I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt; A song to cement the time.
Prom was over. I sat in the back of the limousine on my way home, alone. It was a beautiful night, perfect for stargazing and listening to the radio. It was just before midnight and I was contemplating the end of my career as a student. Twelve years, plus kindergarten and pre-k had led to this point; this important moment, the senior prom.
The prom had been on my mind, off and on since 10th grade. I wondered who I would go with? What kind of dress I would wear? Where we would go to eat beforehand? Would there be any of the traditional ʻmaking outʼ afterwards, as Iʼd heard about so often by then?
Well, being a pastorʼs daughter raised in a conservative Christian home. I wasnʼt completely sure I would even be allowed to go the Prom. I missed most of the school dances that I could have attended from jr. high to that point. So, when I asked for permission to go, I was slightly shocked that my mom said yes.
She Said Yes
With permission granted, deep negotiations soon began for everything else. Some kids were getting hotel rooms. I knew that was out of the question. A prom dress, however, was necessary and very important. Without the right dress, you might as well stay home! But my mom and I defined “the right dress” very differently. I loved trendy, tight, satiny, fishtail dresses. I ended up with a knee length, very spacious, black sequin dress with spaghetti straps. I looked decent and unhappy.
Then there was my date, whom she approved of pretty easily. He was a complete nerd who had become a friend of mine through studying. Nothing seemed cool about him until I discovered he had a cool collection of music. He was also a Prince fan and shared some of the most obscure Prince songs with me. He was the only boy who asked me to the prom.
The Cool Kids
I took forever answering his invitation. I was hoping someone cooler would ask me.
But finally I said yes and I invited a girlfriend to tag along with us. My date graciously agreed and the three of us were headed to prom. It was finally sinking in that a cool guy probably wasnʼt ever gonna ask me, a girl firmly outside of the in-crowd.
Itʼs something Iʼd known since kindergarten. I had a few great friends, but I was never popular. I had my own drumbeat and never did things the way everybody else did.
But in the back of that limousine, after leaving the prom early and dropping off my 2 prom dates, I wished that I could have been a little less different for 12th grade. Over the years I made attempts, but like an ill-fitting garment, it just wasnʼt for me. Prom was my final opportunity and it had ended weirdly, as usual.
The Truth Sinks In
Finally I allowed this reality sink in. My head and stiffly sprayed hair rested against the window. On cue, a new slow song began. By the time the piano came in, the song had my full attention.
The lyrics echoed my school life; I quietly let them settle into my bones. I tried, but I couldnʼt make anyone love me. I was then free to release any further efforts at that moment and this song made the releasing feel good. My journey to the truth about myself was underway. Like lifting scales off my body one by one and discovering new, supple flesh...I was free to breathe. This song remains as the uncontested highlight of prom night.