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Stan Kid, Managing Editor of the Tocquevillian Magazine, is also a newspaper columnist and police sergeant on Long Island.

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    A Promenade is No Walk in the Park
    by Stan Kid

    The English language comprises some interesting words. Take "promenade," for example. This relatively innocuous word conjures up visions of a tree-lined walk along the water and smiling people strolling lazily in the sunshine while chatting idly about matters insignificant. It is a lovely word, a serene word.

    Now, take that same word in its abbreviated form and you get a distinctively different picture. "Prom!" The mere whisper of the word is enough to send daggers of dread into the heart of the most stalwart parent. It is the social event of the scholastic year and it is guaranteed to deplete the bankroll of anyone whose last name is not Rockefeller or Getty or Bush.

    When I attended my senior prom in nineteen-mumblemumble, I rented a tuxedo for $15, bought a lovely orchid corsage for my date for $5, had my Mother drive me to pick her up at no cost, got ripped off by the Hawaii Kai for about $20 worth of illegally-consumed mai tais, paid a dime for us to ride the Staten Island Ferry and thirty cents more for our subway ride home. Total cost of my prom: $40.40. While that was not an insignificant sum of money back then, it pales in comparison to today's national debt-rivaling affair.

    And, as if the senior prom is not enough of a bank-breaker, we have added the quaint custom of the warm-up for chapter eleven known as the "junior prom." If you've got two daughters, as I have, this one-two punch is nearly guaranteed to have you eating pasta for years to come.

    The good Lord has seen fit to grant my Mother's oft hissed-through-clenched-teeth wish by giving me children who are just like me. That is to say, they are obstinate, manipulative and brain-dead. This is a very expensive combination, as it translates into an inability to listen to reason when it comes to spending my money. Having been trained by their Mother in the fine art of batting their eyelashes, flashing their winning--and, I might add, not inexpensive--smiles and crooning the word, "Daaadyyy" in a manner designed to pry open the most miserly father's wallet, they are assured of nothing more than token resistance from me.

    First on the "Let's Put Daddy in the Poor House" list is the anguish of finding the perfect dress. This quest normally consists of a series of day trips to various dress stores where latte and scones are served as Mother and daughter browse displays of $300 and $400 numbers while daddy waits in the car, listening nervously to reports of the Dow tanking. Ultimately, the "perfect" dress will be selected. It will be one which brings daddy to the brink of cardiac arrest, as it will barely cover the parts of his daughter that all daddies prefer be completely covered at all times and, ideally, kept under lock and key.

    Next is the shoe decision. One would think this a relatively simple task. If they fit and are the right color - Wah-LAH! One would be incredibly wrong. In addition to fitting, being stylish and precisely matching the dress color, the heel must not elevate her past the height of the presumptuous dwarf who had the unmitigated gall to ask her to be his date. This will consume weeks of searching and another hundred bucks harvested from the backyard money tree.

    While we're grabbing C-notes, let's not forget her crowning glory. An appointment must be made months in advance of the big day in order to secure the services of an artiste who will wash, rinse, condition, blow dry, cut and style her hair just so, leaving her to walk on eggshells for the rest of the day, lest an errant wind or playful daddy attempt to come within three feet of her. And, don't put that checkbook away just yet, as this must be followed by a manicure and professional application of make-up.

    By this time, most parents will consider doing business with a guy named Mad Dog Mario, who will gladly advance them some cash for an interest consideration somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty-five percent.

    Ok, she's dressed, shod, coifed, made up and her nails have been sharpened, buffed and painted. The only thing left is to wait for the tuxedo-clad, corsage-bearing, hormone-driven Brad Pitt wannabe to show up and drive her to the prom, right? Bwah! That ain't gonna happen. If you think this walking stock portfolio is going to ride to the prom in something as uninspiring as her date's dad's Oldsmobile, you're a candidate for the Ha-Ha House.

    So, we move on to the limo. This is a $500-for-the-evening mode of transportation that is approximately 40-feet long, has seating for 20, a hot tub and requires a harbor pilot to guide it into place in front of the lucky parents' house where the pre-prom party will be held.

    Oh, did I forget to mention the pre-prom party? How remiss of me. This is the one segment of the evening that most parents enjoy (I say "most" because one pair of sucker…uh, volunteers must supply their home and pay for the snackies and, therefore, end up that much poorer than the other parents). It is a photo-op for the one and only time they will ever see their daughters in the dresses and shoes for which they have taken out second mortgages to purchase. After that, they will be hung in a closet, never again to see the light of day.

    I won't go into the after-prom parties which frequently last overnight and take place at someone's summer digs in the Hamptons or some such. While this is not usually an added expense, its mere mention is likely to cause fathers all over to develop a nervous tic.

    In the end, if you survive, proms are good preparation for the ultimate financial nightmare, The Wedding. They make it somewhat easier for daddy to write checks without his hands shaking too badly. They also help steel him for the sight of his little girl walking out the door on the arm of another man. It's somewhat less painful this time--at least after the prom, she comes back home.

    © 2003 Tocqevillian Magazine