Like Cinderella, Emily Appleton dreamed of going to the ball and dancing with her Prince Charming. But the coronavirus spoiled everything. Now, all the high school seniors in South Shore, Massachusetts, can do is stare at the dark blue prom dress hanging in her bedroom since December, and commiserate by phone with schoolmates who are also facing an uncertain future during the pandemic.
An outdoor photoshoot by a Reuters photographer this month did at least give her and her friends a chance to dress up and pose for the camera. "It's definitely bittersweet," said Appleton, 17, a state swimming champion bound for college in the fall.
Rite of Passage
The high school prom - short for promenade dance - is an American rite of passage, usually held in April through June before graduation. Plans for the event can be as elaborate as weddings, with dresses bought months in advance, stylists organized to fix hair and makeup, and limousines hired to take the partygoers to the party.
But those plans have been dashed for many of the seniors of 2020, with lockdowns that may extend through the autumn.
Photoshoots as Compensation
Boston high schoolers and best friends Lucie Mareira and Shea Mikalauskis showed up to the photoshoot in long slinky dresses, their hair tied up. Instead of high heels, they wore practical flip flops to trek around Ponkapoag Pond in Canton.
"It was a relief to get it off our shoulders, and not feel the constant sadness of not having a prom, to know others felt the same way," said Mareira. "By doing the photoshoot we're helping other people by saying we're going through it too," said Mikalauskis, an aspiring nurse.
Finding Recreational Activities to Keep Busy
The teenagers said they were getting through the dull hours of 24-7 lockdown by exercising, baking, journaling or chatting. "Every day feels like Sunday" was a common refrain. "Surreal," said Melina Bertsekas, from Lexington. "I'm still kind of in denial." Caroline Afonso, however, was relieved. "The drama around prom is so stupid. The actual prom is boring," said the Dedham teen.
With little certainty about how or if colleges will reopen in the fall, teenagers are stuck with few options. Paying high tuition fees for online classes makes little sense - but neither does taking a gap year to stay at home. But lessons from the lockdown are gems. "You learn who your real friends are," said 18-year-old Lauren Norton.