Yes, It's Okay To Not Go To Prom

Yes, It s Okay To Not Go To Prom

Prom season is here, which means that prom #content is everywhere. I’ve definitely awww -ed over some cute promposals, but with all the prom articles, Instagram posts, and ads everywhere, it can be hard to remember that prom is not actually mandatory.

I skipped prom for a few different reasons: I’d been to two homecoming dances before, and while I’d had an okay time, it didn’t feel the need to repeat it with a much-pricier ticket (another reason I skipped). My friends were all going with dates, and I was dateless; the few boys I would have liked to go with already had plans, and same-gender prom dates were not a thing in my small, conservative hometown. I would have gone with a group of friends that included other single people, but I didn’t want to be a third-, fifth-, or eleventh-wheel. And finally, while I had a handful of amazing friends, I didn’t love my high school experience overall and didn’t feel the need to celebrate as a class.

Instead, I hung out with another friend who skipped prom: we went to Chili’s, watched the Nightmare Before Christmas at her place, and met up with a few friends for a bonfire later on. It was a pretty good night — and ten years later, I don’t regret skipping.

Earlier this week, I put out a call via Twitter and Facebook, saying I wanted to talk to other prom-skippers. I was overwhelmed with responses, from an 18-year-old who skipped prom in 2018 to a few people in their 50s — not to mention all the people who did go to prom but wished they’d skipped it. Some people I talked to regretted skipping prom, especially if they’d skipped because they were struggling with self-esteem issues or were insecure about going without a date. But the majority of prom-skippers had no regrets.

Whether they were glad they skipped or wished they’d gone, most people I talked to had similar advice for current high school students: If prom sounds fun and you think you’ll have a good time, then go for it! But if you’re already dreading all things prom, you don’t have to go — especially if you know you’ll have a better time doing something else, whether spending a low-key evening in watching a movie with a friend, or creating iconic plans like Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of '80s and '90s Teen Fiction author Gabrielle Moss, who told me, “I skipped my prom and went to a concert instead because I had read that Carrie Brownstein had skipped her prom to go to a concert.”

Ahead, people who skipped prom share their stories — and their advice for current students considering not going to prom.

Kristie Foran, 26, Long Beach, CA; skipped prom in 2010

Why she skipped: " It still just wasn't very cool to be gay. I stayed in and got drunk on my dad’s living room floor with my best friends. We were probably 'the gay kids' at school."

Her advice: "I'd tell students, 'Look, you already know if you like going to school events, and getting dressed up, and dancing in public. And if you do, great, prom will be just like that! But if you don't already enjoy those things, prom isn't going to be any different. So don't feel bad for choosing a different path for yourself. The only thing you will ever regret is putting yourself in a situation that makes you feel unauthentic or uncomfortable.'"

Aura Bishop, 36, Brooklyn, NY; skipped prom in 2000

Why she skipped: " I was sick a lot in high school, so I missed out on a lot of things. I knew I wouldn't be able to go to prom. I treated myself to Taco Bell and watched Romy and Michele's High School Reunion on TV in my room, and determined that I would get to do plenty of awesome things when I'm an adult, and that prom was really just another dance at the end of the day. I was right. I'm still okay with having missed prom."

Her advice: "If prom is going to be an overwhelming financial burden, or if the thought of going doesn't bring you joy, it's okay to miss out. You will be fine. Do find another time to meet up with your friends to celebrate the passage of time."

Heysell R., 21, Dallas, TX; skipped prom in 2016

Why she skipped: "The reason I didn’t go is because I was overweight. I was so self-conscious about wearing a dress. I would see other girls who were much skinnier than I was, and I used to think that prom wouldn’t be for me. My friends kept telling me to go regardless, and I wanted to as well, but my own thoughts kept me from going. I totally regret skipping prom, especially when seeing girls trying to get ready for it and stuff every year."

Her advice: "I honestly believe if you want to go but you’re like me, self-conscious, you should go! You don’t have to have the fanciest dress or anything, just go out there and have fun. But if you really don’t want to go but feel pressured, just follow your own feelings. It’s okay to stay in and do something else as well."

