an escort with every intention of protecting their honor, so I think that that point was covered. However, the prom is what you make of it. He attended a homeschool prom with other homeschoolers. It was a plesant evening with opportunity for the young people to mingle with others. The chaperones were there to see that everyone had fun and did not leave. There was no drama. This particular group of young adults were respectable people with parents who did prepare them for this evening. For the one or two who were not prepared, they had excellent examples around them of what was expected of them.

    I agree that some ceremony and formality would be a GOOD thing. I think it gives the child a sense of responsibility and what respectability means in a bigger context than just within the family. Especially for young adults who do not have good guidence at home, a formal ceremony lets them know what is expected of them. So many children do not have this guidence. They are allowed to stumble unprepared and without morals or values into the big world and cause havoc for others.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to hearing more about precise words. :)

    1. Carol, you make a good point in reference to the homeschool prom vs. a prom as seen at a standard brick-and-mortar school. I've also seen homeschool proms go swimmingly, with the young ladies and men acting honorably and, really, just there for a good social time. I think that BAM schools once had more of the ceremony (and honor?) in holding "court" by voting in/crowning the king and queen, etc. but I suppose in its own way, that *type* of ceremony is more divisive and causes problems of its own.

      Interesting to see the different points coming about and where we head from here!

  3. Found you through TJEd Muse and love your points! Is there a proper way to share your post on my blog?

    1. Shelley, I would be delighted to have you share my post. I only request that you provide some sort of a trackback/link back here. I have skipped through the path of your blog and look forward to learning more about essential oils (among other things!) Thank you for your kind words.

  4. Hi Tillie, just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris

    1. Hello, Chris,Thank you for visiting my corner of the world. I'm glad I've moved you in some way. I have thoroughly enjoyed looking through the crafty little things you've featured on your blog! I love to be inspired by such things so have decided to "pin" a few to my pinterest page. I like to show handicrafts to my children too because they are always looking for little things they can do or make to sell to earn a bit of pocket change - Chef (the 10 year old) in particular is fond of working with his hands.


I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


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