The Cost of Dating And Prom: A Friday Chat

It's polite to blur out your date's face when you're posting Prom pics to The Billfold. Also, that dress totally looks like Tina Fey's.

It’s polite to blur out your date’s face when you’re posting Prom pics to The Billfold. Also, that dress totally looks like Tina Fey’s.

Ester: Hello!

Nicole: Hi! It’s Friday once again!

Ester: It sure is, and I have to ask the question that’s on everyone’s mind: have you indeed met any young men through those classes and events?

Nicole: Well, which definition of “met” are we talking about here? If it’s the one that means “trumpets sounded and true love was announced,” no. If it was the one that means “well, maybe we agreed to go out sometime,” still no. If it means “hey, I talked to some people that I probably wouldn’t have talked to if I had stayed indoors, but the conversation was completely platonic and mostly about ‘Game of Thrones,’” absolutely.

Ester: Hee! Yeah, that sounds great. I realized relatively recently — when Ben and I went on one of the two dates we’ve managed to have in 2015 — that I’ve inadvertently saved lots of money by meeting a guy and getting married young. And he’s saved so much money too, since a straight guy is more often on the hook for impressing his young lady of choice and buying her stuff. We were playing ping pong at a crappy bar on Flatbush and I was like, “Yeah, you wouldn’t be able to get away with taking a date here ’til date three or four at least, right? You’d have to buy some fancier dinners first.” That adds up.

Nicole: The unspoken dating rule—I mean, it’s pretty clearly spoken on “how to do OKCupid” sites—is that the first few dates should always be low-cost, though. Coffee, one drink, maybe a cookie. Because online dating is about volume: you are supposed to meet as many people as possible in order to figure out if any of these people merit a second date.

Ester: And that flies, in Seattle? In “Sex and the City” they were always going out to real places with tablecloths and stuff.

Nicole: Oh, absolutely. You can always tell who just joined the site because they will ask you out to dinner right away. And you can tell who’s been there for six months or more because they’re all “what if we spent 20 minutes together at a Starbucks to see if there are any sparks?”

Ester: Makes much more sense. OK, well, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about prom costs! Did you go to prom more than one year? And how much do you spend on it, do you think?

Nicole: I went to four proms. Also, I literally snickered at that. Aloud. I was a “sophomore server” at one of the proms, which is exactly what it sounds like—I served food to upperclassmen, and now I feel weird writing upperclassMEN, do we call them something else now?—but I did the dress and hair and everything for three other proms.

I don’t remember how much it cost, but I’m guessing under $200 per prom. Also, my parents paid for everything.

How about you?

Ester: Four proms! Wow, that’s stamina. I only went to two. The first one, junior year, this guy asked me during French class. He turned around in his chair, with everyone listening, and said, “So, Bernadette, prom?” The teacher was prompting me, “Bernadette, oui?”

Nicole: Wait, he didn’t ask in French, though? He lost the opportunity to show your potential intimacy by tutoyer-ing you?

Ester: Maybe he intended to and he lost his nerve. I did admire the gesture anyway and said sure, almost definitely not in French. We basically went as friends, though. I don’t remember whether he paid for dinner or the ticket or anything; neither was expensive. My school only charged as much as the year, so in 1999 a prom ticket was $19.99. And we went as part of a group to a kind of pop up restaurant in the basement of a JCC because it was one of the few places we could find a kosher meal. Not very memorable.

Also I wore this insane black velvet Oscar De La Renta dress with huge puffed beaded sleeves that I found in a resale boutique / consignment shop. Everyone else was wearing reasonable, normal teenage dresses and I was in this elaborate thing. My poor date.

Nicole: Puffed sleeves! Were you entertaining Gilbert Blythe fantasies? (RIP Jonathan Crombie.)

Ester: Yeah I can’t explain it. I looked like something out of Beetlejuice. On the other hand, I always did like Tim Burton movies …

But so yeah, bottom line, prom was not super expensive for either my date or me. No fancy after-parties either: we hung out at a house-party with the cool kids for a bit and then went to a much calmer, smaller thing for nerds where we could hang out and fall asleep.

Nicole: Our school literally locked us in a restaurant until 5 a.m. I am not kidding. They set it up as a fake casino atmosphere, and we could win prizes—my date and I won a Nintendo 64 one year—but we also couldn’t leave. One year I was so tired and I just wanted to go home, and they were all “Nope.” There was some elaborate way we could get parental permission to walk home, but I didn’t want to call my parents and wake them up.

Ester: You did this four times??

Nicole: Hey, prom is a four-in-a-lifetime experience! Gotta make the most of it!



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