It was the year “Promiscuous Girl” by Nelly Furtado and Timbaland was on replay on the radio. It was when I was a tennis instructor and had dance practice for 30 hours a week, and when I finally had my braces removed after enduring five years of sore gums. It was precisely when I became the hottest junior girl at my high school (simultaneously joining the ranks of the hottest high school girls in the city of Philadelphia). And it was my introduction to political science class, where I realized there was not a single guy available and suitable for me to take to my junior prom.
My friend Hannah and I sat at the back of the class, surveying our class roster like we were studying for a test taking place next period. Hannah came up with a bright idea before the bell rang — she said she’d hook me up with her cousin, Jason, who was not in high school and was apparently the perfect candidate for me. She showed me this super small and pixelated picture of Jason on Facebook right before class was over and told me that he was a good dancer. Her description made my eyes light up like heart-eyes emojis.
My junior year also marked America’s obsession with Project Runway, and since I was already different, I wanted the same dress Christian Siriano created for one of the show challenges. All of the girls in my grade were getting their dress made for prom with little direction, so I thought I was ahead of the game by using a professional design. My brother asked his lady friend Chelsea, who was in her second year at FIDM in California at the time, to make my dress. She happily agreed and got started right away.
Where The Hell Is My Prom Dress?
A few days leading up to prom, my dress was still nowhere to be tracked via mail. Chelsea had sent me some raggedy mock up dress for size purposes, but that was the only thing I got that even vaguely resembled my reality show dress. We’d text and call each other and she kept reassuring me how hot I was going to look. But I didn’t really know Chelsea and she had a huge crush on my brother for, like, forever. Her phone voice was always so slurred and chill and I thought it was because of her California lifestyle. Little did I know she wasn’t to be trusted by any means, though the mock up dress should probably have been an indication. It fit entirely too big and was not tight or short enough. We had multiple chats about how I wouldn’t look like a dirty Cinderella, and she even sent me fabric samples and sketches of the dress in progress.
Still, I came home every day after school looking for a package that was ultimately never fucking delivered. “Did my package come yet?” I’d ask my brother from a rotary phone in a vacant janitor’s office. “Nope,” my brother said to me nervously, like he could even be a suspect.
Meanwhile, my dress was actually en route from California to Philadelphia with a load of weed — blue dream, kush straight from the Sunshine State to Chelsea’s cousin’s house somewhere in West Philly. Of course, Chelsea never mentioned my dress would be a whole care package that would be ultimately undelivered because — wait for it — it was confiscated by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency).
So, a day before junior prom, a rainy Tuesday night after dance practice, my aunt dragged me to Lord & Taylor, and I was forced to leave the store carrying an off-brand turquoise silk chemise with mesh on both sides. My back-up dress was way more revealing, too! On the car ride home, we talked about the sexy side boob I was going to rock that wasn’t even trending in Hollywood yet. To say the least, I was nervous about my prom outfit. But it had to do, as far as taking my mind off the Project Runway dress that got lost in the mail, that was never really created, the dress that could have and should have but fell short.
On junior prom day, I neglected to wear Spanx, even though there was no amount of dance classes that could have tamed my body enough for the back-up dress without them. My grandma made me wear one of her crochet shawls (one she took with her to the casino, which was an insult) because my girls were out and they were perky. I got my makeup done by some random lady who worked at the Dior counter at our local department store. Actually, that was the only good thing about prom — the hundreds of dollars worth of makeup I wore and got to keep. I invited my family and friends to my pre-prom party, but didn’t eat anything because of my skimpy dress. While my twin sister’s prom date (who also happened to be her ultimate crush) arrived on time, in an amazing suit that matched her BCBG dress perfectly, my date, Jason, was no where to be found. When he finally did arrive, he was over forty minutes late. He was sweating and missing his suit jacket and he had on an off-color green silk shirt and tie that was supposed to match my weed dress.
If things couldn’t get any worse, Jason’s breath stunk, and when I worked up the courage to tell him, he was busy gettin’ down on the dance floor with some other girls I didn’t even know. We danced together for exactly two songs. When it was time to go, I couldn’t find him. I am still not sure if he hooked up with anyone that night, but my best friend at the time reassured me she hadn’t heard anything in the hallway gossip that ensued in the days after. I didn’t get Prom Queen, but at that point, I didn’t even care, I just wanted to go home and watch reruns of The Hills in the pink Juicy Couture sweat suit I had bought on sale that same night I was dragged to Lord & Taylor. Needless to say, Jason and I didn’t speak again after that – at least not for two-and-a-half years.
But He Did Remember Me
That was when the nightmare got still more real. On a spring night early three years later, I was attending the opening gala of a local museum. I had asked a guy I met at my college’s alumni event a few weeks prior to keep me company, too! We had been flirting through email and I wanted to test him out to see if he date material.
My date and I were probably the youngest couple there since it was a “Philly scene” and most of the guests were from the Main Line. That night, I ran into Bill Cunningham, the Mayor, a few other journalists, and a family friend. Oh — and Jason, my junior prom date.
I spot Jason, bartending! My first thought was to avoid that area. There were too many people in the room for him to notice me anyway, right? Wrong. Jason’s brother, who was also bartending, came up to me with a vicious smile, and I knew I didn’t succeed at being invisible because Jason was right behind him.
By talking to Jason, I picked up that he was drinking on the job, so I just hit him with my business card and told said that my number hadn’t changed. But he didn’t want to leave me be.
That was when I gathered my date and headed straight for the museum exit, where I saw the most magical dress ever, on one of the Guggenheims. It was vintage and priceless — a long sleeve purple sequin gown from the 1960s Norman Norell collection — and this lady with white hair was slaying the game. While I was talking to the white-haired vintage mermaid about her dress while trying to pick my jaw up off the floor, a very intoxicated Jason interrupted me (again) and tried to pull me away to talk as my date looked on in utter confusion. The guards at the event must have seen how completely uncomfortable I was because they automatically tended to the situation, escorting him away from me.
In retrospect, it was my Kim Kardashian-West moment.
Thankfully the situation was diffused quickly, but the purple mermaid had already walked away and we never spoke again. Funnily enough, my bewildered date had managed to snap a few pictures of me with her, and I spotted her again in Bill Cunningham’s style feature about the evening.
Jason never tried to contact me after that scene, and I didn’t blame him. I did learn to thoroughly screen my dates before taking them out to an event that actually requires some effort, and that I’m super picky when it comes to trying on evening gowns. I also learned that I have high standards, though these have been lowered since moving to New York City.
I also learned to use a stylist and seamstress in the area, and to make sure there are no illegal drug transactions occurring if I decide to employ someone from California.
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