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Beware: It's prom season

It's prom season, y'all. Better be careful out there! Young people all over the metro area are playing dress up. The girls are buying $400 dresses and the guys are renting tuxedos at $100 a pop - and better. They are renting stretch limos - and stretch Humvees and stretch pickup trucks and I don't know what all - and almost each and every one is preparing for a night on the town that can't possibly live up to the hype, while their parents wring their collective hands and wonder aloud why the kids of today can't have their proms in the high school gym like "we" did.

I don't know the answer to that one, but I do know that I am about to experience my third high school prom as a parent.

Back in the days before my own children were old enough to wear high-heeled shoes and rented formal wear, I would "tsk-tsk" the extravagance of parents who would spend - or allow their children to spend - enough money to cover a semester's tuition in the name of having one night of fun.

I had a long list of things that I would never do as a parent and that I would never allow my children to do. Oh, I was a big talker. So far, just about everything that I said I wouldn't do I have done, and the rest of my list is probably on the verge of crumbling.

Having been a high school teacher for the past three decades or so, I have chaperoned dozens of proms and could really tell you some horror stories.

Some, of course, involve those twin vices that the media likes to worry parents about throughout the spring - alcohol and sex - but most of the maladies I've witnessed have been of a vastly different nature. Things like overpriced restaurants taking advantage of their teenage customers' youth and inexperience and providing such poor service that the kids arrive so late at the dance they miss most of the festivities.

And there is always a lot of drama because kids make a date for prom months in advance and then change boyfriends or girlfriends and - well, you get the picture.

More than once I have seen a precious child burst into tears because someone else showed up in "her" dress - the one the sweet old lady at the formal wear shop assured her was one-of-a-kind, and I have seen teenage boys have their evening ruined because the young escort he spent hundreds of dollars to impress danced the night away in the arms of another teenage boy.

Lest you worry - these situations are the exception rather than the rule.

They say confession is good for the soul, and I have one to make. I never attended my high school prom. Not as a junior - when it was in the high school gym, and not as a senior - when it was, once again, in the high school gym.

I will never forget the prom I didn't attend, though. It was my senior year in high school and a classmate - I won't reveal her name, but she knows who she is - had made me very, very angry several years earlier. They say that revenge is best served cold, don't you know.

As the weekend of our prom approached, I learned that this particular young lady would not be attending and, in fact, would be at a sleepover with several other girls who couldn't get dates. God was smiling on me that weekend.

One of my older friends, who was about to graduate from college, got married on the Friday night before the prom on Saturday - and I was in the wedding.

I wore a powder blue polyester tux - with big, wide lapels - and a lemon yellow ruffled shirt. It was 1970, understand. I looked good in that tux, and I got to keep it until Monday.

The day after the wedding - the Saturday of the prom - I spent all morning waxing my daddy's car: Buick Electra 225, deuce-and-a-quarter. It was big as a house. I dropped by the florist and sweet-talked her out of an empty corsage box, and about 6:30 that evening, I knocked on my nemesis' front door.

Her father answered, quite surprised to see me standing on his front porch, all "gussied up," as the expression was.

When he inquired as to my purpose for being there, I politely told him that I had come to take his daughter to the prom. When he insisted that he knew nothing about our impending date, I got the most hurt look on my face and convinced him that I had been planning the date for months and had spent a considerable amount of my hard-earned money on a tux and flowers.

Long story short - he believed me, and wouldn't listen to a word his daughter had to say. He made her come home from her friend's house and she remained grounded until she left for college the following September.

That has been 36 years, and the person still sees me up town from time to time - and she still walks across the street to avoid speaking to me.

Look out for those limos. One of them might contain my son.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and high school history teacher who lives in Rockdale County. Visit his Web site at www.darrellhuckaby.net. His column appears on Saturday.