Dear Dr. Wes and Samantha,
I’m a senior at LHS and have been dating the same girl for over two years. She is also a senior at LHS, a delightful person, and just happens to write a weekly column in the local paper. (But I don’t want to give away her identity). Prom is coming up, and it’s a really big deal for her, and by extension, me. She wants to be asked, “creatively,” so I was hoping the two of you could give me some suggestions. I think Samantha might just have a vested interest in this one, so I’m particularly interested to see what she has to say. Thanks for your help,
— Jon Cohen
Wes: Well Jon, writing a letter to your girlfriend’s advice column ranks among the most unique methods ever for asking someone to prom. Thanks for letting me in on a sweet and romantic gesture. Just so readers fully appreciate our little plan — the first Samantha knew of this letter was Tuesday morning in the paper. Up to that point, she thought we were just churning out a topical column! Although the writer won’t benefit from her excellent advice, he’ll probably do OK assuming Sam doesn’t say no.
Beyond her suggestions below, you can Google “ask girls to prom ideas.” Believe it or not, I had occasion to do that myself recently while researching the young adult novel I’m writing. There are actually some pretty creative ideas posted. And some not so great, like spelling out the invitation with plastic flatware in the front yard. Sounds more like stalking than an invitation.
One last bit of advice on the whole experience. There are plenty of nights out of the year to have a wild party. Try something different at prom. Go with all the majesty and pomp and leave the wildness home for a night. It’ll be there next week. Back in the ’80s I was in radio and had my own DJ system (no, seriously). I still remember the joy of watching kids on the most romantic night of their 17 years. You’re all growing up fast. Make this night memorable, just as Samantha and Jon have already begun to do.
Samantha: People are pairing up faster than Mahjong on level one. And while not having a date isn’t the end of the world, prom is one of the last chances to woo the person you’ve always had a thing for. Whether you’re the asker or the replier, avoiding prom drama requires some etiquette. And girls, it’s 2010 — YOU can be the asker.
Tips for asking:
• Do your research. Before you ask, find out if the person you are asking already has a date. This information is easy to get from the person’s friend, and the friend may even offer to help you plan how to ask.
• Decide on your intentions. You can have a great time at prom with a friend or a romantic date. Going with a friend is a great way to avoid prom group drama. If you want to go with someone just as a friend, make sure you clarify this issue when you ask.
• There’s no “right” way to ask. Some people are into the romantic thing, while others prefer a more creative or comedic approach. Yet others would prefer that you just ask straight up. Hopefully, you know your potential date well enough to find the right approach.
• Act fast! The earlier you ask, the more likely you’ll be to get a “yes.” Give you and your date time to find formal wear and arrange transportation and dinner.
Tips for replying:
• Be kind. Keep in mind that asking someone to the prom involves taking a risk. The asker knows that, if you say no, he will feel devastated or, at least, embarrassed. Just because you have no interest in going to the prom with the asker doesn’t mean he/she needs to know that fact.
• Don’t be a prom player. Some people treat being asked to the prom like an auction in which they award their company to the highest bidder. You may be tempted to hold out for a better offer. If you need time, tell the person you’ll get back to him or her in one week. Any longer and the asker may lose a chance to take someone else. If you’re waiting to be asked, take some action. Casually tell your ideal date that someone else asked you, and you haven’t decided on a reply yet. He or she will take the hint, if they planned to ask you at all.
• You can say “no” without making up a lie. Don’t tell the person you already have a date if you don’t. You’ll eventually be found out. Say, “No, thank you, but I am flattered that you asked me.” You don’t have to offer apologies or long explanations. The more low-key your reply, the easier it is for the person to move on. Try not to tell everyone who asked you. It makes it much harder for that person to ask someone else.
• Return the favor. If you say yes, make sure to show the person that you appreciate the invitation. Follow the asker’s lead on prom plans, but offer your assistance whenever possible.
Contest: The annual Double Take co-author’s contest will goes to press next week. High school seniors from all Lawrence High Schools and the surrounding area are eligible. A scholarship from Family Therapy Institute Midwest goes to the winner for the 2010-2011 school year. Deadline will be April 27, with interviews May 1. Watch for the challenge question in the next column.
— Dr. Wes Crenshaw is a board-certified family psychologist and director of the Family Therapy Institute Midwest. Samantha Schwartz is a senior at Lawrence High School. Opinions and advice given here are not meant as a substitute for psychological evaluation or therapy services. Send your questions about adolescent issues (limited to 200 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org. All correspondence is strictly confidential.