I didn’t go to my senior prom. The reason was simple; I didn’t have a date, or even a big group of friends to go with, due to the fact that I spent all four years of high school ignoring my classmates and skipping assembly to go get enormous Coolattas from Dunkin’ Donuts with my one and only confidante Jazmine—who, over a decade later, remains my best friend. For all our self-styled rebelliousness, Jazmine and I spent prom night in perhaps the tamest way possible: watching Jeopardy with my mom, occasionally handing one another our phones to pass smirking judgment on other people’s prom dresses. (What can I say? That episode of 30 Rock where Liz Lemon remembers herself as a high-school outcast, only to find out she was actually the bully, is way too real.)
Most of the time, I don’t think about skipping prom at all; after all, I’m 27 years old, with a well-rounded social life, and the only time prom really comes up is when I see the news of some super-elaborate promposal on Twitter and think to myself, Thank God I went to high school before people started asking each other to prom on pizzas and via singing telegram. When I heard that pop phenom Olivia Rodrigo would be holding a prom-themed livestream event on Tuesday, June 29, I felt a surprising twinge of melancholy; had I made a mistake missing out on that particular rite of passage?
I’ve written before about the regression that 18-year-old Rodrigo’s debut album Sour has brought out in me, but I haven’t actually gone so far as to wish I was still in high school (and, try as I might, I can’t fully romanticize the days of chem tests, hormonal acne, and Smirnoff Ice illicitly chugged in basements). Still, despite the various dustups over whether or not Rodrigo plagiarized...the concept of prom?...from Courtney Love, I’m completely obsessed with the offbeat vision of adolescence that Rodrigo presents.
A big part of why I skipped prom (and, to be honest, most teenage rites of passage) probably has to do with me being gay, a fact I wouldn’t acknowledge—to myself or anyone else—for at least five or six years after I got my diploma. I don’t know that I would necessarily have had any easier of a time acknowledging my queerness if I’d been a Gen-Z high schooler rather than a millennial, but the rise of artists like Claud, Girl in Red, and Hayley Kiyoko might at least have given me a more queer-inclusive soundtrack to the prom I never attended.
Olivia Rodrigo has a flourishing LGBTQ+ fan base, perhaps because she presents a vision of teenager-dom that's decidedly angstier, thornier, and less cookie-cutter cheerleader-esque than many of her predecessors. I love the idea of kids deemed “weird” at school feeling seen by her music—and while I wish I could have dropped my over-it act and danced all night to “good 4 u” at my own prom, I take comfort in knowing that at least today’s teens will be able to.
Originally Appeared on Vogue