I hate to say it, but I barely remember my high school prom.
I didn't have a romantic date. I didn't have a lot of friends who attended. All I remember is riding around in a limo with a boy I barely knew, taking photos with his friends I didn't know, and eating a disturbingly slimy pasta dish at an overpriced restaurant.
The actual dance is foggy to me because I may or may not have spent the entire night in the hotel lounge nursing spiked punch.
The one prom memory I will never forget, however, was my dress.
My dad gave me two stipulations. The dress had to be less than $300 and it could not be "sexy." The latter didn't phase me. Despite a healthy apetite for alcohol and a burgeoning pill problem, I was still fairly innocent. The $300 limit, however, seemed unfair.
Because let's face it, I have always had expensive taste.
I was also determined not to repeat my Homecoming dress experience from the previous year. I had let my mom buy me a turquoise and yellow dress from J.C. Penney for $35 (on sale). It was hideous, but I was desperate to attend the dance. As soon as I entered the darkened gym, I started glowing. And that was when I realized the stupid dress was GLOW IN THE DARK.
A girl never forgets a lesson like that one.
Well, after months of shopping with my father, I was about to give up. We simply could not agree on a prom dress.
Finally, a week before prom, my dad took me to a mall in Cleveland, which was about an hour away. The plan was to look for a dress and grab dinner.
The first store we went was Cache. As soon as we entered the store, I saw it: the most perfect dress I had ever seen. It was my favorite shade of pink and just the right amount of puffiness. It was a dress fit for a princess. But it was $350.
I begged my dad to let me try it on. Maybe if he saw how cute I was in it, he would change his mind about the price!
I entered the tiny little dressing room with the dress and put it on.
It was magic. I looked STUNNING.
I reached for the door handle, to fling open the door so I could showcase the fabulousness...but the door wouldn't open.
I tried opening the door again. Nothing. I twisted it harder. Nothing.
I was stuck in the dressing room.
Normally, I would have crawled underneath the door. I was five feet tall and 93 pounds. Not a big deal.
But the door went all the way to the floor. And the walls and door of the dressing room almost went all the way up to the ceiling.
I started screaming. And all of the sudden, for the first time in my life, I became claustrophobic.
My dad alerted the sales clerks and they were flummoxed. They couldn't open the door and they had no idea how to get me out! They called mall security and those guys didn't know what to do either.
Finally, it was agreed to call the fire department.
I spent 30 minutes alone, hyperventilating in the tiny dressing room, wearing the dress, while all this happened. I was crying. Strangely, more and more people kept crowding around my dressing room, talking loudly and laughing in disbelief. Apparently sales clerks and customers from other stores had heard about my situation and came to witness it for themselves.
Since it was nearing dinner time, my dad came back with some hamburgers and after a few attempts managed to throw a hamburger to me over the giant wall. It was a small comfort in such a stressful environment.
When the firemen came, I could hear them arguing over who was the smallest and thinnest man to be hoisted over the giant walls and lowered into my dressing room.
Before I knew it, a cute 20-something-year-old fireman was being lowered into my dressing room with a harness.
He seemed initially startled at the sight of a tiny brown girl who was stuffing her face with a hamburger between sobs while wearing a giant pink prom gown. But he collected himself gracefully and soon became very charming and even complimented my dress. It was awkward being pushed against him in the tiny dressing room as he used some tools to pick the lock.
When he opened the door, I was greeted by a crowd of dozens of people who started clapping. It was like being a celebrity! I didn't even care that I had crumbs all over my dress and mascara running down my face.
In the end, the store ended up giving me my dress for free. If I had been smarter back then, I would have sued the store for thousands of dollars because of the emotional damage. (I have become extremely claustrophobic since the incident, to the point where I can't even be in elevators).
But at the time, I was happy to simply have the dress I wanted for prom.
Sadly, the dressing room incident was way more exciting than the dance itself.
But dammit, I looked good.
And isn't that all that really matters?