The Time Of My Life: Writers On The Heartbreak, Hormones, And Debauchery Of The Prom by Rob SpillmanThe Time Of My Life: Writers On The Heartbreak, Hormones, And Debauchery Of The Prom by Rob Spillman

The Time Of My Life: Writers On The Heartbreak, Hormones, And Debauchery Of The Prom

byRob Spillman

Paperback | May 6, 2008

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Remember the ill-fitting tuxes, regrettable dresses, wilting corsages, cheap beer, and rented limos that marked the biggest, most-anticipated celebration of the school year? Remember when the whole world hung in the balance of just one night? Well, lots of your favorite writers do too, and they share the good, the bad, and the embarrassingly ugly in this wonderful compendium of personal reminiscences about prom night.
Rob Spillman has collected the prom memories of Cintra Wilson, Walter Kirn, Steve Almond, Samantha Dunn, Susie Bright, Mike Albo, and many others, capturing the magic, the misery, and the atrocious attire in a hilarious look at the simultaneously sublime and ridiculous event that has become the American right of passage.
Whether prom night is something you fondly remember or long to forget, The Time of My Life will bring it all back, capturing with wit and poignancy precisely what it was like to be young, hormonal, and dressed like a butler or bridesmaid.

ROB SPILLMAN is editor of the literary magazine Tin House, executive editor of Tin House Books, and the founder of the Tin House Literary Festival, now in its fifth year. His writing has appeared in Vanity Fair, Spin, the New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, and many other publications, and he also writes a literary blog for the Huff...
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Title:The Time Of My Life: Writers On The Heartbreak, Hormones, And Debauchery Of The PromFormat:PaperbackDimensions:240 pages, 8 × 5 × 0.5 inPublished:May 6, 2008Publisher:Crown/ArchetypeLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385521170

