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  • Writer's pictureAndy Ross

The Prom Speech

Whenever I see prom season roll around I find myself thinking back to my own experiences with prom when I was in High School. Spoiler alert, your intrepid writer was shy and awkward in High School. Prom was something that I wasn’t all that excited about. The popular kids tended to act as if it was the most important day of the year as if their entire lives depended on it. Those people are the ones who peaked then and have been on the downhill coast ever since.

To me, prom was just a thing, I went, I had an OK time. The music wasn’t great and the DJ made fun of me for asking him to play “Amish Paradise” by “Weird Al” Yankovic. I do not miss high school, to say the least. The coming of prom also meant lots of talks from teachers and parents about the whole thing, but the one thing that sticks in my mind is a sort of lecture we were all sent to see in the week leading up to prom.

I don’t remember exactly where we all went, but the entire grade was sent by bus to an auditorium to hear a speech. I think it was, and I’m very fuzzy on the details, maybe a large number of students getting ready for prom from the area schools. One of my friends and I sat together on the bus ride over, I don’t recall what we talked about, probably Monty Python—I was the stereotypical Python nerd in high school.

We sat down in the auditorium and first up was the chief of police to tell us about drinking and driving. Now, I want to make one thing very clear. I think it’s good to tell the youths about what could go wrong on prom night. I don’t want anyone to think I’m making light of such efforts. What I do think is weird, is the way the message was driven home by a lady who spoke after the chief of police.

The reserved-looking lady stood at the podium, she looked out at us all with a dour and slightly judgmental look on her face. I don’t recall what she did, I think she was maybe some kind of a nurse. She began her speech by saying “Look to your left, then look to your right. One of you is going to DIE this weekend.” I spell “die” with all caps as she wanted to drive home our impending deaths.

“It doesn’t matter what you do, little beer and a little pot? You’re gonna DIE! So when you lay out your pretty prom clothes, make sure you tell your parents what clothes you also laid out that you want to be buried in.” This is when my friend and I looked at each other, we locked eyes and were saying to one another “what on earth is happening?”

She doubled down on her rhetoric about how some of us were bound to die this weekend no matter what we did, or how hard we tried not to. I began to think she was going to look at us and say “If you don’t die this weekend, I’m gonna eradicate you.” Maybe I should have sold the movie rights to Paramount for a new horror franchise. She just glared at us all, as if she was barely holding back rage, as if she was going to only feel joy if she read a newspaper the following week and saw some of our obituaries in it.

How the speech ended I don’t recall. But I do recall being back on the bus returning to school with my friend who turned to me and said “You know, if no one in our class dies this weekend I’m going to be disappointed.” This was 20 years ago, but it still sticks in my head as a very strange thing. I wish every prom season I didn’t think back to the time a nurse vaguely threatened my entire class, but I do. I suspect it shall be burned in my mind forever. See you next week.


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