LJ Vogel, 22, Brooklyn, NY; skipped prom in 2014

Why he skipped: "I was working out my gender identity at that point in time. I still had long hair and went by my deadname and didn’t even know what I would have felt comfortable wearing. I ended up staying home with my family and just enjoying the night. I don’t really have any regrets, and I’m glad I have an understanding of who I am now."

His advice: "I would tell anyone considering skipping prom that it isn’t the most important night of your life. You’re going to have so many other amazing nights as you get older with people you care about, so if you’re 17 or 18 years old and you feel like you’re going to regret it forever, chances are you won’t even think about it by the time you’re in your twenties. Do something for yourself that night. Stay in with family, go to a movie you really want to see, take yourself to a fancy restaurant."

Courtney Ruiz, 23, Dallas, TX; skipped prom in 2013

Why she skipped: "I skipped prom because I was very aware of the cost and I was only working as a nanny — I definitely couldn’t fully afford it on my own, and I felt bad asking my parents. I also didn’t have any romantic interests at the time or a close group of friends; my friends were kinda scattered in different groups. I had a quiet night in instead. I don’t regret skipping prom, even after all these years."

Her advice: "Prom is not necessarily a defining or crucial experience in high school, and it’s totally OK to skip out on that for whatever reason. Don’t let anyone pressure you into going strictly out of fear that you’ll regret it."

Meghan Sara, 34, Brooklyn NY; skipped prom in 2002

Why she skipped: "I desperately wanted to ask the girl I had a crush on, but by the time I worked up the nerve, she'd already asked someone else. To mask my hurt, I took up the "anti-prom, prom is weak sauce" banner. I successfully talked myself out of going because "prom is for sheeple." I stayed at home and watched Law & Order: SVU (my life has not changed much, tbh).

"Nowadays, I love any excuse to wear a gaudy gown and cut a rug. I think I had this chip on my shoulder about asserting my identity as an individual who didn't cow to society's norms, which meant I was a lonely, angry kid who either had it my way, or it was the highway. Skipping prom is one of my biggest regrets as an adult because for me, it really symbolizes a time when I sabotaged myself from doing something I might have enjoyed."

Her advice: "I believe it was Wayne Gretsky who said, 'You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.'"

Sara, 37, Philadelphia, PA; skipped prom in 1999

Why she skipped: " I might not have gone anyway (never was much of a joiner) but my father died in March of my senior year, and I pretty much skipped out on all end-of-year festivities except the graduation ceremony. Oddly, several of my teachers pressured me to go to prom — even offered to waive the ticket fee — but while I was grieving, I felt GREAT about not going. I don't remember how I spent the evening, but I do remember reveling in it, just really feeling glad to have some peace and quiet in a tough year."

Her advice: "Prom is not your last best chance at making a memory with your friends or connecting with a crush."

Paris Talley, 25, Columbus, OH; skipped prom in 2012

Why she skipped: "My high school was not and still is not 'gay-friendly.' Women were expected to dress as 'women' and men as 'men.' You weren’t allowed to go with friends or someone of the same sex. It all seemed very heteronormative, and I was not very feminine back then. Instead of prom, I went to a gay bar/club with my girlfriend and a few other friends who did not attend prom. I don’t regret not going to prom, but there are times I wonder what it would have been like to have attended."

Her advice: "I would tell current high school students to do what makes them feel comfortable and what will make them happy."

Alexa Cardelli, 24, Chicago, IL; skipped prom in 2013

Why she skipped: "I was clinically diagnosed with PTSD early 2012 from an event that I experienced with my friend group at the time. I underwent a serious lifestyle change to prevent myself from experiencing future trauma and to literally save my life. My friends at the time couldn't understand what I was going through, and were unwilling to change certain behaviors of theirs that would trigger my PTSD. Dealing with my own mental health made me realize how insignificant this time period is in the grand scheme of life, and I wasn't going to spend time, money, or energy with shitty friends at an overrated fake party in a convention center with gross food."

Her advice: "If you're considering skipping, just do it. The life you have in front of you contains the most special, rewarding and magical experiences and people, and things will just keep getting better and better."

Isabel Dieppa, 35, Chicago, IL; skipped prom in 2002

Why she skipped: "At the time I was living with a friend whose family was Jehovah's Witness. I was also a Jehovah's Witness, but I was on my way out. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go because I felt like there was a lot of pressure to date and to have sex, and I wasn't ready to do either of those things. My friend who I lived with wanted me to celebrate my achievement in some way. I had just turned 18, and she invited a few of our friends from church to go to a jazz bar in downtown Cleveland."