ISBN - 13:9780385521178

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Hands Across the SeaWALTER KIRNFOR A DATE I HAD MY CHOICE OF BOTH EXCHANGE students, two girls who'd appeared in our midst from civilized Europe to make our little Minnesota town feel shabby about its drab, provincial ways. One, the French girl, Genevieve, was pretty, with the sort of brown skin that looks fine with a few moles on it and isn't terribly marred by a dark hair or two. The second girl, Lena, was a lithe, unblemished stunner whose skin seemed evenly dusted in powdered gold. I don't remember her country of origin. It was one of those small, frigid nations that at the time was partly subjugated by the Russians but would eventually break free and dominate the worldwide modeling scene.The reason I had my choice of the two girls was that they intimidated my male classmates, who had mostly grown up on local dairy farms and sensed--correctly, I think--that the exchange students abhorred our monotonous rural culture and were counting the hours until they could jet home to the bastions of strong dark coffee and avant-garde theater where they'd been raised and educated. The girls, it seemed clear to us, had lost some lottery that had assigned their more fortunate peers to such hot spots as Florida and San Francisco. The idea was that we were to play ambassadors to this pair of lovely travelers, convincing them of the United States' benevolent, easygoing national character, but instead most of us found their presence embarrassing and avoided them whenever possible.I was the exception. I liked the girls and was thought by my friends to have something in common with them because I was already enrolled in college, having earned this distinction from my performance on the PSAT exam the year before. The college was in St. Paul, and I got home often enough on weekends and holidays to keep up with the friends I'd left behind. Lena and Genevieve liked me back, it seemed. For one thing, my time at college had taught me to share their tastes in music--British New Wave and punk that my classmates branded "faggy" because the singers wore ties and had short hair and didn't strut about in spandex pants, swinging ass-length cascades of greasy curls. The girls also liked me because when we smoked pot together I was willing to talk politics, which mostly consisted of voicing polite agreement with their cruel assessments of America's "arrogant cultural imperialism."I had a week or so to make my choice, though I could have made it in ten seconds. I wanted Lena. I found her enigmatic. I'd already groped and kissed Genevieve a few times, and I knew from her frantic, juicy bursting ardor that a long unsupervised night together would lead to an operatic erotic union that might take ages to extricate myself from. Even our first few limited encounters had drenched me with her sticky, sweaty romanticism. She made me blow kisses till we next saw each other, and read and reply to flurries of flowery notes about our looming "destiny." Her passion, so moist and effusive and claustrophobic, intimidated a teenage boy with plans to push on and discover the wider world.Lena seemed less potentially smothering. Her compact, catlike face was tidy and pleasing, with a nose that seemed a few millimeters too short, as though a fierce rodent had nibbled off its tip. Her mouth was appealingly full but not, like Genevieve's, seemingly coiled for a sudden elastic expansion that could engulf and swallow my whole head. In every way she was less womanly than Genevieve--tauter, drier, less supercharged with hormones--and though I might not have my way with her as easily at the party following the dance, I might also disengage from her more easily when the liquor was gone and dawn arrived.To spare Genevieve's feelings about her coming rejection I led her on a bit as the prom date neared, asking about the dress she planned to wear and suggesting that I was amassing an ample stockpile of marijuana, peach wine, and Elvis Costello tapes for our nationally sanctioned all-night orgy. My hints didn't seem to properly excite her, though, and one day after school, as I was driving her home to the stern wooden farmhouse of the host family, whose nearly speechless Lutheran stoicism had gradually shrunk and tightened the gaping French smile that she'd worn when she deplaned, she told me that she was considering skipping the prom out of concern for Lena's feelings.I asked her to explain."The couples have all been decided upon," she said. "If I accompany you, then who will be left for Lena?""Karl," I said. I'd already handled this tricky matter, though my plan had been to foist Karl on Genevieve once I broke the news to her that I would be squiring her co-exchange student. Karl, a cousin of my friend Todd's, was a tall upperclassman from an adjoining district who'd attended our school for two months the previous year and would therefore be welcome at our prom."Karl is wholly unsuitable," said Genevieve. "Both of us found him impertinent and crude." Once again I had to wonder why she'd decided to study in a country with a language she spoke so much better than its natives. To be honest, I too had come to view this Genevieve as an annoying reminder of my simplicity and paltry intellectual endowments. Go back to France and let us have our pride. We will stay happy in our wealthy heedlessness and you can have your museums and socialism."Perhaps you would do me the favor," said Genevieve, "of entertaining the possibility--of which I've already spoken at length with Lena, you should be aware"--Oh, how her well-schooled speech dragged on sometimes! Not even the tweediest of my college professors demanded such close, sustained mental attention!--"of inviting both of us?""Huh?" I said."A trio. Two girls, one boy. It might be amusing. Lena thinks so, too."My face remained still as we talked this notion over, but behind my brow strange thoughts unfolded, dim scenarios of new behaviors, of unfamiliar sensations, exotic poses. Though I didn't yet fully understand it, I'd begun to sense that my small-town high school prom--the summation of my social development as a normal young American male--was about to become my corrupting introduction to European moral decadence.And all it would cost me was a sporting attitude, a slightly more generous stockpile of intoxicants, and an extra pink corsage.***MY CLASSMATES DIDN'T APPRECIATE MY BLESSEDNESS. They felt sorry for me, actually. When I entered the ballooned-and-streamered gymnasium arm in arm with my two adventurous dates, the looks the guys gave me were tinged with pity, as though I'd volunteered to carry a burden in the name of international hospitality. To my erotically unimaginative classmates, having two girls attached to me all evening meant I might never get off alone with one of them, which meant no privacy and thus no action.But I knew better. The drive over had awakened me. When I picked up Genevieve from the long dirt driveway where she stood waiting for me in a dress that was less fussy than the American girls' and better constructed for easy manual entry, Lena welcomed her into the front seat with a kiss on the lips--and then well beyond the lips--that I wished had gone on three times as long. I resolved to intervene in, wrest control of, and self-servingly orchestrate if another the likes of this one came around. When the girls' mouths parted, leaving lipstick smears, the mood in my four-door Impala was transformed. It went from Happy Days to La Dolce Vita, from Grease to . . . The ritual folderol in the high school gym--the suspenseless crowning of the "royalty," the selection of which had been assured since freshman year, when