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The extravagant prom sendoffs on social media are both insane and awe-inspiring

The extravagant prom sendoffs on social media are both insane and awe-inspiring

(Photo by Sonja Pacho/Getty Creative Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

My sophomore year at Morehouse College, I remember really paying attention to the kinds of cars folks in the student parking areas were driving. I mostly noticed because at that point, I was staying off-campus in my family house on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SW on the west side of Atlanta, and like the other commuters, I had to find parking every day to get to class. That’s when I really started noticing the Range Rovers and Cadillacs and all manner of expensive luxury vehicles being driven by some of my peers. 

It was also at this time that I noticed one dude in particular who drove two separate luxury vehicles to campus: a Lincoln Navigator and a Lincoln luxury sedan that was maybe a souped-up Town Car. I’m not entirely sure, but he also always wore Coogi sweaters, so clearly, he came from money. Even at 19, I remembered asking myself, “If you’re at this level already, what else do you even aspire to in life?” I also realized then, that for some of us, college was our launchpad; for others, college was a step on a path towards a bigger version (perhaps) of a life they already led. 

Anyway, that idea of “if you already have this, what do you even aspire to?” has run through my mind several times over the past few weeks as my social media timelines have been inundated with folks sharing these amazingly extravagant (and slightly insane) prom sendoff videos. Some are more mapped out than others — I saw one that literally had the kids (because they are kids) sharing a hotel room to get dressed and get ready in the most expensive of items — but one thing stood out about them all: There is a tremendous amount of money being shelled out for some folks’ high school proms. For the record, I’m sure this has BEEN happening, but it’s common to see it now, it seems.

Look, I live in a Black neighborhood through and through — I think I only have one white neighbor, and she’s married to a Black dude — so I’ve learned that Black folks will spend crazy dough on outdoor club-quality speaker systems, bounce houses and graduation parties. I wasn’t prepared for the insane amounts of dough we’d spend for proms. Also, let me be clear: I realize this isn’t every family; I’m fairly certain that MOST folks are doing the tried-and-true tradition of paying for a limo, maybe a hotel room if you’re a parent who truly trusts your kids and tons of pictures outside both individually and with the couple. I think most of us on social media are seeing these HUGE balloon displays with DJs and confetti cannons and red carpets and the like and sharing it with either bemusement or (unnecessary) disgust. Or, if you’re like me and have a kid who will be doing the prom thing in a few short years, concern. 

I’m sure there are non-Black folks going all out for these things as well, but my timelines are chock full of Black people so I can only speak on what I see. And what I see makes me think it’s insane to spend that much money on a prom sendoff. Maybe these families are all loaded so the graduation party will make prom look like small potatoes. But don’t you have to outdo yourself on every accomplishment? I mean, prom isn’t even an accomplishment; it’s just something you get to go to whether you graduate or not. I don’t even know if you have to have good grades to go; it’s a big party that exists because you are in a certain grade. But further, like, WHY spend that much on just the SENDOFF; the proms themselves have to be a letdown. I went to prom three years in a row, and I literally don’t remember a single thing about the decorations or the ambiance at any of them. Literally no memories. Do you know why? Because life got better. 

At the same time, I do think if you have it to spend and you want to, then do you. Celebrate those children in ways you and they want. If the kids want to stunt for the ’gram — let’s be real, this is all for social media — and you can, then why not? I was surprised by that one prom sendoff that included what amounted to a huge party at the young lady’s house with champagne and seating for what looked like 60 to 70 people. I don’t know why they had so much champagne for a prom-related party; presumably, kids would be there. But maybe the kids were coming back there after the prom and it was hundreds of bottles of Martinelli’s wrapped in champagne-like packaging. I don’t know; I’m not that creative. And who am I to judge anyway? Who doesn’t want to give their kids the world if you’re actually able? Fire away. 

Now, when it’s time for my kids to go to prom, who knows what the sendoffs will look like? What I do know is that I ain’t got it for these things I see on social media. I guess I better start preparing my kids for joy, happiness and some pictures. And I’ll put in on that limo and dress and tuxedos. 

The way I see it, they have a lot more to look forward to that I’m going to need to save my money for. Yep, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.

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