Young People Ask . . .
Should I Go to the Prom?
“Prom night’s also usually the first time your parents say to you, ‘Honey, enjoy yourself. We’ll see you in the morning.’”
“I remember going to a school dance where there were only two chaperons, and they weren’t even paying attention to the kids.”
YOUR classmates have been talking about it for months. After all, the senior prom* is a once-in-a-lifetime event. And since you will be saying good-bye to classmates you have known for years, you might naturally want to be there. “Ever since junior high school,” says one 18-year-old girl, “I’ve wanted to attend the prom.”
In some lands the senior prom—a formal dance preceding graduation from high (secondary) school—is a real milestone for youths. More than simply a gala social event, the prom is a time-honored ritual marking the passage into adulthood. Says Seventeen magazine: “Prom night’s also usually the first time your parents say to you, ‘Honey, enjoy yourself. We’ll see you in the morning.’ Staying out all night is not only okay—it’s what you’re supposed to do.”
Not that all youths plan an all-night session of dubious conduct. Rather, many simply look forward to a beautifully romantic experience—the chance to be a modern-day Cinderella or Prince Charming! “It’s like a fantasy,” says 19-year-old Darcey. “They step out of their rented limousine, take pictures, and show off in front of their friends. It’s their moment in the spotlight.”
Less glamorous in style, but also popular, are school dances. “Every now and then, you need a gathering just to have a good time,” says 15-year-old Jamey. But whether the appeal is the dancing, the dinner, or the dressing up, most youths feel that going to such affairs is a virtual obligation. Their only concerns are who they will go with, what they will wear, and how they will get the money to pay for the evening. But there are some other things you may need to consider.
Looking Beyond the Glitter
Jesus Christ himself was one who attended respectable social gatherings. (Compare Luke 5:29; John 2:1, 2.) But “revelries,” or “wild parties,” are condemned in the Bible. (Galatians 5:21; Byington) In the first century, wild orgies in which pagans would openly engage in “deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries” were common. Christians were therefore warned against attending these unruly affairs.—1 Peter 4:3, 4.
What about proms and school dances? Some may be well organized and supervised, thus relatively tame events. Rowdy behavior may be discouraged and dealt with swiftly if it occurs. But behind the glitter and glamor of many—if not most—proms, there often lurks the spirit of revelry.* “There’s a lot of sexual immorality and drinking,” one teenager told Awake! Alcoholic beverages may officially be off-limits. But a lot of drinking may go on in rest rooms, stairwells, and parking lots.
The Bible warns: “Wine is a ridiculer, intoxicating liquor is boisterous.” (Proverbs 20:1) Add now some wild or sensuous music, unrestrained dancing, dimmed lighting, and a crowd of youths who may have little appreciation for Bible principles, and you have the ingredients for revelry. Can you count on the chaperons to keep things under control? Not always. A teenager named Charles says bluntly: “Chaperons do nothing.” Unfair? Not according to young Darcey, who says: “I remember going to a school dance where there were only two chaperons, and they weren’t even paying attention to the kids.”
It must be admitted that even the most conscientious of chaperons may find it next to impossible in a darkened ballroom or gymnasium to control a crowd of youths who are bent on having a ‘good time.’ As a result, the dream of an evening of romance can quickly turn into a nightmare. “There are a lot of fights,” says one teenage girl.
Granted, not all proms or school dances erupt into violence. Still, there is the very real danger that you may be thrust into a potentially compromising situation. Recalls one young woman: “When you’re dancing cheek to cheek with boys, their hands start wandering all over you. They expect you to accept it!” Could you not avoid such a problem simply by keeping to yourself? Perhaps. But that is often easier said than done.
Suppose you go unescorted or go with a group of friends. One teenager reminds us: “Some boys are there by themselves, and they try to go after as many girls as they can.” There may also be a fair number of aggressive girls there. A youth who goes alone can easily become the target of unwanted attention.
On the other hand, having a fellow believer as an escort can create yet other complications. After all, dating is taken seriously by Jehovah’s Witnesses today.* And even if you feel sure that your escort has no romantic interest in you, to what extent can he or she really serve as a protection? Notes 19-year-old Lora: “What’s going to prevent others from cutting in as you dance—or asking you to go out with them? What happens then?” A tense, awkward situation can easily develop.
Not to be overlooked, either, is the danger of letting your guard down and getting caught up in the spirit of the occasion yourself. Bad associations do “spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) Admits an 18-year-old named Nick: “Even if two of Jehovah’s Witnesses went together, they could easily be prompted to do what everybody else is doing.”
When the Party’s Over
Oftentimes, though, the real problems arise after the party. “Some go to a hotel or to somebody’s house,” says young Tanya. Adds Yolanda: “You’re supposed to stay there all night. That’s part of the tradition.” Drugs, alcohol, and sex can also be part of the prom tradition. The morning after, however, can leave a youth with a stricken conscience, diminished self-respect, and the very real fear of pregnancy—or AIDS.
All too often, then, proms and school dances fail to live up to their promise of romance and wholesome fun and degenerate into wild parties, revelries. We are reminded that the prophet Isaiah in his day expressed God’s disapproval of gatherings that lasted “till late in the evening darkness.” The parties were complete with alcoholic beverages and music—“harp and stringed instrument, tambourine and flute.” Fun? No doubt. But Isaiah said of the partygoers: “The activity of Jehovah they do not look at, and the work of his hands they have not seen.”—Isaiah 5:11, 12.
Yes, getting into a party environment with youths who do not appreciate the Bible’s view can pose serious risks. True, not all such affairs turn into revelries, and circumstances vary throughout the world. So you and your parents must decide whether it is appropriate for you to attend. “It’s hard,” admitted one young girl, “because the prom is glamorous, and it’s such a temptation. It’s in front of you all year!”
But talking matters over with your parents or a mature Christian can help clarify things. Consider: Who will be attending the dance? What type of supervision will there be? Will alcoholic drinks be served? What kind of music will be played? Have there been problems in past years? How would being a part of such an affair be viewed by others—especially fellow Christians? Could attending put a stumbling block before some?—1 Corinthians 10:23, 24, 32.
In view of all the problems associated with proms and school dances, Christian youths would consult with their parents and likely decide not to attend. But is not your graduation an accomplishment to be proud of? Of course! Likely, though, you can find a safer way to celebrate, perhaps by sharing your joy with fellow Witnesses. For example, your family may decide to arrange for a modest gathering or a dinner party. When such gatherings are kept to a reasonable size and are well organized, serious problems rarely develop.*
Such a gathering may lack the glitter and glamour of a formal school prom. But it can still be a happy occasion—free of the pitfalls a prom or school dance may present. Best of all, you will be in harmony with Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.”
“A formal dance held for a high-school or college class typically at or near the end of the academic year. [Short for PROMENADE.]”—The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.
“Revelry” is defined as boisterous partying or merrymaking.
See chapter 30 of the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
See the article “Social Entertainment—Enjoy the Benefits, Avoid the Snares” in the August 15, 1992, issue of The Watchtower.
[Picture on page 21]
Chaperons find it nearly impossible to control the conduct of all in attendance