DEAR KELLY: Recently I went to prom with a guy, and we both knew it was just to go as friends. During the dance I asked him what he wanted to do after, and he said he was tired and just wanted to go home. We had talked about going out to get something to eat after and I wanted to go get food with a bunch of people, so I asked him if it was OK I just left with my friends. He said no worries and we gave each other a hug and I thanked him, then we said goodbye.
His mom and my mom are friends. His mom called my mom the next morning before I got home to tell my mom how rude it was that I didn’t leave with him and how “insensitive” I was to his feelings after all he did to try and make the night special for me. So my mom texted me at my friend’s house, where I was spending the night, to come home immediately.
My mom is upset because she thinks her friend is upset and doesn’t know what to do. My mom’s friend is kind of proper and uptight, but I’m shocked she’s so upset.
What should I do? My mom thinks I should go to their house and apologize, but I say for what? I saw him at school the next Monday and he didn’t act like anything was wrong.
– Problem At Prom
DEAR PROM: Yikes. No matter how I answer this, I’m sure the letters will come telling me how wrong I am.
Simply put, this is an issue because your generation is different from that of your date’s mom. I know many people will want to write and tell me that “manners should not be different with different generations,” but the reality is that they are. The way teenagers go out is different, the way they communicate is different, and the expectations at dances are different as well. I agree good manners should transcend all generations, but you didn’t have bad manners, just different ideas of what to do after the dance.
Dances have changed over the years. The days of walking the date to the porch to say “good night” don’t happen as much. It’s not uncommon for dates to go the dance together, then leave with friends.
Your date’s mom had certain expectations on how the evening was supposed to go. I’m not sure she handled it the best way. Instead of calling to say how rude and insensitive you were, she should have checked with your mom to see that you made it home safely since you didn’t go home together, then perhaps tell your mom that she was disappointed you didn’t leave together. It was her son’s responsibility to tell you that he was uncomfortable not leaving the dance together. If he was OK with it and wasn’t bothered, then his mom should have let it go and not made a fuss.
Going with a date – as friends or with romantic intentions – requires you treating the other person with kindness and respect. Were you gracious and polite during the pre-dance and dance? Did you hang out with him during the dance? Besides not leaving together, was the rest of the night a success?
Find your date at school and kindly ask him if he had an issue at the dance when you didn’t leave together so you could go get food. If he says no and seems nonchalant about the whole thing, mention to him that his mom expressed some frustration with it to your mom and you wanted to be sure he wasn’t upset. By talking with him, you may get a better understanding why his mom reacted the way she did.
If he does mention that he was upset or hurt at what happened at the dance, then do the right thing and genuinely apologize for the misunderstanding.
In your teenage world, what you did wasn’t wrong or rude. In your date’s mother’s world, it seemed insensitive and improper. Good manners and treating others respectfully are the bridge that connects all ages. As long as your date was OK and not upset or hurt with what happened at the end of the dance, you did nothing wrong.
Kelly Richardson, a Folsom therapist, works with adolescents.