It’s the middle of a lunch period at an all-girls high school. I am sitting in my office organizing the next event, fundraiser or service project. As my eyes glaze over my excel spreadsheet, I am distracted by the sound of sobbing coming from the ladies room next to my office. Having an office next to the bathroom puts me in a prime location to catch the day’s meltdowns.
I get up from my chair and open the bathroom door. There stands a red-faced teenager and her calming friend consoling her. I ask “What’s wrong, are you OK?” She says she is fine, but then collapses her head into her hands. The friend mouths the words “PROM DRAMA.”
In this instant I could write the script of what I am about to hear. Each year I am witness, counselor, and listener to at least two or three of these episodes. I am the approachable non-teacher school program coordinator who will listen, coach, and guide whoever lands in my office at any time.
Tiffany has decided that there is only room for 6 couples in the limo that her dad’s friend’s cousin’s boss’s dog walker’s friend can get, which means there is no room for my bathroom sobber and her true love Tyler to be in the limo. She is out. Tiffany has made this grand declaration. Five other girls are too scared or unsure of how to approach Tiffany with this injustice, and my bathroom crier is rendered defenseless.
If Tiffany is wise, she will ask everyone’s input and lead the group in making a group decision. If Tiffany starts dictating, you can guarantee there will be tears, repressed feelings and emotions, and tension galore at the lunch table. Dictating is a common characteristic of a leader of a group, rather than a concerned friend. Cliques in particular often have one person, seeking control over followers, rattling off unofficial “rules and regulations” that will determine who is worthy of being in a group at any given time. A true friend exhibiting natural leadership qualities would ask for input, organize information, but also be sensitive to the feelings of others.
How can girls make prom enjoyable and learn a valuable lesson about small group dynamics? I decided to go straight to the source.
Within 30 seconds of instant messaging three of my students, I had enough input to write a second post. I asked the girls to share about their experiences and offer teens advice about how to make the most of the prom experience, and navigate through the communication jungle that the process can sometimes become.
CONQUER THE FEAR OF SPEAKING UP!
“If you have ideas or opinions about what your prom group is doing, definitely speak up. If you’re going to pay a large amount of money, you have every right to be happy! If someone’s taking the lead and you disagree with some of their decisions, take them aside and talk to them rather than confront them in a large group. Prom is definitely a big part of high school, but it’s not the make it or break it. You’re supposed to have fun and enjoy yourself!” ~ Cynthia, HS Senior
AVOID DICTATORS – YOUR VOICE COUNTS!
“I think that sometimes girls and guys will get too wrapped up in getting designer dresses, crazy party limos and extravagant after-parties. Girls tend to get swept away and one person takes charge. When that one person takes charge the best thing you can do is tell them what you’re thinking. By doing that you are asserting yourself into a situation that is important to you. You shouldn’t feel bad about speaking up for yourself and making sure everyone gets what they want. Prom isn’t only for that person planning the night – it’s for everyone.” ~ Ariana, HS Junior
“Luckily, my lunch table was only six girls and prom tables were six couples to a table. The real problem with prom was what to do after the prom. Some kids want to go here and other want to go there. Some girls have more “leadership” than others, and opinions are often left in the dust when it comes to decision making. My group and I found it was easiest to make our decision by looking at the costs of the ideas and by taking a vote, acting democratically!” ~ Leeanne HS Junior
Prom is a time to celebrate your high school experience responsibly. The most important lesson: HAVE FUN! Don’t get bogged down by the details or the drama. Years from now you will be looking at those prom pictures trying to remember the name of that guy in the monkey suit next to you!
Stephanie is a service and leadership coordinator at an all-girls high school. She is also an experienced life coach for teens and adults. She can be reached at Stephanie@StephanieLicata.com.