I approached 2018 with some trepidation. It promised to be a year of big events: my 45th birthday, our 20th wedding anniversary, my younger daughter’s batmitzvah,which takes place bang in the middle of my older daughter’s GCSEs. I felt it was going to be a year full of highs with a few revision melt-downs and screams of, “I just can’t take this any more” — and those would come from me. However, what I wasn’t prepared for was Prom.
Yes, this awful institution has marched over the Atlantic Ocean and plonked itself in a secondary school in Hertfordshire (to be fair it’s across all of the UK at the end of GCSEs and I hate to even think about it, but they do it all over again after A-levels. I mean, really, how many simchahs do we need?)
So, a few weeks ago, with boundless energy and a huge smile on her face, my daughter Lauren ran down the stairs, plonked herself on the sofa and declared she’d found ten dresses perfect for the prom ranging from £25 to £575.
Hold on a moment! I thought she was meant to be revising in that study I’d spent hours setting up for her with the right Feng Shiu to promote positive energy, and food and drink on tap. But, no, her positive energy had been used spending hours poring over various websites that offered her an array of prom dresses.
And sorry — did she say £575? I sat up straight and decided to set boundaries right away. The budget could be up to £120 (but tell Daddy £100); it had to be something age-appropriate, she would not look like she was an extra from The Only Way Is Essex and, for a change, it would be nice to see her in colour, as normally, out of her school uniform, she favours funereal black.
So we whittled down the ten in her Asos bag to four, and she went back to revising. The painful journey of The Prom Dress had begun.
A few days later, she sent me a text: “It’s HERE!” And, as soon as I stepped through the door after a hard day at work, I was told to sit down and the Asos bag was ripped open. Before we had even looked at the first potential Prom Dress I started to sweat as the bag for returns had been destroyed so thoroughly that I wasn’t sure how I would send all four dresses back. Yes, in my heart of hearts I knew that each of the dresses would be returning to Asos HQ (which I imagine as a luxurious castle, built mostly with my money).
Dress one was way too tight. Dress two was way too long and made her look too wishy-washy. Dress three was appropriate for a six-year-old, not a teenager. Dress four was OK but we weren’t going for OK.
So I carefully wrapped each dress, placed them in the ripped ASOS bag, ticked the boxes for “not suitable” and “full refund” and sent my daughter back to her studies— her studies of the Asos website, that is.
We ordered another four dresses. And did this a further three times until every moment was consumed with Prom Dresses. I actually think I liked one of the many that passed through the house; it was not too revealing and had colour — I can’t remember which colour — but it was tossed to one side, like all the others, with desperate declarations of “I won’t go, then.”
Stress levels rising, all I could talk about was where next to look. An innocent question placed on Facebook, asking if I should go to Finsbury Park’s Fonthill Road, home of many wholesalers, opened a can of worms with friends equally split between: “Yes, fab, go there,” to “OMG it was hideous don’t bother!”
And, on top of this, the girls in Year 11 had set up a What’s App group so that, when they had bought their perfect Prom Dress, they could upload an image for everyone to coo at. Of course, once downloaded, it meant no one else could buy anything that at all resembled their friend’s dresses.
I decided that my daughters and I would go dress-shopping on Sunday to Westfield in Stratford, East London and we’d look for this elusive perfect dress and maybe just maybe a shul dress for the batmitzvah which seemed to have been totally over shadowed by the Prom Dress quest.
As the doors opened to Westfield, we marched in, defiant and determined. We would find The Dress!
Shop one… we tried on, we declared no and we moved on. Shop two… we tried on, we declared no, we had a sulk and we moved on. Shop three… we tried on, we declared no, we started to shake with fear that we’d never ever find a dress and that we’d be there all day, go home empty-handed and depressed.
Hold on! Is that a black, slinky, off-the-shoulder, floor-length dress, I spy ? And — be still my beating heart — is it £44, down from £55?
My daughter went into the changing-room and I am sure the air stopped all around us. There was a deathly silence, a zipping noise and then the angels sang and the curtain was swept to one side to reveal my daughter in a dress that fitted, that looked amazing on her and that actually made her beam from ear to ear.
I couldn’t believe it. It ticked every box (I’d given up on colour weeks ago). My younger daughter sighed in relief. We knew that everything was going to be all right in the world.
That is, until I was told that we still had to get shoes (that she could walk in), her make-up booked, a spray-tan arranged and possibly a hair appointment too. Oh and we’ve still got a batmitzvah to get kitted out for, too. At least I am able to sleep a little easier in the knowledge that the Prom Dress has been bought. Maybe that means GCSE revision has started in earnest as well.