The Toxic Reality of Prom: Not Everyone’s Dream Night

The thrill, loud music, screaming the lyrics of songs, prom night, a night of memories, $200 dress, $70 nails, $45 hair, 180 likes–wait when did this become a game of numbers?  

This occasion across public schools has many common traditions which include long/grand dresses, tuxedos, and getting nails and hair done. Although prom is an occasion for high school students to have fun and hang out with their friends, it has also created standards of how one is supposed to dress, look, post, and more stress-inducing activities. 

These expectations have created standards of the amount of money spent preparing for prom. Many people do not acknowledge the mental effects as well as physical effects that result in prom and its expectations.  

Expenses of Prom

Hirschfeld’s Prom Shoppe (

According to USATODAY, the average teen spends over $650 for hair, makeup, outfits, and more. Not only is the attire expensive, but so is the ticket.

Many proms are hosted in special venues. The school has to pay for the venue, food, decorations, DJ, lights, and more. Due to this, the ticket itself is around $65-$100 depending on the school and venue.

Although many people show up at prom being able to afford the expenses, there are also people who find it hard to spend this amount of money. Having low-income families and more issues may create difficulty in being able to even attend prom. Prom should be an event everyone can enjoy as the end of the year approaches and shouldn’t come at the cost of a hefty price tag.

Rithika Bawa (‘22) of Patriot High School said, “I remember going to one of the prom planning meetings so I get like the venue really expenses the food also very expenses…but for a lot of individuals that have low socioeconomic status it’s really hard for them to be able to afford that, so that sort of a cost is unmanageable almost.’”

Bawa is spot on with her opinion. She clearly understands why the prom ticket is a lot as she stated, however she doesn’t ignore the fact that for many, it is difficult to afford. It is important for the student body to acknowledge these issues.

Instagram Trends  

According to The New York Times, “many students said that social media has been “detrimental” to the way they feel about their looks, and that even though they are aware it doesn’t show the full picture, they still struggle not to compare themselves to the people they see online.”

Having the pressure of looking exceptional at prom, “the look,” “the dress,” and “the number of likes,” leads to constantly checking Instagram to ensure you get a good amount of likes and comments can create enormous mental pressure.

“I think if someone were to get less likes than usual, they might find themselves questioning why,” Deeya MacKinnon (‘23) said. “I think some insecurities can stem from there, especially when people see others with more likes, or looking ‘better’ in their opinion. This is the age of a lot of self-image issues.”

This clearly has much impact on teenagers as they are striving to earn a number of likes and if they don’t they ask themselves “What happened?” “Do I look bad?” “Is my dress ugly?” and feel defeated.

Gender Norms and Stereotypes 


Although prom is supposed to be a fun event, many stereotypes regarding looks and trends come in. One example is girls being in dresses and men being in tuxedos. Many proms have guys in tuxedos rather than suits and because of this people are scared to “stand out” or dress the way they want. People should be able to express themselves the way they feel.

It is important to acknowledge that girls don’t have to wear heels and a dress and guys don’t have to wear tuxedos. They can wear suits, a fancy button up shirt, or however they feel they want to dress and at the same time, girls can wear two pieces, pant suits, or something that suits them.

There are also stereotypes where you don’t want anyone at prom to have the same dress as you. There are many new stores and shops where people sell one prom dress and one of a kind so once that dress gets sold out there is no more. This ensures that no one else at prom will have the same dress as you. All of this plays a part in the trends.

In 2018, more and more students are pushing for gender neutral prom courts. In Georgia, the class president, who is gay, started a petition to change prom court titles to the more inclusive “Prom Royalty.”

Even “prom queen” and “king” has been recognized, displaying a heteronormative expectation,” MacKinnon continues to offer her insight, “I think in today’s age, gender-neutral terms are being recognized not just for same-sex couples, but additionally for non-binary identifying individuals.”

As everyone is educating themselves and continuing to support members of LGBTQ+ community, it is important for this to change. It is unfair to same-sex couples and more because of the title of “prom queen” and “prom king.” We should do better and make it an even playing field for all students for them to feel accepted and able to enjoy just like others.

Dates/Ticket for Two

Another common misconception is that you need a date to go to prom, or if you don’t have a date it’s a bad thing. This is so unreasonable for a variety of reasons. It is more than okay to go with a group of friends or go with your best friend. Just because you don’t have a date doesn’t mean it should make you feel any less worthy of going to prom and having a good time.

“I do think people feel pressure to find dates,” Bawa said. “I actually felt some of that pressure too so I think everyone kind of feels’s important to note that you can still have a great time at prom with your friends.”

Just like Bawa said, people do feel pressure to find a date. A ticket for two is so romanticized and however that is exciting, it is just as exciting to have a night with friends.

Prom is an event many should be able to go and enjoy. Even though there are many toxic realities regarding prom that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. Having a good time, dancing with your friends is always fun. It is important to keep these issues in your mind. Being more mindful of low-income families, stereotypes, dates, and more are all things that play a part in someone’s look, dress or posts. It is important to stay kind and mindful of people’s struggles and insecurities even when you’re having fun.