Once upon a time, teenagers chucked on ugly hand-me-downs from their second cousin Glenis before wheeling it to the school formal in a maxi taxi.
Not any more.
For today’s 17 and 18-year-olds, nothing is more important than the Year 12 formal.
Professional makeup! Blow waves! Spray tans! Designer gowns! Hummer limos! Champagne! Credit card debt! are now all part of the formal deal, along with fancy three-course meals and glittering dance floors.
Today’s formals are more like weddings. Except potentially more expensive and with patchier fake tan.
I know this because, for too many years while paying my way through university, I worked at an expensive retail boutique, selling formal dresses to picky girls and their exasperated mothers.
Mums and daughters would walk out of our shop having spent upwards of $450, fully aware that lace/chiffon/sequin creation would be worn just once. Once.
On one particularly outrageous occasion, I even had a mother and daughter waltz in with a third person – a stylist. A fuh-reaking school formal STYLIST.
Many more would explain to me they were having their daughter’s braces removed for the night of the formal, only to be put back on by the orthodontist the very next day.
The point is this: Formal culture is out of control, people. And we’re losing something rather special because of it.
That is, the delight of looking back on your school formal and thinking, ‘What the f*ck?’
Instead of explaining this concept, let me show you this concept:
Yes. Teenagers are missing out on this ^
You see, I can't imagine today's teenagers heading off to the school formal resembling pregnant purple zebras, and that is bloody depressing.
Looking like a pregnant purple zebra was character building for me. As was being the palest person in the goddamn establishment. As was wearing lipstick that got trapped in the wires of my braces. As was having those eyebrows. As was learning that - no, Michelle - you cannot nail the 'wispy low bun' look. And, well, despite wearing them two years in a row, one-shoulder floaty dresses are not a good look on you.
When I look back at my formal photos, I can giggle at my blue eyeliner and sweaty face. I can bless my cotton socks that I eventually learned how to mattify my foundation and put down the hair crimper for good. I can look back on my mum whipping out her favourite Myer lippy before telling me to smack my lips together with sweet, sweet nostalgia.
Teenage years are painful, but they're also terribly beautiful. And with every 'formal stylist' and $600 designer dress we're starting to lose that awkward teenager phase entirely.
And if you ask me, that's a bit of a shame.