Prom Season

By Charlie Gofen




Editor’s Note: It’s Prom season once again, and every year the “Promposals” seem to reach new heights of creativity. Our writer, a veteran of multiple Prom asks of his own, served more recently as an unpaid consultant for his sons’ Prom asks. (Sadly, they didn’t use any of his ideas.)


1. Julia – Chinatown

We’re on a double date at Three Happiness. I bring a custom-made fortune cookie and make sure it ends up in Julia’s hands. She cracks open the cookie, reads the message: “Julia, will you accompany me at Prom?”

She looks up at me.

“Really?” she says. “This is what you’re going with – a fortune cookie?”

She gets up with a look of disgust, heads to the bathroom.

“Do you think that’s a no?” I ask the others. No one speaks.


Charlie sent us at the track meet where you see the girl with the flowers on the track field with the guy.

2. Sophia – Track Meet

I decide to raise my game.

We’re at the St. Ignatius Invitational. Sophia is entered in the 300m intermediate hurdles. I have affixed index cards to the last five hurdles in her lane, each card containing a single word in large bold letters: “WILL” “YOU” “GO” “TO” “PROM”

On the second-to-last hurdle, her trail leg clips the top and she goes down hard. She slinks off the track without finishing, literally never making it to PROM.

I walk across the infield to see how she’s doing but overhear her saying something to Coach about having been distracted. I decide to give her some space.



3. Emily – Science Center

Emily and I enter the Science Center together before physics class. She is astonished as she sees her likeness in a stunning red Jovani v-neck prom dress, spinning slowly inside the glowing science globe, but we’re just getting started.

Mr. Coberly and Mr. Legendre conduct a controlled explosion, tossing small chunks of cesium into buckets of water on either side of the large-screen TV, the school’s marching band files into the room from the back stairwell and strikes up Santana’s “Open Invitation,” and then the ask appears on the screen: “Emily, Will you be my Prom date?”

Now she’s impressed, at a loss for words, just taking it all in. The band finishes its song and files out of the room.

I wait patiently for her response.

“You know,” she says finally, “Gavin did his ask on the Jumbotron at the United Center in front of 20,000 people.”



4. Anna – History Museum

My ace in the hole is the president of the nearby Chicago History Museum. With his help, and an assist from Anna’s family, we have set up a special exhibit at the museum on “The History of Beauty” using photos and videos of Anna from birth to age 17.

Anna and I walk over to the museum after school, and the museum head greets us at the entrance and takes us up to the second floor for a private tour.

The show is magnificent. Anna is blown away – I can see it in her eyes when she removes the 3-D glasses. But at the end of the tour, she says sadly, “This is just a temporary exhibit, isn’t it. I’ll bet you’ve got something coming in to replace it as soon as we leave.”

The museum head looks at me, as if to say, “What can I do?”

“History of the Asian carp in Lake Michigan,” he admits. “Exhibit opens here on Tuesday.”

Anna just shakes her head. I scrap the ask.



5. Grace – Cardinal’s Mansion

Grace and I head down North Avenue during a free period, ostensibly to look for bunnies in the Cardinal’s lawn.

As planned, Cardinal George emerges from his residence just as we arrive and invites us in for tea.

The set-up was arranged a week ago when Mrs. Chu connected me with an alum now at the law firm of DLA Piper who recently handled a thorny real estate matter for the Archdiocese of Chicago. The Church owed him one, and the alum agreed to use his favor for my benefit.

So we’re sitting at tea with the Cardinal, and he’s making small talk, asking about our classes and outside interests, and I give him the universal hurry-up sign (forward circular movement of hand, along with raised eyebrows), and he nods to me and clears his throat.

He turns toward Grace.

“On behalf of Pope Francis,” the Cardinal announces ceremonially as he produces a large, embossed envelope and hands it to her, “I would ask that you give serious consideration to this Prom request. As the letter outlines, if you are amenable to this arrangement, you will immediately fulfill the first two steps of four on the path to sainthood.”

She is clearly intrigued.

“So am I to be known as `Blessed Grace?’” She asks.

“Not quite,” the Cardinal replies. “You would be Venerable, and well on your way to beatification.”

“Does His Holiness ever write letters of recommendation for college admissions?” She asks.

“Don’t push it, kid.”

“OK,” she says. “I’ll do it.”

At long last, I have a date for Prom, thank the Lord.