Her advice: "Prom is not about 'prom,' it's about the friends you hang out with. Some of the ritual stuff is fun: get a cute dress if you want, and just hang out with the people you care about. I mean, Ariana Grande looked like she was having a lot of fun hanging out at home in her silver Zac Posen gown on Grammy night. Ultimately, do what you want to do."

Rachel Rossen, 24, Brooklyn, NY; skipped prom in 2012

Why she skipped: "I was so uncomfortable in feminine formal wear — prom dresses just weren't my thing. Prom was never going to be a marker of any type of life event for me, because it’s just not something that has to do with any growing up for me. It would have just been me masquerading as some girl in a dress with some random date, and that was not me. I have absolutely no regrets about not going."

Her advice: "If I could talk to someone like me, I would say follow your gut, because there’s probably a reason why you’re not excited. If it’s not something you care about, then it won’t be something in your life you really regret. It’s not a marker of coming-of-age; there will be other opportunities for that.

"Speaking as someone who’s queer and feels like they had those experiences later in life — dating and having your first real kiss, your first real date, feeling that smitten feeling about being asked out — I do think that school dances can really ostracize people that way, and I didn’t even know that I felt that way at the time. If it’s not important to you now, trust me, it won’t be important to you in your 20s or 30s."

Caitlyn Alario, 24, Brooklyn, NY; skipped prom in 2013

Why she skipped: "Honestly, I skipped prom because nobody asked me. It sounds ridiculous to me now, but even as a fairly strong, independent 18-year-old, going to prom alone sounded like hell. I'd even picked out a dress online months in advance in the hopes that someone would ask me, but I never wore it. Luckily, my younger sister liked it enough to wear it to her junior prom the next year.

"The only thing I truly regret about skipping prom is that I don't have any pictures of myself in that dress that I loved so much. But also that I let myself be so powerless over that decision. Looking back on it, I wish I'd asked someone to go instead of waiting around to be asked — but even as a 'I don't need no man' kind of high school girl, I was too embarrassed to ask a boy myself."

Her advice: "I say do whatever you'll actually enjoy. Be honest with yourself about what you want to do, not what your friends want or you think you should do based on the current climate at your school. If there's someone you want to go to prom with, ask them. If you want to stay home and have a movie night, do that. If you want to throw your own little get together, go wild. It might feel like whatever decision you make is going to define you for the rest of your life, but I can guarantee that six years later, you'll have a whole new set of standards and decisions to define yourself by."

Scarlet Meyer, 28, New York, NY; skipped prom in 2009

Why she skipped prom: "I was introverted and had crippling social anxiety. All I could imagine was feeling bad about by myself in formal wear while my friends ditched me to dance with their significant others. On top of that, I was straightedge and having anxiety about dealing with all the drinking and drugs aspects of prom. I had so much pressure from family and friends who kept telling me I was going to regret skipping it, but I honestly never did."

Her advice: "I would say listen to your gut. Anyone who is telling you you're going to 'regret' skipping is projecting. If you genuinely like getting dressed up and dancing with your friends and don't have an icky feelings about it, go for it. But if deep in your soul you really just don't want to go, you don't have to do it. I promise there will be plenty of occasions to spend way too much money, wear stiff formal wear, and eat poached salmon when you get older. They're called weddings, and you're going to be invited to a lot of them."

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

These Amazon Prime Movies Are So Hot They’re Almost Porn

To Have More Sex, Put It On Your Calendar

The Best Kegel Balls On The Internet

Tags: Facebook, Fashion, Music, Instagram, Ariana Grande, Carrie Brownstein, Columbus, Taco Bell, Chicago Il, New York Ny, Sara, Brooklyn NY, Michele, Jehovah, Philadelphia PA, Dallas TX, Zac Posen, Long Beach CA, Romy, Gabrielle Moss, Wayne Gretsky, Kristie Foran, Heysell R, LJ Vogel, Courtney Ruiz, Meghan Sara, Paris Talley, Alexa Cardelli, Isabel Dieppa, Rachel Rossen, Caitlyn Alario, Scarlet Meyer