A version of this post appeared in The Huffington Post.
For every teen, prom season brings up a flurry of first time emotions: anxiety, self-doubt and the prospect of adolescent love. Will that dreamy boy ask me out? Am I good enough?
For gay teens, those emotions are magnified by the fact that we know deep down that dreamy boy will never ask us. For closeted gay boys, it’s fun to file through all those eager, single girls requesting to have us as their escort – having heard of our terrific dancing skills. But the experience is ultimately unfulfilling.
For out and proud boys and girls wanting to experience prom with a real paramour, prom season is even worse. Confronted by rejection from stuffy school administration, not since Romeo and Juliet have teenagers ever been put on the spot and have to justify their love.
That’s why I urge all adult queers to relive prom, but this time – we make the rules and the music and the decorations and we all go home with tiaras on our heads.
Last month, I went down to Santa Cruz to attend my very first gay prom. Popular San Francisco queer soul party Hard French hosted an all-out Winter Ball at the Cocoanut Grove complete with drag shows, a photo booth and even an onstage coronation of King and Queen.
Always a dash independent, in high school I hated having a curfew, and I was forbidden from spending the night at a hotel room. So this time around I indulged like any sensible adult, with a top-floor, ocean-view suite at The Dream Inn.
Donning the complimentary plushy, white robes, I got ready for prom while consuming chocolates and champagne and bumping the stereo loud to Katy Perry. You see, no one would mistake me for anything else than a grown-up.
Once we arrived to the Cocoanut Grove, I was surprised to see how intense security was. I wouldn’t be surprised if the guards all had bulletproof vests on. I wondered if the Santa Cruz Boardwalk was this apprehensive when hosting a prom for kids.
Performances at the Hard French Winter Ball were credited to the drag cult phenomena Ambrosia Salad and her creative team. The kingly icon Glamamore was the special guest, with an over-the-balcony tour de force performance of Billy Stewart’s “Summertime.” The ball was hosted by the adorable Lil’ Miss Hot Mess who presented the King and Queen nominees, including drag queen costumier Evan Bee (Haute Gloo) and Valencia author Michelle Tea.
Throughout the night, I was bribed with cupcakes and overt flirtations to go and vote. And it was nice to see that although high school is long over, some things – like the desperate need for peer approval – never change. In the end it was Jackson Bowman and Luette Chavez who took home the crowns. Bowman helped drive community support back to the struggling women’s health clinic Lyon Martin and Chavez, in stereotypical prom queen tradition, is just hot.
At the Winter Ball, there were times when I wish I had a time machine. Not so I could go back to high school and show off my post-pubescent confidence. No, I wanted to go back in time and recuperate the wasted hour I spent waiting in line at the bar. Although Hard Frenching adults tend to be more on the lush-y side, it didn’t help that the bartenders at the Cocoanut Grove were some of the most incompetent.
Though mostly sober, I did revert back to some of my more daring youthful tactics. When I noticed a security guard kicking some people out through an “employees only” door, I asked my date to keep still and to follow me once I said it was ok. Once the security guard was out of sight, I sprinted, holding hands with my date, through the door and up the stairs. For some reason, maybe as to not get in Glamamore’s way, the upstairs balcony was closed off. Much to our surprise, we spotted two security guards hanging out upstairs. But instead of getting apprehended or scolded, they just ignored us. Perhaps we looked like good boys, or perhaps they just didn’t care. Adults nowadays can’t get into trouble, even when they try.
Looking back it at, my real prom wasn’t all that bad. I spent it with a group full of close, trusted friends who knew about my sexuality but weren’t about to expose me. We failed at sneaking in some alcohol but back then, drinking wasn’t something we needed to have fun. And the following Monday our English teacher told us we were the life of the dance floor.
Hard French kicks off its 2012 season this Saturday at El Rio. It will continue every first Saturday of the month until November.
BOY TOYS TALK BACK: Who did you go to prom with? Did you have a great experience? And if you could do it all over again today, would you? Who would be your date?