Saturday, April 4, 2009

Prom Night (and Other Horror Stories)

Since the beginning of time, we, as a society, have become obsessed with stories that frighten the intended audience. Men and women alike spend their developmental years going to scout camp, attending slumber parties, or using different media (TV, books, movies, etc.)to tell or hear stories provided for that sole purpose.

Many choose to shun this genre of entertainment.  Those who make this decision, usually do so because they find it to be vulgar and/or tasteless.  I suggest that those people listen no further (or the case of the transcript read no further).  I make the suggestion merely as a form of chivalry as I believe you are not prepared for the subject matter contained herein (especially if you are a father).  Others however; live for every bone shattering, blood splattering, chainsaw grinding, hockey mask wearing, silicone-enhanced-actress-tripping-in-the-woods-during-the-chase moment this thrilling genre tends to provide.

Some say that art imitates life. However, in the case of horror movies (or “slasher films” or “splatter flicks” or whatever you may wish to call them), life, sadly, imitates art. I am not referring to the numerous reports in the news where some disgruntled employee decides to open fire in a family restaurant. The fact that we as a society cannot come up with a better adjective than “disgruntled” is another matter for another time. I speak, rather,  on the most blood chilling, spine tingling subject that has leapt from the silver screen dead square into reality. I speak of: PROM NIGHT.  I’m not speaking of the 1980 cinematic masterpiece starring a very young Jamie Lee Curtis nor the 2008 movie of the same name starring a very young whatever-her-name-is. I am not even referring to the multiple treatments that have made their way onto the LifeTime channel (which will most likely have cast some former teen star as a middle aged mother). 

This Prom Night is in reality. This Prom Night scares fathers of teenage daughters annually worldwide. The central character in this Prom Night is an invisible demon which yanks at the father’s heartstrings and slashes his bank account (all while causing him to take double doses of antacids and blood pressure pills).

It all started as my wife and I discussed with my 16 year old daughter the plans for her to attend her junior prom. In my mind’s eye, I envisioned nothing short of a regal looking young lady having a blissful night with her chivalrous escort. I thought this chivalrous escort was going to be not only my greatest concern but my only concern. After all, nobody short of Donny Osmond was going to allay my concerns about my daughter’s prom date. Sadly, after contacting Mr. Osmond, it was pointed out to me that he was not only married but nearly 35 years older than my daughter. Admittedly, I didn’t think this matter through.

This is right about the time the invisible demon made his first appearance.  This psycho freak demon has metamorphic capabilities. The demon first fooled me by appearing as my lovely wife who even masked her cute innocent tone upon requesting the debit card. This seemed like a perfectly harmless way to invest in my baby girl’s “night to remember”. Little did I know that I was Janet Leigh and I was about to get into the shower.  Though, truth be told, the lovely Ms. Leigh did not scream quite as loudly as I did. 

I found myself standing in the middle of a bridal store. When I asked my wife (still possessed by the demon) why we were in a bridal store, she explained that we were there to pick up the prom dress. I said: “But, this is a bridal shop. Our daughter is not getting married. We need to go to the prom store”. Suddenly, all the women in the store stopped and stared. They were all pointing at me with amused smiles (clearly entertained by my obvious naiveté). Suddenly, I began to hear the faint sound of the demon’s chainsaw buzzing and the sound of work boots stomping through the bridal store.  As my heart began to race, I looked around the store to gain some orientation.  I was feeling better when I saw a big red sign that read: “Wedding Dresses - $300 off”.  I stared at the sign fixated as I feared my future.  Since when does someone need to spend $300 and upward for a dress when that someone is not performing at the Grammy awards? I came back to reality with the snap of my wife’s fingers in my face. She calmly informed me that my daughter was wearing her new dress. I turned to my daughter and was immediately transcended from a glimpse of the demon to one of the most heavenly creations I have ever seen. My wife and daughter had selected a very lovely, long wine colored prom dress.  This beautiful vision had made me forget about the demon. That proved to be a temporary situation.

As I blindly reached for my debit card, the cashier calmly told me the price. The demon had clearly resurfaced and taken over the cashier. How else could the cashier have so calmly quoted such a price with a calm smile?  As if in an obedient trance, I swipe my card. Suddenly, I heard the sound of a sharp machete sweeping by. I couldn’t see the blade but I could feel it move the air from my face. I heard my wife state (in a voice that I was sure was a demonic growl): “It’s for our baby girl”. The demon had now compounded the mutilation of my finances with a dose of paternal guilt.

