7 ways to survive the promposal rush



In 2002 when Ben Affleck proposed to Jennifer Lopez, the web overflowed with descriptions of the event.

“It’s just a blanket, a quilt of rose petals, all over the whole entire house,” Lopez recalled. “So many candles, and vases, bouquets. And my song ‘Glad’ was playing … I walk in and I was just like overwhelmed. I wasn’t expecting it, and I was just like ‘Oh my God.’”

Step aside Jen and Ben because today’s teen prom proposals or “promposals,” as they’re commonly called, make Ben’s marriage proposal seem trivial in comparison.

Promposals are an elaborate and public proposal to ask somebody to a high school prom. Unlike a traditional marriage proposal, promposals aim to be over-the-top and dramatic with the effect being the ultimate goal.

With the promposal viewed as evidence for who is really hot and clever, the pressure is on for teens to step up their asking game. Prom is the most important dance of a teen’s pre-adult life and now the promposal has made the asking a major a contest of risk-taking and talent. High schoolers are fixated on coming up with new and creative ways to ask out their significant others or dates to the big dance. Instagram is saturated with promposals, and currently YouTube returns over 50,000 hits for videos tagged with that word, and Pinterest even more.

Promposals aren’t a new trend. In fact, they’ve been around since 2002. The Laguna Beach television program in 2006 featured promposals in its series. With social media and YouTube to display the promposal, there is significant motivation to produce a promposal that will be more dramatic and shocking than all others. Remember in the past when prom king and queen were all the rush? Well now it’s more like the promposal king and queen with the aim of getting a viral post.

Teens are intense with effects growing more outrageous every year. For example, how about the junior teen girl who asked a male teen to her junior prom by spelling the words “Will you be my prom date” with balloons? Promposals are not only for males, girls are right there showing their stuff to the world.

It’s ironic that such a big deal is made about the asking a date to the prom when fewer and fewer teens are actually dating. Most go to the prom expecting to have fun for the evening and maybe a kiss or two, with no more expectation than that. A promposal made by an acquaintance is more about the show and less about the date, which is a little sad. And when a girl gets an outrageous promposal, will her future marriage proposal be a letdown? After all, Ben Affleck’s 2002 marriage proposal to Jennifer Lopez seems faint when compared to the fake bomber promposal or the naked promposal or Chippendale promposal, to name a few.

Will the prom itself be letdown compared to the promposal? Some might argue that the over-the-top promposal detracts from truly connecting with a date when asking them to the prom. Parents may be concerned about their teen’s ability to have fun with promposals, while keeping it safe, clean and using judgment. The fake bomber promposal — really? It may have gone viral, but was it worth the suspension and being banned from the prom?

Here are seven ways parents can help their teens through the promposal rush:

1. Set a budget. It’s not about the pizzazz as much as asking another teen to the high school prom. Hiring a helicopter to get a prom date is excessive and sends the wrong message, regardless of who is playing for it.

2. Forget the popularity contest. When the promposal becomes more about the number of likes or hits instead of the prom date, parents need to step in and ask, is this about ego or asking a date to the prom?

3. Keep it clean. The message has to be respectful, and the humor appropriate.

4. Be time-limited. Spending more time on the promposal at the expense of responsibilities is not OK.

5. Be realistic. Not everyone is going to create or receive the over-the-top promposal. If your teen’s promposal doesn’t go viral, it’s really OK.

6. Relax. Proms are supposed to be fun. Promposals can feel like work. If the stress of the promposal is interfering with the intended purpose to have fun, be the voice of reason and remind your teen what they are doing all this for. Keeping up with the Joneses on promposals is really outdated. And the new norm is doing what’s best for you, even if it’s not epic.

7. Be humble. When your teen does receive the most awesome, viral-worthy promposal, coach them to be cool about it. After all, the hottest people are the humble ones.


Dr. Kate Roberts is a licensed child and school psychologist and family therapist on the North Shore.

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