It’s prom time again. Some of the high schools have already held their big formal spring dances, but lessons in dating terror still lie ahead for a number of teens out there.

When we went to the prom, the idea of parents renting hotel rooms for us students or of even staying out all night was something that couldn’t even be comprehended. Times have changed, I guess.

Today, memories of my high school prom seem almost laughable, but they were dead-serious then. A date to the prom was probably the most formally attired dinner and dance I’d ever ask a girl to share, and it needed to be special.

My steady girlfriend had just broken off our romance, so the list of women whom I thought might go out with me was a short one; the girl who sat in front of me in Social Studies did laugh at my jokes, though.

“Uh, Linda?” I asked one day when our teacher was distracted on the other side of the room. “Have you got a date to the prom yet?”

“No, not yet.”

“Well, then,” I continued, “could I have the honor of escorting you to the gala affair?” (While I thought I was being all suave and debonair, I look back at it now as prime nerd behavior.)

Once I had my date lined up, I’d need to rent a tux, order flowers, make restaurant reservations and trade my Mom a month’s worth of Saturday labor for the use of her new car. 

Making the right impression

When I walked into the local tuxedo rental shop, I was greeted by a balding, 50ish, little, ol’ man. He might have been straight out of Hollywood casting.

“Hello, how can I help? Wanna rent a nice tux?” he asked.

“Ah, yeah,” I finally blurted.

“Goin’ ta da prom up at the high school?”


“Look around, that rack over there’s got all the rentals on it. Take your time. We’ll fix ya up real good.”

While he fussed with a mannequin, I looked through the rental rack and tried to make a decision. I had already decided that I didn’t want just another plain, ol’ white-jacket/black-trouser combination. (Remember, this was the 1960s.)

They had some iridescent coats that caught my eye, and I picked out an electric-blue model that would have done any Motown singing group proud.

I look back today and wonder: What was going through my mind?

When the day itself finally arrived, I showered, needlessly shaved and doused myself with cologne ‘til I reeked. I kept thinking of the ceremonial dressing of a matador before he met the horns of the bull.

My father looked at his 17-year-old kid dressed in an incandescent jacket and offered just two bits of advice: “Remember, that car’s no play toy,” and “Don’t order Roquefort salad dressing.”

I looked at him quizzically.

“Garlic breath,” he explained. We shook hands, and I started off on my date. 

Meeting the family

Linda looked great in her new formal. After I had presented her with her flowers, I heard her father tell her mother as she helped Linda pin them on, “Something’s gotta hold that dress up.’”

After we’d gone through the mandatory round of snapshots for the relatives, I finally got Linda into the shiny, red Plymouth and headed toward one of the fancier restaurants in town.

I remembered the salad-dressing warning, but you can’t just act as if nothing unusual is happening when you’re wearing clothes that glow.

“Gary,” Linda asked softly as I drove on toward the dance, “back at my house, when you were waiting for me to come down, did my father show you his gun?”

“Uh, no,” I replied. Why did she ask me that?

“Good, he usually shows it to all my dates, and he did seem to be looking at you a little strangely.”

GARY McDANIEL is a longtime Magnolia resident. To comment on this column, write to