Prom night in Bryan, Texas

I suppose you already know it is all about the dress. For the young women, that is. The dress should be perfect. It should be unique. The dress should sparkle, should fit snugly and flatter. The dress celebrates your young adult figure, with its soft curves, or tight angles. It should also stay on easily, which can be more of a challenge.

I did not know it is all about the dress, so was quite surprised to hear it when my student, Amanda, explained this to me only about ten years ago. She was from a small town near Austin, where this important Texas tradition was clear. OK, maybe not just Texas, but Texas is what I know.

I asked her if getting asked by the right boy was not important, or if the girls were comfortable asking themselves these days. Amanda assured me that a boy was desirable, but that he was not important. Yes, they asked if necessary, or groups of girls matched each other up with brothers and friends, just as my own children had done. Waiting by the phone did not seem to happen any more. I suppose most of them don’t even have land lines any more, so there would be nowhere to wait anyway. I wonder how many get asked these days by text, or on FB.

Our glimpse of prom night came because we were in Bryan last night celebrating a family academic milestone. We went to a nice restaurant in downtown Bryan. The downtown is like many small Texas towns. It has no original life, but has been regenerated with restaurants, curio stores, vintage clothing, cowboy hats, bond bailsmen, and angled parking. Many of the buildings were empty.

After dinner we wandered in the Texas gloaming. By twos and fours, the teenagers arrived at an old brick building down the street. Sometimes they were alone. Sometimes there was a mother taking photographs. One group arrived in a white stretch limousine. Dark clouds spat a few large raindrops, then ceased.

I joined the cluster taking photographs and took a few myself. No one challenged me. Instead, mothers moved aside so I could get the children well. After all, it was prom night. I loved seeing the beginning, the arrivals, fresh and sober. I knew it would follow with music that was too loud, teachers that were too intrusive, and risky behaviors of many kinds. For now, it was prom night, just beginning, in fresh, sparkly dresses.


About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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3 Responses to Prom night in Bryan, Texas

  1. Jorge says:

    Nice comments Joan! Even though my daughters went to high school here (in the US), the whole “prom Night” thing was just a curiosity for the family and a way to try to “adapt” (or adopt?) to a new culture for us. No clue that the “dress” was the key here! By the way, I love the two pictures you posted at the bottom (the old library and the Queen theater)!

  2. Ryan Rose says:

    that looks like it was a great time!

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