At just seventeen years of age, Dahlia Callander had many more milestone days ahead of her. There was still her first day of college to come, her first big love, graduation, her first job, meeting her future husband, getting married, her first house, becoming a mother, and becoming a grandmother. But the milestone that mattered most of all to her at the moment was prom. Countless teenage movies, advertisements and young adult novels made it clear to her that this would be the biggest, most important night in her life and she wanted everything to go perfectly. Finding a knockout dress would play a big part in that.
“I don’t understand why I can get this one!” she whined to her mother, Nancy in the middle of the dress shop.
“Two reasons. One: it costs three hundred dollars. Secondly: it looks like something you’d see one of those trashy girls on a reality television show wear. I did not raise you to become a reality television star.”
Nancy most certainly had not raised Dahlia to become a reality television star. She had raised her daughter to have self-respect, to have career ambitions, and to know how to take care of herself and her future children should she one day find herself as a single mother.
“But Mom, this is what girls wear these days!” Dahlia protested.
“Sweetie, if you want to be treated seriously then you can’t go around in a dress that screams ‘Hey everyone! Look at me! I’m a sex object!'”
“God, Mom. You’re so old fashioned. Don’t you get it? This night is important to me! Nothing can go wrong.”
“Why?” Dahlia’s mom asked.
“Why, what?” Dahlia asked in return.
“Why can’t anything go wrong? What would happen if something did?”
“Then everything would be ruined, that’s what!” the increasingly annoyed girl said.
“Really? Everything? All of your friends will desert you if you don’t wear the flashiest, most expensive dress? Some friends you have. Will the legend of Dahlia’s Boring Dress spread down through the generations? When you go out on a job interview, will the person conducting it demand to see a photo of your prom dress and then judge you to be too professional looking for them? What if you’re in a car accident twenty years from now? Will the ER doctor say ‘You have a ruptured spleen that needs to come out, but before I operate I need to know what your prom dress was like because I am not wasting precious medical resources on someone with poor fashion sense’? A decade or so from now, will your children demand to be put up for adoption if you don’t wear the right dress?”
“I’m going to demand to be put up for adoption if this keeps up,” Dahlia said.
“You could, but you’d get even less money out of Children’s Aid Services for a dress than what I’m offering. Now, let’s pick out something from the non-slut department that’s not over one hundred and fifty dollars.”
A half an hour later, Dahlia and her mother compromised on an unadorned red chiffon gown with a modest sweetheart neckline; a dress that everyone said was beautiful when Dahlia walked into the ballroom. She still hated it and always would, but in time, when she had made it through those job interviews and health scares without being asked even once about her prom dress, she would know that her mother was right. How she hated it when her mother was right.