You might think that teachers don’t pay attention when promposals happen, but we do. In the last four years or so I’ve seen my fair share of them. The best ones – and there have been lots – basically flood the school with unicorns and rainbows via the ingenious, loving creativity of the juniors and seniors. I’ve seen crazy decorated cakes, festooned locker doors, and even original songs performed on a ukulele.
It also warms my heart that promposals (at least at SLA) are pleasantly gender neutral. Girls can ask boys, no sweat, and there are plenty of same-sex asks to go around as well, both platonic and romantic. If you believe that our daily lives deserve a little magic, and you’re also a fan of musicals, then witnessing a promposal can really make your day. The first student who manages to embed their proposal into a choreographed dance number deserves a crown, or at least a shout-out over the PA system.
What makes this phenomenon even more fascinating is that Promposals were not a thing when I was in high school, or even at SLA when I first started working here seven years ago. (According to a short history of the new tradition published by the Washington Post, the promposal officially got its start in 2001, but didn’t really go national until at least 2007 – the same year that Facebook changed their terms of service so that teens could officially register for accounts.)
As a result, it’s become one of those anecdotes that I share with people my age when they ask me how school’s going.
Adult reactions are varied. “They do what?” “That’s so cute!” “That seems complicated.” “Have you ever seen somebody say no?” “Wow, that’s like a practice marriage proposal!”
That last comment makes me cringe, because I’m married myself, but the last thing I would have wanted was my now-husband to propose to me. We just agreed to get married, no getting down on one knee or engagement ring involved. And now that I think about it, a promposal in high school would have freaked me out as well.
The student response to that statement immediately pops up in my head: Nobody is asking you to prom, Ms. Pahomov!
You got me there. But… I’m your English teacher, so I’m going to say my piece anyway: you don’t need big, choreographed, public gestures of love and devotion to have an awesome life with someone you love. Women don’t need to wait for their men to propose to them, and men do not need to save up a ton of cash for a ring before they ask. (In my experience, same-sex couples are not quite as prone to this kind of anxiety – they are less likely to buy into the heterosexual traditions that have rejected them for so long.)
Of course, you can do these things if you want to! But the joy of a modern, pluralistic society is that we have the right to cast off the social expectations that don’t suit us. Unfortunately, the need to do things “the right way” can get in the way of that freedom. I know grown men who have agonized about when and where they are going to “pop the question,” even though they know their partner is already committed to them. Just like I have seen the embarrassment and even annoyance on the faces of girls who have been ambushed by a promposal—and I’m talking about people who said yes, here. It’s clear they just would have rather skipped it, much less had a dozen friends recording the moment with their smart phones. (And if you are one of those students who has captured an awkward promposal, I hope you did the couple a favor and didn’t post it.)
So, the promposal faces a bit of a crisis. The more popular it becomes, the more people will feel required to participate, with each obligatory version stripping away a bit of the original magic, and turning it into just another boring old tradition that somebody needs to break out of.
But let me know if there’s going to be a choreographed dance promposal. I want to see that one. Just schedule it for before or after school, please.