My wife, daughter, and I were headed home in our minivan. I couldn’t help overhearing the two ladies in my life discussing an absolutely needed prom dress accessory: the shawl. The lovely ladies in my life both laughed when I asked why my daughter needed to have a Middle East monarch for her prom dress. “CHILLAX, DAD!” my daughter said cavalierly (once again I hear that demonic growl). “The word is shawl”, she said. My wife then informs me that our baby girl could borrow a shawl from our older daughter from the previous year’s prom (TAKE THAT, DEMON). Now, I was really beginning to wonder. My older daughter wore a tuxedo to her prom. The young man escorting her wore a kilt (due to his Scottish lineage). Given these facts, I don’t even want to know which of the two of them needed the shawl. I decided to focus back on the situation at hand: the prom before me. I had paid for the dress. The shawl would only require the cost of laundry service. Everything was in order now. I could take my daughter’s advice and “CHILLAX” (after consulting my parent-teen translator as to exactly what that meant). The demon was gone.

I called my wife the next day from work (as I routinely do during my lunch). We exchanged our usually routine conversation when my wife uttered three words that reminded me the demon had returned: “By the way”.  I don’t have to tell anyone who is a husband and/or father that those three words usually preface something unpleasant to the listener. Please bear in mind that, when I speak to my wife on the phone, it is usually a very soothing experience. I love the sound of my wife’s voice. However, on this day, I sat in my cube as my wife informed me that the chivalrous young man escorting my daughter to the prom had fallen on some hard times. Therefore, my wife paid to rent his tuxedo. “Wait a minute”, I said. “Why is it that we rented a tuxedo and purchased a dress?” That, I thought, was a logical question. My wife told me that I was just being a “clueless guy”. Suddenly, I could smell sulfur emanating from the telephone receiver. I threw the receiver down on the floor and began screaming: “BEGONE, DEMON! LEAVE MY FAMILY ALONE!”.  My astonished cube mate assisted me to my chair, hung up the phone, and offered me some herbal tea with St. John’s Wort to help me “chillax”. Clearly, my cube mate and my daughter had the same English teacher.

I went home and my wife and daughter were present me with their innocent doe eyes that immediately let me know that I was about to face once again. I tried to run up to my bedroom for escape. Unfortunately, before I got to the stairs. I tripped and fell. The demon laughed as he continued his possession of my wife and daughter. They informed me, in a voice that would keep Linda Blair awake at night, that the appointments had been made to get my daughter’s hair and nails done for the prom. I asked why this was necessary since my daughter owns a curling iron and a painter’s palette of nail polish. The demon continued possession of the two ladies in my life then culminated into evil laughter. “YOU FOOL”, the demon said, “JUST SURRENDER THE CARD AND BE DONE WITH IT”. I could hear the machete making more slashes.

Finally, the day came. My daughter returned home from getting her nails and hair done. Also, my daughter’s chivalrous escort appeared with a garment bag containing his tuxedo and sporting a haircut reminiscent of A Flock of Seagulls (I still can’t look at the boy with hearing “I Ran” playing in my head). As my daughter and her date each went to a separate room to change into their respective outfits, the demon reappeared. My wife handed me the checkbook and said that a payment was needed for prom pictures. I asked why were paying for prom pictures when we had just borrowed our neighbor’s digital camera. My wife explained:  “The digital camera is for picture we take here. The check is for pictures taken at the prom”. I couldn’t help but notice icy vapor coming from my wife’s mouth as she spoke to me. I could barely stop shaking as I drafted the check.

As I had finally regained some composure, my daughter and her date came from their respective rooms and presented themselves to my wife and me. My daughter had transcended from my baby girl to a stunningly beautiful  young lady. She and her chivalrous escort truly made a lovely couple. I kissed my daughter on the cheek and gave her chivalrous escort a stern warning (which is required by all fathers of teenage daughter by law as determined in the landmark case of Arizona vs. Miranda).

My wife drove the young couple off to the prom.   I relaxed in the thought the demon was finally gone.  As I awaited my wife’s return, I uploaded the pictures that we taken on the digital camera to my laptop. I looked at the first picture and noticed that my daughter had severe “red eye”. Normally, I would just edit the picture to make this go away and not give the matter another thought. After all, “red eye” happens as a result of the camera’s flash against the subject’s retina. Sadly, on this night, I knew those red eyes could only mean one thing. There WILL be a sequel next year (coming to a bridal shop near you).

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