Last year I attended my 50th high school reunion. It was great to see so many old friends. In fact, so many showed up there was some I missed talking to and the reunion lasted two nights. But while talking about the good and bad ole days of high school, the teachers, sports, there will always be the memory of the Senior Prom.

Prom in those days was sort of a right of passage. It was the first step into adulthood and we were all dressed to the nines. You washed and waxed the old man’s station wagon. Got your flower order in and rented your tux and you were on your way. In those days many of the girls, or their mothers, made their own prom dresses. Or, if one of their older sisters had a prom dress, or a bridesmaid’s dress that wasn’t too ugly, it was passed down from daughter to daughter.

The high school gym was transformed into some sort of theme. Usually something tropical with construction paper palm trees, hand painted watercolor signs, old Christmas garland and a confetti volcano. And, it was the only time you were allowed to walk on the gym floor in street shoes. The teachers and some volunteer parents lined the walls to make sure there was daylight between the dancers.

We voted for a King and Queen, usually the captain of the football team and the head cheerleader, and toasted them with lame punch that was usually spiked by the class clown. Someone from the visual aids department played a pile of pre-approved 45’s. Danny and the juniors’, Pat Boone, and Paul Anka, all did their part to make it a night to remember.

Say goodbye to the good ole days

Fast forward to today’s prom. The days of homemade dresses and dad’s station wagon are over.  How much will the average family have to shell out to send their loving daughter to prom this year? According to a Visa, Inc. survey, around $1,078.00, — up 33% from 2011’s $807. Custom made dresses; limo rental, a professional DJ, and a high-end caterer make today’s prom a loan to remember.

We have become the party central of the known world. One thousand dollar birthday parties for five year olds are becoming more and more common. The dress, the hair, the makeup, the shoes, the limo, the after party, can max out dad’s credit card or delete a big chunk of the college fund in one night. Some parents even go so far as to rent billboards near the school with “Vote for Wendy For Prom Queen.” Many parents see it as a responsibility they owe their kids. Other’s, who refuse to foot the outrageous price tag, run the risk of their kids being ostracized by their school chum peers for the rest of the school year.

Some Final Thoughts

I have great empathy for anyone trying to be a responsible parent in today’s economy and society. Never in history have kids been pulled in so many directions at the same time. Reality TV, define how kids should act, texting, digital movies and pictures always within easy reach. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, keep the, not who you are, but who you should be, fantasy going. So if you’re a new parent here’s some advice. You only have five years to save for your first $1,000 party. Good luck.