The Western Hemisphere

Promposals: Cute or Coercive?

Olivia Gallmeyer, Editor-in-Chief

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‘Tis the season for roses, posters, and terrible puns: prom is coming up in a few short weeks, and the promposals are in full swing. It seems like these romantic gestures have become more common, more elaborate, and more expensive every year- they’re even more dramatic than actual proposals at this point. They’re definitely sweet to watch and see documented on Instagram— I still remember my freshman year, witnessing a promposal done in the style of a bill on Model Congress day. But how far is too far?

When not done properly, this act of affection can be awkwardly coercive. Nowadays, almost all promposals are public in some nature, whether in class or in front of a whole cafeteria. Think about it: if someone’s asking you in front of a whole group of people and all eyes are on you, are you really going to say no regardless of how you feel?

By putting this traditionally private act into the public sphere, there’s even more pressure and social norms associated with it. Guys are already pressured to ask girls, but now they must do it in even more elaborate and impressive ways— and more expensive ways, when the price of prom already being so high. Meanwhile, a lot of people fear that they’ll feel weird going to prom alone, and may accept a promposal just for the sake of having a date, regardless of how they might feel about the person who asked. There’s pressure for guys to prompose to girls, for girls to accept a promposal no matter what, all adding up to a situation that can make many people feel uncomfortable and embarrassed.

Full disclosure: I’m writing this as a senior who has promposed to someone for both junior and senior year. It seems hypocritical that I’m criticizing this movement while participating it as well, but you can enjoy and participate something without loving every aspect of it. Promposals are a cute concept that just doesn’t always work in practice. As such, both years I did this I made an effort to make the process as painless as possible for both of us.  

For one thing, I asked close friends both times— one of them being a sophomore that year who I knew wanted to tag along with someone to prom, and this year’s date being a friend I’ve known for several years. Also, I did something that seems unthinkable: I asked to prompose. Think about it: in an actual proposal, if a couple is in a healthy relationship they’ve probably talked about how they feel about getting married first. You don’t have to say it outright, but it’s courteous to at least give someone a heads-up before you come charging into their chemistry class playing All You Need is Love.

Remember, also, that promposals don’t always go as planned. Sometimes you’re making a sign in the library only to realize that the person you’re asking is right besides you working on a research project. Maybe you say, “Hey, hypothetically, if there was a promposal at this event that you and I are emceeing, would you be down for that?” And they say “Oh, do I get to be promposal messenger boy?” not realizing that they are the one who is going to be receiving the promposal.

Just take it all in stride. Remember, above all, prom is a fun social event that’s supposed to be all about memories. And if things don’t go entirely as you intended, you’ve just got a better story to tell your relatives twenty years later while looking through your old high school yearbook.

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