Oh, prom. Prom, prom, how I love thee.
As I wrote in my ELLE Guinea Pig of Love column, “Why prom? Oh, hell, who knows? Why do some people love bowling and others enjoy chess? Why do some people appreciate beer and others get off on NASCAR? It’s just whatever makes you happy. And prom makes ME happy. I love it. I love everything about it. I love the gowns and the boys in tuxedos and the dancing and the cheesy posed photographs and the limos and the adolescent camaraderie and the milestone event-ness of it all.”I love the process of prom -- the detailed planning, the selection of the date (Will he ask me? Should I ask him!?), the arguably even more important selection of the dress (long, short, puffy, slender, strapless, blue, red, black, pink?), the selection of which questionable creative up-do I should pay $50 at a hair salon to get and then subsequently be miserable about, remove, and do myself.
To me, prom is a moving art installation rife with opportunities for creative expression. It’s the first time in most people’s young lives that they have an opportunity to wear formal wear, for one. And there’s something special about a group of people -- be they at a graduation or a dance or a charity event or a wedding -- all dressed up with someplace to go, someplace reminiscent of 1950s Americana, like the Enchantment Under the Sea dance in Back to the Future or Betsey Johnson’s ‘50s prom-inspired collection. (If I were making the calls, prom would always be set in 1955. But with iPhone cameras.)
More than anything, I love me a ball gown. Especially ones with lots of tulle, those that swish and swoosh around as you walk, those that billow and cocoon you in swatches of glamorous fabric, those that make you feel, well, like a princess! And I REALLY love me a man in a tux (I think we can all agree, every male looks a little more debonair, a little more James Bond, when they slip on a dinner jacket.) I even love Jessica McClintock. Don’t hate. I’m from the Midwest.
For my junior year prom I actually convinced my entire group of girlfriends to wear matching tiaras. Yes, really. Some (sparkly) things don’t change.In case you weren’t already convinced of my inveterate geekiness, senior prom, I went -- platonically -- with my debate partner, Andrew. (Yes, Andrew. Same name as my date in this episode!) The dress I wore? That very same blue tulle strapless gown, bought at Nordstrom, if I remember correctly. Or maybe Bloomingdale’s. Either way, I hadn’t tried it on since I was 18 -- that’s 12 years (at the time this was filmed)! I was terrified prior to surprising Andrew, because I literally didn’t know whether it would zip up or not. And I didn’t have another dress. HA!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. We start this episode with me freaking out about writing. Sigh. As I write in my ELLE column:
My “writer’s anxiety” (which sometimes morphs into the more virulent and better known “writer’s block”) isn’t exactly a new phenomenon with me, but it’s gotten exponentially more severe in the last few years. It manifests as an almost debilitating concern over how others will perceive my words, leading frequently to procrastination and temporary paralysis over articles that (in theory) I *want* to do -- subjects that are engaging and intellectually stimulating and even, dare I say, fun.
I’ve published over 400 print articles and columns, and that’s not counting my thousands of blog posts ... but many of them have been unnecessarily torturous experiences. I find that the more I care about the piece, the harder it is to write. Whether that’s because I interviewed someone I greatly respected or because I was writing it for a magazine I admired or because I was sharing something deeply personal and meaningful. The pieces that weren’t difficult were those I expected no one to read. Let’s put it this way: I don’t have writer’s anxiety in my diary. See the pattern?
Cue Peter Crone, the “mind architect” as he calls himself, or “happiness expert” as he is called in the episode. I greet him at my door, furious over my column, which isn’t going “perfectly.” I’m tense, rigid in my body, and Peter calls me out on it.
“You’re closed up,” he says.
“You shouldn’t be wearing a shirt,” I think.
Yeah, sorry. It’s hard to concentrate on enlightenment when someone that godlike sits mere inches from me on the couch.
As I go through the three-hour hypnosis (OK, OK, so he didn’t TECHNICALLY hypnotize me, but that’s certainly what it felt like), I felt my body -- and then mind -- relax. Sort of the way you feel after a glass of wine or a massage or ... an orgasm. Calm and clear and very UNblocked.
I write more in depth about my experience with Peter in my ELLE column, but suffice it to say, he began the long process of disabling my inner (nasty) critics’ diatribe -- which comes out both when I write and when I date, and doesn’t make either a more pleasant or authentic experience.As I said to Peter toward the end of our session, I’m not really sure who the authentic Julia Allison is. But I know that I’m closer than ever to discovering it. Or maybe it’s not a static set of traits -- maybe it’s dynamic, ever shifting.
Either way, that authentic Julia hates boring dinner and drinks dates, loves being silly, and adores prom. I couldn’t find an ACTUAL prom to attend (trust me, if I could have, I would have), but I though that a facsimile of one with a few twists -- food truck, empty dive bar -- would suffice. Besides, Andrew dresses up as a donut and raps for a living (seriously: http://www.mcjellydonut.com/), so I figured of all the people in the world who could handle this date, he could.
He could -- and he did. Although somewhat nervous (mainly, he told me, about looking like an idiot in a tuxedo), he loved the food truck and REALLY loved the dancing (the kid can dance). As for our first kiss, standing up screaming out of the roof of a stretch limo? Pretty epic. I never got THAT on prom!