Register Thursday | September 20 | 2018

The Art of the Promposal

A high school dance in Worthington, Ohio in 1941. 

Be sure you’re sitting in a comfortable chair if you ask my sister about promposals

She has dozens of tales, each more cringeworthy than the last.

At her high school, a boy led a girl on a scavenger hunt through the hallways, finally leading her to the cafeteria. He was standing on the stage, in front of students on their lunch break, wearing a tux and holding flowers. “Will you go to prom with me?” he asked into a microphone.

Another boy created a slideshow with photos of him and his female friend, then aired it on the televised announcements one morning. At the end, a message: Will you go to prom with me?

“I have more,” my sister says.

One girl presented a guy with a pizza. On the inside of the box, she’d written: I know this is cheesy, but will you go to prom with me? 

How were you asked to prom? Bashfully, at your locker? Or perhaps you did the asking. 

A close friend asked me—on Facebook chat, I think. (Very Gen Y.) 

But simplicity is passé, it seems. Go big or go home.

One girl, a fan of McDonald’s, according to my sister, opened her locker to find “PROM” spelled out in masking tape, with a McDouble taped inside the O. 

“I think he had to use a lot of tape,” my sister says. 

One boy put a baggie holding a fish in a girl’s locker. When she opened it, he said, “Out of all the fish in the sea, will you go to prom with me?” Trouble was, the fish was dead by then. 

No doubt the promposal was spawned by the extreme marriage proposal trend. Boyfriends have proposed during parades, flash mobs and movie previews. They’ve relied on Ellen and cute dogs. On Valentine’s Day of this year, one sap proposed in the Toronto Star

The interesting thing is that we keep hearing about all these over-the-top promposals, just as we do the proposals-on-steroids.They get tweeted about, or posted on Vineor watched by hundreds of thousands on YouTube. Which seems to suggest that the elaborate staging and flair of the execution aren’t as much about making your crush feel special as they are about showing off.

It’s tempting to attribute this solely to the narcissism of millennials, or the Panopticon-like experience of living in a world constantly surveyed and broadcast by social media, but really the whole promposal phenomenon is straight-up animalistic. Like a tail-feathers-flared mating ritual repurposed for the hallway outside the chem lab.  

Which doesn’t make it any easier to turn a promposal down.

“I don’t know anyone who’s said no,” my sister tells me, after recounting ten elaborate requests she’s either witnessed or heard about through friends of friends.

We agreed that a public rejection—like refusing to lock lips with someone on the kiss cam at a sporting event—is probably just too cruel.