Having a Ball

When I was a little boy, I had this relative who was an old lady about whom I did not know much about, except that she was old and that she had been a teacher and, that she had been the prom queen.

Back then, I did not have a big sense of time, but I did have an image of her being a prom queen in like the 20s or so. Turns out she was born in around 1920, so she probably was crowned the queen of her prom in around 1937.

To me, her being a prom queen was at the same time pretentions as it was fabulous. I kind of imagined her in a ball gown – in black and white of course – coming down the stairs receiving a big bouquet of flowers, mostly roses and maybe even some silver crown which the school had paid for.

Later, when I went to high school and started going to dances of any type, in the end, they were all the same, my image of her shifted entirely. The way we did was to gather up in a dark disco – yes, Hacienda was in the mid 2000s one of the last places that was still called a disco and do bits. Basically, what it was was a two-story club – the teachers were all gathered in a small part downstairs and the students were upstairs, mostly drinking and smoking. There was a lot of smoking and I don’t think it was any ventilation. The way it worked was that each class would do a bit like a dance or something, depending on the occasion and then the party would start. But, again, what was fascinating about it was that it was a dark place and kids were boozing and probably even doing drugs – I don’t know, I wasn’t with the in-crowd. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against underage drinking and smoking – of course, it’s not healthy, but that doesn’t amaze me as much as the strange context that was created. Basically, the teachers would close an eye for a night at the things they ran their students after on a daily basis, which I guess works given that it was a different context, but I still can’t get over the fact that the official school dance would happen in a disco where you could barely see where you were walking. Again, I am not for a puritan approach to teenage, but I still find it odd that an official school event had children sit in smoke in complete darkness for hours. I’m not sure what is off with this picture. I guess what bothers me is that it’s quite a hypocritical scene: in a way, if a parent is leaving their child in the hands of the school, they’re expecting a certain atmosphere. Instead, it was all sexy outfits and loud music.


In a way, I don’t know if it’s better for this to be school policy or to let kids find out all these things on their own. Maybe it’s safer this way, but I still have a hard time thinking that this type of forced underground culture will have a positive impact. In a way, if you’re a teen breaking from the expectations of your school, it should be because you are doing and you are doing it on your own terms.


To be honest, I was not very engaged in the party. As the nerd that I was, I stood there and while people were doing retro dances and crap, I was thinking at how odd it is that people developed this culture where they dress up in flashy outfits and dance. Of course, I did not get much of the philosophy of the original club culture back then.

I still find it odd that people used to do this simulation of club culture. It was underground for underground’s sake – there was no real meaning to it.

I am really wondering how others saw those dances and what their opinions of them were then and whether these have changed.


Later it became clear to me that my relative had not been a prom queen in this type of dance and that in the 30s or whenever, things were probably really different.

And, speaking of being different and of prom queens, when I was in the 11th grade, I was part of the jury that was designated to choose the prom king and queen, which in Romania is awarded to participants who are high school juniors and not seniors. Standing out from the usual dolled-up chicas and football boys were a dude and a girl who gave off the vibe I imagined my relative to have given back in her day. They were old-timey but in a modern way, they were cute and polite and I don’t know how they were competing for being prom queen and king. On deliberation, I advanced the suggestion that we should vote for them and, while not everybody agreed, some people were on my side. It was a bit of a strange situation for me, as my Chemistry teacher who did not like me was on my side. It was strange because I had to make a coalition with someone I did not want to deal with and try to convince the other members of the jury that these two deserved to win.

In the end, the duo my Chemistry teacher and I wanted to win were awarded the prizes and everyone enjoyed the win of an odd couple. That story really came around.


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