As I reach the final countdown to my last Winter Formal, I’ve had the chance to reflect on Hockaday’s main social event of the year, and I’ve realized that we approach this night all wrong. One, we need to reevaluate our definition of “date.” Two, we need to refrain from setting such high, unattainable expectations for the night. And three, we need to stop putting down this dance by constantly griping about attending.
Before I start with the dates, I’ll first get off my high horse and prove to you that I’ve been there. I’ve felt entirely unsure of who to take and how to ask them many times. I know. It’s stressful. Last year, I dropped homemade cupcakes off on my date’s porch like a hit and run—speeding off into the night right after writing my number on the box and ringing the doorbell in an extremely mature ding-dong-ditch fashion.
Yet despite not knowing him well at all, I experienced what a real date should feel like. There’s a certain excitement in inviting someone entirely new or someone you genuinely like as a person, but that anticipation has largely been lost. I honestly think we’ve replaced the concept of a “date” with the idea of taking the “best possible option,” whatever that means, as we attempt to assure our friends that we waited until everyone else had chosen because we “don’t have a preference.” I’ll admit I’ve said that line before, and I never meant it once. In all honesty, how would you feel if a guy said that about taking you?
So despite my apprehension leading up to the dance last year (I spent a good hour deciding whether or not to call this guy by his nickname), nothing too exciting, eventful or even embarrassing ended up happening. Was he a nice guy? Absolutely. Did we end up dating after that point? No. Did the dance end up feeling like a blind date? Yes. But at the end of the night, did it really matter? I took someone I wanted to spend more time with and slightly liked, and shocker! Nothing bad happened.
Instead of the “pick your poison” attitude, let’s be more thoughtful and treat this as an opportunity to take someone on a date, as traditional and grandmotherly as that sounds. So I’ll leave that to those of you who belong to Forms I, II and III as some food for thought for next year. I’m sure that at this point, everyone (with the exception of a few seniors) has already sealed the deal and asked their dates.
Secondly, I would like to say that much like Americans have such high expectations for Valentine’s Day and New Year’s, Hockaday girls secretly hold Winter Formal to an extremely high standard, though we rarely express our hopes aloud. But we should all remind ourselves that it’s a dance to mingle with teachers and classmates. Let’s keep it real. It’s not a teen club or a rave that requires those neon American Apparel dresses (don’t act like you haven’t worn one), and I hope that it never becomes that. Daydream accordingly, and don’t make Winter Formal out to be something it should not and never will be.
Now lastly, we need to resist from constantly placing Homecoming on a pedestal and start referring to Winter Formal as something other than Hoco’s lesser version. I’ve heard girls, including myself, complain about how no one ever wants to attend. But how do we expect to change everyone’s perceptions if we ourselves can’t stop insulting it?
Because of this commonly seen lack of enthusiasm, I affectionately laugh at the freshmen’s rumored pact not to ask until Feb. 1 instead of calling it juvenile. While that agreement didn’t seem to work out, or even exist, it reminds us all of what it used to be like. And perhaps I’m just an old senior with a premature nostalgia for high school, but that kind of excitement and obsessive planning reminds me of how I felt three years ago—hopeful. Until I heard upperclassmen complain, I waited for that night in February with a great deal of anticipation. It starts with you, juniors and seniors. So let’s make this Winter Formal one to remember.
– Katie Payne