by | Feb 25, 2009 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Many people wonder how the Prom began.

History shows that the Prom was invented when a caveman named Tux and a cavewoman named Limo met one night, gave each other the googly eye, and then clubbed each other over the head. When they awoke, they couldn’t remember a thing, which is still how it works at proms today.

Thus the tradition was born.

Over the years, things like corsages, rock bands and throwing up in the parking lot were added. Also lipstick. All in all, the tradition remains largely intact — that is, boy meets girl, girl meets boy, both wake up a day later wearing powder blue clothing.

I attended a prom. And I learned a great lesson there. And I am going to share it now with the young men of America, because some memories never let you go.

Especially the mistakes.

Get out of the driveway

First of all, before the prom, I had just gotten my limited driver’s license. So I picked up my date at her house. And her mother stood nervously in the doorway, waving good-bye as I started my father’s car.

And I couldn’t get it into reverse.

So I floored the gas, and I grabbed at the gearshift, and my date cringed, and her mother stood in the doorway, the smile drooping off her face, her hand falling limp as a wilted flower.

And I still couldn’t get it in reverse.

So I pulled and I pulled and I darn near snapped that thing off, and then all of a sudden, with the gas still revved, the car jolted into reverse and we screeched out of the driveway and I slammed on the brakes, and both my date and I were lucky we didn’t get concussions hitting the dashboard.

That is the last time I remember seeing her mother. I believe she went to call the police.

Also, that is not the lesson I wanted to share. Just an amusing anecdote. You will have many of these from your prom. Some will involve bow ties

All right, then. Here’s the thing. I have been reading in recent years about so-called prom controversies. There was a young man in Pennsylvania who, according to the Sharon (Pa.) Herald, wore a kilt to his prom. There was another lad in Wisconsin who, according to the Associated Press, came to his prom in a dress. There was a kid in North Carolina who, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times, wore a tux coat with a Confederate flag on it. This teaches us, of course, to never read newspapers.

But it also shows us that these are not controversies!

I’ll show you a controversy.

Just picture this

Here’s what happened. After the prom, the girl and I quickly broke up. And not long after that, I got a call from the photographer who had snapped our photos at the prom. And he wanted to know when I was going to pay for the pictures. And being a typical teenaged guy, and figuring the girl and I were history, I told him, “Keep them.”

I have never lived it down.

Turns out, of course, the girl, while no longer interested in me, was intensely interested in the photos, if only to show her children one day (presumably with me cut out). And after I said, “Keep them,” the guy destroyed the negatives and there was no getting them back. Hey! I was a kid! I couldn’t even put a car in reverse!

Nonetheless, I have heard over the years how much that hurt the girl, who was really sweet and eventually married a good guy. I ran into her many years later and she looked at me with those old, googly eyes and said, “You jerk.”

No. She didn’t. She was nice. But I still apologized. And I still am apologizing. So guys, listen up. No matter what happens after the prom, no matter how awful it was, no matter how far you roam, if some photographer asks if you are going to pay for the photos, you say, “OF COURSE! WHO DO YOU THINK I AM? THAT


After all, you don’t want your date clubbing you over the head.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or”


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New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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