Prom night: What not to do | Pat Cashman

It’s high season for formal gowns, tuxedos, corsages and breath-spray. It’s high school prom time.


It’s high season for formal gowns, tuxedos, corsages and breath-spray. It’s high school prom time.

Proms are a throwback to more genteel times when people used words like “genteel.” Then, the dating emphasis had more to do with gallantry and pageantry, than in sucking face and thrashing around in the back seat of a Camaro. Especially when the front seat works just as well.

As my senior year was winding down (in one of the latter decades of the previous century) I somehow screwed up the courage to ask a girl to the prom.

My approach was smooth: “You don’t not want to go to the prom with me, wouldn’t you?” After the girl surprised me with a positive response to my triple negative, I headed to our town’s local tuxedo rental place. It was called “Chuck’s Tux” and Chuck himself did the measuring. He might have been drunk while doing it.

When I look back at photos of myself in the get-up Chuck fitted me with, I see a dorkish-looking lad wearing a baggy, cream tuxedo – who appears to have shortness of breath – and pants. In fact, the pants were so short; Chuck must have anticipated flood warnings for prom night.

The good news is that – in the photo – my white socks appear freshly laundered.

The day of the prom arrived. (Prom is short for promenade.) I arrived at my date’s house in the family Plymouth station wagon – a sure-fire chick magnet. My dad bought it from a used car dealer notorious for lemons. (Lemon is short for lemonade.)

I rang the doorbell three times, before switching to a hard knock. The girl’s dad finally swung open the door and gave me a fish-eyed glare reserved for door-to-door serial killers.

I said, “Sir, I think your doorbell is broken – I tried it three times.” He said, “I heard it, but I usually don’t answer the door until the fourth ring.”

With that, he glanced down at my pants, and said; “Guess they’re expecting a lot of rain tonight, huh?” He laughed hard at his bon mot (which is French for ‘good mot.)

I got so nervous trying to pin a corsage on my date’s dress, that I jammed the needle into my fingers several times. Then, with my do-it-yourself acupuncture complete, we made our way to the grand carriage.

Without saying much, I drove to a nice restaurant. By “nice” I mean a restaurant without carhops.

After an awkward start, things started picking up. My date was laughing at my jokes. I was starting to enjoy myself. Our food arrived. Then, disaster!

In the middle of a sidesplitting joke – while pouring catsup out of a bottle – I somehow managed to dump most of the contents onto the crotch of my fine, baggy, short rented tux pants. To the casual observer, I looked like I’d been shot in the groin by a mob boss.

How’d the rest of the evening go? I really don’t remember. But here’s some advice for young high school guys: Don’t rent from Chuck, ring the doorbell four times – and stay away from condiments.


Pat Cashman can be reached at He also can be found at his podcast.