The first time I ever ate escargot was under duress. I was wearing a white tux with tails, and on a date with a girl who would have rather been dating the fellow sitting opposite me at the table. Meanwhile, the girl to his right would have had none of that! He was hers for the evening.
Thirty years later, neither couple had survived. I’m pretty sure my relationship ended about three hours after I choked down the snails. My friend might have gone out with his date for a while, but eventually he ended up with another.
On the night in question, the foursome was at a fancy restaurant prior to going to our senior prom. Despite the tight collar and tails and ruffles on my white suit (seriously, what was I thinking?) I was having fun. I felt very grown up, and the girl on my arm was pretty and smart, and it seemed like everything was going to work out for me. The future was so bright I had to wear shades, which also helped hide my identity in case anyone I knew saw me in my white tux.
Okay, enough about the tux. That’s really not the point of the story. And besides, “anyone I knew”? I wasn’t the most popular kid in high school, but I wasn’t exactly invisible.
But really, a white tux with tails? It was her idea, of course, and I went along with it because it seemed like it was a deal breaker. She obviously had a lifelong dream of going to her prom with a guy in a white tux with tails, and the dream was going to come true, through hell or high water. My only dream was going to the prom, and actually my only dream was going out on a date with her, and actually my only dream was going on a date with anyone, and actually my only dream was . . .
So I ate the escargot at my date’s urging, and though the thought of it sickened me, the reality wasn’t too terrible. It was a nice restaurant, and they knew how to serve it properly. In the ensuing years I have had escargot another time or two, and I have certainly learned that it can be prepared poorly. Yuck! Nothing like a drippy gastropod mollusk with excessive garlic to completely throw you off your meal.
Certain accommodations had to be made in order for me to attend the prom. I could have stood my ground and been less of a door mat, but that would likely have just led me to being home alone on that night. I wasn’t willing to go that route.
I have now been the parent of a prom attendee three times; my kids are high enough on the social ladder that they attend the junior and the senior prom! So far they seem to be making good choices and not falling under the spell of having to go or else. Of course, it probably helps that so far it is the daughters who have gone—perhaps they are the ones making unreasonable demands on their dates.
My son is a sophomore and has thus far not attracted the attention of the upper classmen (upper classwomen?), so he has not yet gone to a prom. When his sister and her friends gathered at our house this past Friday in preparation for the big event, he made sure he was nowhere in sight. He wanted to avoid the entire “scene.” In the next two years, though, I expect the subject will eventually come up—even for him.
I don’t want any of my kids to regret going to such a seminal high school event. I don’t regret going to mine, despite the snails, the goofy picture, the tuxedo, and the ultimate rejection at the end of the night. I don’t regret driving away from her house after being summarily dismissed without so much as a kiss, and then passing another friend’s house where all the non-prom-goers had gathered.
I don’t regret being the loneliest boy in the city that night. Really, I don’t.
My offspring appear to be taking the bull by the horns and directing the entire proceedings. Their dates have been polite and well coiffed, and despite several times going as “just friends” the young men have handled it well. There has been no blowback or animosity. I hope that continues: the lack of emotional commitment and the absence of hard feelings. It seems to be the best way to survive prom season.
Besides my exceedingly useful humor column, I will attempt to help my children continue to make wise decisions prior to going to their own proms by dragging out the photo of me standing in a white tux (with tails) and telling them about the escargot.
I’m pretty sure that either the story of the ultimate turn down or the eating of snails will convince them to be true to themselves.