So last June, my buddy TD and his girl got hitched. And, just to be clear, this hitching was not a result of getting the girl knocked up previous to their engagement. In fact, in getting married, he fulfilled my dream (you should know by now what that dream is). Now, though I generally think it a disaster for people who have been able to drink legally for just one calendar year to be wed in holy matrimony, my buddy is an exception. He’s that guy in the group who would be married.

At the time, I couldn’t help but contemplate the many things that would change once my buddy started getting tax breaks. First of all, I’d now be introducing them to other people as, “Buddy and his wife.” What? We can’t even rent cars yet, and now, instead of introducing her as TD’s boo piece, Wiz or perhaps even girlfriend, I’d have to say “his wife?” Not wifey, but “woman to whom he is legally bound and future mother of his children.”

But before any such introductions could be made, there would have to a wedding. A WEDDING. I don’t care what anyone says, seeing one of your peoples get married is bizarre, especially when it wasn’t so long ago that you were watching Rocky IV while his mom cooked a delicious breakfast. How is anyone supposed to be prepared for that first round of weddings? I was convinced there was nothing that even approached such an event.

Discussing this situation with some colleagues, I came to realize there was something, however minor, that did in fact prepare us for this assault: The Prom.

Think about it. First of all, the prom is about one person: a girl. Multiply that by a few hundred, and it’s a matrimonial scrimmage. A girl’s got to find that perfect dress, the perfect shoes (that will be kicked off in about 37 minutes) and the best hairstyle to complement said dress, all the while trying to have a subtle I’m-not-wearing-make-up-I-look-like-this-all-the-time thing going. All while not chipping their french mani and pedi and/or sweating.

You ever see girls during prom season? This is life or death. Dress stores resemble the fall of Saigon, as mothers and daughters try to get on the last chopper out with the “cutest” dress (Sidebar 1: I love seeing dads dress shopping with their daughters. They are, without fail, in anything that remotely resembles a chair and have a glazed look in their eye. Part of that glaze is the realization that they’ve spent and will continue to spend a good deal of their adult lives waiting for a woman in a department store or Crate & Barrel. The other part of the glaze is thinking about the prom itself. All dads were once young guys excited about high school, and the excitement was generally derived from the possibility of hiking up one of the “cutest” dresses).

After all the hoopla that surrounds girls on the days leading up to this exhibition hitching, the day itself is always beset by some sort of disaster. The hairdresser gets dysentery, the nail lady gets deported and the fourth horseman of the Apocalypse tramples the tailor. And of course, once the ladies arrive on scene, they inevitably tell you how they don’t look good and how they were supposed to look (this is the part where the proto-groom says they look great). And frankly, the guys don’t really know the difference. They do think the girl looks good. Boobies are probably all propped up, pretty colors abound, the skin probably looks healthy and tan. I mean, they usually see these girls in polos and Reefs every single day (New England prep school, holler), so whatever they do is going to be an upgrade.

Speaking of the proto-grooms, the girl’s date only has one job: Show the hell up. There should be no complications with hairdressers, nail ladies and/or tailors. Get your tux and bring your ass. There’s a reason most guys look very similar, and it’s not the fact that they just don’t really give a shit (though many don’t). It has been impressed upon them from jump to simply throw the uni on and get to work. Show up and look groomed enough so as not to ruin the girl’s prom photo (Sidebar 2: I was steadily trying to look fly at the prom. The way I saw it, I (read: my parents) had to pony up a few hundred bucks anyway, so I might as well look clean. Damn the girls, I was pretty as hell in my tux. Do with that last bit of information what you will).

I mean, you as the dude are little more than human statuary and your fake smile better be on point (for the record, mine is terrible). And the pictures, my goodness. I’m pretty sure you could do a flip book composed just of pre-prom photos. First with mom. Then with mom and dad. Then with her. Her with her folks. Then (maybe) a weird family shot. All the while, the dad is exuding that sweet “I’ll bury you in the Meadowlands” aura, which is quite pleasant. Then finally, you take off in the limo, and collectively exhale for the first time in roughly 12 hours (three months for girls). By the time you get to the reception, there’s a wasteland of women’s footwear in the corner and there are various degrees of dress hiking (by the girls) while some song or another commands all present to dance in some absurd or mildly inappropriate manner (Sidebar 3: Going with the whole money spent issue, I kept every piece of my tux on till just about the bitter end. It was a principle thing).

I’m a grown-up now, in that half-decade in college sort of way, and proms aren’t a concern anymore (unless you’re, you know, a pervert). The margin for error continues to narrow. After prom there was a party at someone’s house, and you woke up the next morning, went to brunch and it was over. After grown-up prom someone’s married to someone else for the rest of their lives, or at least until they get bored with them. And even if you aren’t the person getting married, there’s still that lingering sense of permanence. That’s your buddy and his WIFE. On the brighter side of things, weddings are one of the few places where it is socially acceptable to be drunk-face after the age of 22, so you can at least cope on your buddy’s parents’ dime.

The above assumes that you’re even invited. Just like pre-prom, the wedding process can get ugly. Remember how that friend who didn’t get in your prom limo was mad for like two months afterwards? Well, that person you leave out of the wedding party will feel the same. For the rest of your lives. Someone once said the Romans exercised bloodless practice so that war could be practices in bloody exercise. I wonder if they had proms too.

Penultimate Thought: My junior prom was the first time I had my breath taken away by a young lady. Her name was Celia Coll and she is unfortunately no longer with us. It would be self-serving to say I miss her all the time, for we weren’t terribly close, but I can say she will always have a special place in my heart for giving me that moment.

Final Thought: You should always talk people out of bad tattoo ideas.

Jon Pitts-Wiley wants to apologize for not including you in his prom limo.