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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Rigmarole of The Asks

Homecoming season is nearly over. Beautiful pictures have been all over Twitterdome, the Wonderful World of Facebook, Instagram and every other popular social media site known to humankind. I've enjoyed perusing the photos of well-dressed, clean-shaven, gorgeous couples as they head off to experience a wonderful night of merriment. What I've been mercifully thankful for is that the Homecoming "Asks" (or "Promposals" as they're also known) have largely been over-looked in the picture realm. The "Asks" are why I'm here today.

If you meld homecoming season with a blog post from Snarky in the Suburbs called The Homecoming "Ask" and a shy group of boys I adore, you have the recipe for what's been cooking in my head lately.

Homecoming for all of it's pomp and circumstance, fun and frivolity also has a layer of unmitigated pressure, and fear, in the form of the Homecoming "Ask," where the boys have to come up with a unique, stellar way to ask a girl of their liking, in a very public way, to go to Homecoming with them. And girls have to respond in a very public way...it can be a recipe for nastiness and humiliation.

I recently talked to Lucas about Homecoming and why he didn't go. The conversation went something like this...

Me: "How do you feel about the rigmarole when it comes to asking a girl to Homecoming? Is that part of why you didn't want to go again this year?" No sense beating around the bush. It's better for me to just come right out and asked the questions.

Lucas: "Yeah, pretty much. It's too much pressure, and I didn't want to have to deal with it and then still maybe not get a date to Homecoming, so I just didn't ask anyone. I would have gone with my friends, but none of them wanted to go." He's succinct and to the point. He just came right out and answered the questions. Gotta love him for that. 

As a mom of two boys and a girl, this whole rigmarole (yep, I used that word again) makes me more than a little sad, worried, and kinda mad. 

I know Zach got through it just fine, but he's a different kid and his class was lucky enough to cultivate friendships between the boys and the girls. Because of his friendships, he got through three homecomings and two proms with nary a problem, or a shoot down. The girls in his class did all of the planning for Zach (except maybe his senior year, but don't quote me on that). Girls know what other girls like. They know what takes to appear romantic. These girls can lead their guy friends down a path to make them look like the star in their own romantic movie...think Lloyd Dobler in "Say Anything" where he stands outside Skye's house with his boom box blasting "In Your Eyes." Swoon! Girls live for that. Boys...meh...not so much. They have to be taught, so when you're friends with girls it's fairly easy to be learn because they tell you exactly how to do it.  So, yes, Zach got through it fine, but not without pulling out the big guns in the form of his girls-who-are-friends. 

On to Lucas, and perhaps the majority of boys ages 14 to 20 and why it makes me sad, worried and a kinda mad. Lucas and his crew don't have friends-who-are-girls. They are a shy-ish group of young men who haven't learned how to cultivate friendships with girls. They probably should and I've told Lucas to give it a whirl, but he hasn't taken me up on my advice yet. So the problem remains, he remains in a realm of boys who have no idea what it takes to look like a romantic fool, and even if they did, would they really want to or would they risk looking "foolish" in front of their friends by finding some goofy and/or contrived way to ask a girl to Homecoming or Prom? I doubt it. This group of boys, as I'm sure countless other groups, have no desire to put themselves in a spot where they could possibly look foolish and get shot down. Now, surely I could step in and start looking on Pinterest for any and all means gathering ideas for securing Lucas a date, but really, is that what a mom is supposed to do? Maybe nowadays they are, but this mama isn't buying in and perhaps Lucas is suffering for my lack of helicoptering. 

I think the one I might be most sad for in all of this is Claire, and not because I don't think she'll be asked to Prom or Homecoming, but because these Homecoming Asks and Promposals set up a lifetime of false expectations. Life isn't all about the big-to-dos and the over-the-top affairs. Life isn't about fairy tales, balloons, banners and false proclamations for all of High Schooldom to see and judge. Life is about the little moments; the preciousness of a shared sweet secret with someone special. And I have to say, these Promposals are just as nerve wracking for the girls as they are for the boys, because what happens when a girl is asked by someone they have zero desire to go with or they're asked in a most embarrassing way in front of the entire school? I've heard the fallout from the girl's side. It's not pretty. It's full of drama and it's not a place I want Claire to go. I don't want her to live for the big, show-stopping fireworks that have to happen every six months. I want her to see reality and love it. I want her to capture the joy in the little things in life. And then when the big, show-stopping fireworks happen for a truly big event, it's something to be cherished even more.

I'll go on to say, the moms who scour Pinterest for hours looking for an over-the-top way that their sons can ask a girl to prom are setting their boys up for failure when it comes to future relationships. When these young men are out on their own and really begin to like a great girl, do you think they're going to run to Pinterest to see what they can do to proclaim their love? (If you do, I'd love to know about the guy who does it. I'll give him the biggest hug and thank him for truly getting the romantic side of the female psyche.) Trust me, there will be girls-a-plenty looking back through pictures and thinking to themselves, "If he thinks I'm that special why doesn't he do these romantic things for me?" The mamas won't be there to direct their sons. The girls will expect that same level of romance from the High School Promposals and it won't be there.  Zach could be in a world of hurt too, if he doesn't keep his girls-who-are-friends close to him, because I'm not about to tear into Pinterest to help win him a girl. 

I'll finish this with...aren't the high school years pressure packed enough, with puberty, grades, pimples, school work, trying to learn to navigate adulthood, peer pressure, work, books and any potential issues where our kiddos have to deal with bullying? How do we help to stop or tame or temper this obsession with the over-the-top "Asks"? I think we should all work toward a simpler and saner way to ask the girl (or guy) of their high school dreams to Prom or Homecoming , but I'm only one voice amongst the throngs of other voices who think it's great. Do you see it another way? Am I seeing it incorrectly? I don't know, but I know what I'd love to see happen for the love of our children...