the broad-shouldered king had started throwing touchdown passes and the flaxen-haired queen with the perfect handwriting had started organizing clothing and blanket drives for victims of Asian earthquakes--passed by in a blur of sensual absorption that kept my mind and spirit fully occupied."Party at Elbow Lake," one buddy said, sidling up to me after a slow dance that had begun as a one-on-one with Lena but evolved into something slyer and more advanced when Genevieve beckoned us into a dark corner and four separate hands, not one of them mine, invaded every pocket of my suit pants and maneuvered around to join up behind my fly and fondle an object of rigid common interest."We're driving out right now," my friend informed me. "You might want to get there while the kegs are full.""We'll get there when we get there, Josh."The trip took three hours--hours I can't account for except as a drastic reconfiguration of all my accumulated Midwestern assumptions about the nature of "going all the way." I remember especially a big, sweet slug of syrupy fruit wine that was passed from mouth to mouth to mouth and then allowed to stream down a bare chin onto a pair of bare dark breasts with perfect moles, which snagged the liquid in glinting droplets that I was invited to lightly tongue away while another tongue, and then another, took the shape of a slim, wet, fleshy cone and drove themselves deep, deep into each of my ear canals, giving off a twin pulse of concentrated heat that made my cerebellum seize. Skirts came up, pants slipped off, and legs made V's that turned into X's and shifted on complex axes that allowed for wonders of sidelong friction that brought forth throaty squeaks and grunty purrs that primordially bridged all language gaps. Some new bond was being stirred up in that cramped car, some fresh form of international understanding that the Rotary Club, who sponsored the exchange program, might not have planned on but shouldn't have been displeased by, so intimately did it shrink our globe. I'd grown up a good son of good Republicans with a distrust of those shifty nations across the seas who'd vexed our interests and drawn us into wars, but now I was a citizen of the world, admitted into its most guarded chambers, entrusted with its most cherished treasures.It was 1980, the height of the cold war, but never had I felt so confident that human beings might live in peace someday. In something better than peace. In mutual ecstasy.The air in my car grew so acrid from all the dope smoke, so steamy from all the wine-tinged perspiration, that even with all the windows rolled down the fog of narcoticized polymorphous lust precipitated a dense chemical compound that clung to our skin when we finally reached the party and stepped out into the breezy lakeside air. We smelled like sin, and not American sin, but a deep-brewed funk of Romanized corruption that caused me to compulsively sniff my hands whenever I lifted my cup to sip my beer.My buddies swarmed in to share their prom night war stories, and my girls slipped away past the bonfire into the trees, leaving me alone to contemplate--with the contempt and disgust that I assumed they suffered from every moment of their lives here--just how stupid Minnesota was. How stupid we all were, here in crass America. Everywhere I looked I saw the evidence. The barbarous chest-pounding of our square-jawed prom king as he bellowed "Seniors rule!" across the lake. The way the homely girl we'd nicknamed "Critter," and who pathetically answered to the name, sat alone and shoeless on a log, dipping her toes in fetid, froggy water, content with the knowledge that no one would approach her until the fire went out and people went home. And the music! The music was the worst. Someone had balanced a pair of stereo speakers on the roof of a Camaro and was blasting Ted Nugent at teeth-rattling volume into a cool, moonlit night that God had made. We offended me. I offended myself.I went off to look for my partners in exoticism, my tutors in the arts of being human. I stepped on Styrofoam beer cups that loudly crunched and would never, I knew, be collected and sipped from but would junk up our sacred earth for a thousand years. A drunk girl whose breasts I'd crudely mashed and squeezed once during a nighttime bus trip from a debate event sloppily grabbed my crotch and slurped my cheeks with a tongue that smelled like menthol cigarettes. I twisted away from her and resumed my search, widening my perimeter until I was fairly deep into the woods.And there, at last, I spotted my runaways, stretched out on a layered cushion of brown pine needles, face-to-face, hair mussed, completely shirtless, and saturated to their animal cores, it seemed, with a satisfaction of the senses that I as a non-European could never know, although I'd briefly brushed against it--a fleeting moment of enchanting contact with an alien approach to pleasure, to the borderless freedom of the human skin, which I knew would forever diminish my new adulthood, afflicting my soul with a permanent frustration.As it did. As it has.That night never came again.All the Wrong PromsCINTRA WILSONThe teenage school years get boiled down to select formative experiences that can still make you writhe like a cold ball of worms twenty years later. Here is your pattern, say the taped markings on the gymnasium floor. Here are the hardwired impulses you must transcend, or you will make the same tragic mistakes forever.We were all children of the most wealthy, oversexed, depraved, and liberal suburb in the world--the luckless offspring of the narcissistic Me generation. Everything in conscious memory was in some way tainted by the white rot of redwood hot tubs and the slippery values that bought them. Things had been too loose for too long in Marin County. Despite peerless orthodontry, handsome eugenics, and French ski apparel, we had all been in some way abandoned to fend for ourselves in a bright orange field of narcotic California poppies--it was beautiful everywhere, but there was no shelter. The sins of self-indulgent and negligent grown-ups drizzled on us, day and night, throughout our school years: it was a pervasive, damp, achy hollowness we fought against, daily, with any device that would halt or slow the cold pull into that woozy, deadening blur--that lonesome childhood gloom that makes itself felt in the terrible hours between the anxiety of school and the succor of television.The kids were always louche, even in third grade. Lauren M., a child of intelligence and privilege, astonished our fellow classmates and me one day when, during recess, apropos of nothing, she pulled up her shirt and pulled down her pants, fully exposing all of her undeveloped parts. She looked around defiantly as we gaped in silence, then curled her arms into a double bicep flex and triumphantly shouted, "Superwoman! Superwoman!" The fourth grade boys made "woo-woo!" noises, as if they sexually appreciated the gesture, but we were all shocked and reeling from the blast of uninvited nudity. Lauren M., flush with the power of raw exhibitionism, was carefully escorted off the playground by a sensitive teaching staff and did not attend our school much longer.Today, I feel fairly confident that wherever she is, she has what she wants out of life.

Editorial Reviews

“Maybe you went, maybe you didn’t, maybe you danced all night or spiked the punch or got busted by a narc or gave birth in the bathroom, it doesn’t matter, you will delight in this diverse and exciting collection of voices. The Time of My Life is a very good time, a funny and moving chronicle of one of our nation’s great sacred rituals.”
—Sam Lipsyte, author of Home Land and Venus Drive