I didn’t go. Uncomfortable in my skin, not dating anyone, unable to embrace the “just go with a friend” thing, I stayed home and sobbed in my bed…very teen angsty. My choice, my loss. Prom in Pleasantville is dreamy, no limos, kids pile onto buses, traveling drink and drug free (or so we like to believe). The HS front circle packed with prommers and spectators, admiring the fashion reveals and posing for photos. Groups of friends exchange flowers, no need for dates. Joyful, until… they leave for the group house afterparties.
Twenty underage kids, a rental house in the middle of nowhere, no adults…what could go wrong. Well as you can probably guess, a LOT. Car crashes, trips to the ER, emotional drama, destroyed property. The stories are plentiful and the repercussions are real. It was not happening with my kids and I was pretty glad they knew me well enough not to even ask. Ha.
The winter before graduating high school my son asked about using the Fire Island house for an after prom getaway…it kind of went like this. J: Mom, can we use the house for after prom. K: Sure Jacob, I would be happy to host you all. J: MOM! Forget it, we are NOT going if YOU are there. End of story until April. J: Mom, ok, (like he was doing me a favor) we decided it was ok if you were there. So, that’s how it went. I shopped, cleaned, and prepared the house for 9 kids, I worked from my bedroom and did not show my face. I cooked and set out buffet meals 3 times a day. Goals were born…someday I would own a B&B. We gave them a stress free, drama free, good old fashioned fun weekend…a forever memory, swoon. Even with the no alcohol/no drug, policy…they had an amazing time…teens love an excuse to be young. Parental win to be repeated for Olivia and her friends two years later.
The summer between my Freshmen and Sophomore years of college my mom had done the same for me. My group of friends came for an overnight at the beach and my mom offered to host. There was pushback from some but I was thrilled she was there. I certainly did not want to be in charge and I loved the idea of a cook and a maid! It was 1985, so naturally we got off the boat with cases and cases of beer. There were no rules other than no swimming at night if you had been drinking. I guess drunk daytime swimming was less of a risk. I don’t remember seeing my mom at all that weekend, she cooked, cleaned, and graciously faded to the background. I learned from the master. The underage drinking thing was not really her fault, we had been legal at 18, then it switched to 19, then to 21. My drivers license had been adapted many times, thank goodness for X-acto knives and Rapidograph pens.
When my brother was 17 he wanted his Fire Island friends weekend. At that point I think my parents were kind of exhausted. My mom asked if I would mind “just being there, in case”. I was 21, had a credit card, I was an adult…no problem. I invited two friends, we would do our thing and the teenagers would take care of themselves. Oh. My. God. It seemed like there were 50 kids there, ages 15-22, it was chaos. A John Hughes “the parents are away, let’s party” movie at the beach. I tried to set rules… no swimming at night, or if you had been drinking, no sand in the house. They looked at me like I was insane. Kids went missing, one guy passed out in the seagrass to be found covered in ticks and bug bites, girls huddled together playing board games…trying so hard to ignore the insanity happening around them. My girlfriends and I barricaded ourselves in a bedroom, three in a full size bed, we would deal with the nightmare “out there” in the morning.
Waking up and seeing the carnage was a Tom Cruise in Risky Business morning after moment…house destroyed and a day to fix it. First…assess the damage. 75 pounds of sand in the house…of course, 40 cases of empty beer cans scattered all over the property…check, food wrappers covered in very happy ants littering the floors…yes, hung-over people sleeping on every surface…yup, and bathroom sink in the middle of the living room…Roger that. Ok then. It all was put back to normal and nobody was harmed.
There is a reason GenXers are helicopter parents, we know just how bad things can get. We also have the ability to get ourselves out of any situation…because we have lived them. I am still on the fence about which is a better parenting method. I guess there must be a happy medium. Imagine that.
This weekend I took joy in getting the Fire Island house ready for the next group of after prom teens to use the house. My nephew and his friends will arrive mid-week for an overnight. Beds are made, games are out, and boogie boards are stacked. My brother… the one I love to the moon and back, who defied death more times than any alley cat, who broke every single rule ever given to him…will be there with his wife, hosting, cooking, and monitoring the kids…who will enjoy a last bit of together before going their separate ways in the fall. The PG-rated tradition continues.
Oh the stories this house could tell.