This week we introduced the concept of “prom” to all of our students. Many of our students lamented the fact that they had never had such an experience. “I wish we had prom in China.” “Was prom the best experience of your life?” The middle-aged suburban helicopter mom inside of me became deeply unsettled by these comments. “They’ve never had a prom? Gosh darnit, I’m gonna give them a prom they’ll never forget.”
As I entered the local supermarket nothing could stop me. Arianna and I blew our budget on countless potato chips, chocolate, and soda – our students would not be denied sugary confections and high calorie foods during their special day. On prom’s eve Arianna and I brainstormed an obscene amount of prom stereotypes. From Tony, who was last year’s prom king intent on a double crown, to Betty, the overprotective mother who went to prom with her daughter Sandra (who’s makeup wasn’t applied properly and was crying to everyone about her fugliness), we made sure Jishou would experience the quintessential American prom.
The special day finally came. Our students were each assigned a role for prom and they performed them flawlessly. During the pre-prom photo shoots the “mean girls” insulted other students while the social outcasts hated on everyone else for liking prom. In the photo booth station our students took sufficiently awkward prom poses and general excitement built when “Tik Tok” started playing in the background.
Arianna and I donned sunglasses and became bouncers as the students shuffled into classroom 306 – the designated space for the dance floor. Reuben turned on Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.”
Oh. My. Lady. Gaga. High-pitched girly screams pierced the air as each of the couples rushed the floor for the designated slow song. While I separated couples that were dancing too closely (Arianna and I were also the acting overprotective parents), I had flashbacks to my own prom experience. As I witnessed the pandemonium of the classroom, I marveled at the spectacle in front of me: perhaps locked inside of every mild-mannered Chinese college student is an American prom diva waiting to be unleashed.
So perhaps prom looked like a glorified classroom party. Maybe the kids didn’t even really understand how to dance to YMCA. Regardless, I can now sleep soundly at night and cherish priceless photos.