Staff Editorial: Homecoming wasn’t the best night of your life

School dances are a big deal. Right? We see it all the time in movies and TV. Twilight. Mean Girls. High School Musical 3. All of those movies have prom or some variation of their school dance at the very end of the movie — the moment where all the characters get together one last time, where all the loose ends are tied up, conflicts are resolved, and true love is declared.

In the real world, though, how often does this actually happen? More often than not, we leave homecoming and prom dances a little disappointed in how it turned out. They’re hot, and sweaty, and uncomfortable. The music is too loud and the room is too dark. No one knows the steps to the flash mob at the end.

And yet, we still strive to make every homecoming the best one yet — not the best night of our lives (that would be prom, of course) but a top five in our high school experience nonetheless. It has been so ingrained in our heads that it has to be a memorable, magical, amazing night that we just accept this as the bar for ourselves and for others. And, because we can’t do much to change anything else, too often we take out our expectations of perfection on ourselves.

Shopping for homecoming clothes, both dresses and suits, can be an absolute nightmare. There are very few people on this Earth who are completely happy with the way they look, and shopping for clothes is the best way to learn every which way that a dress can be unflattering. 

Not to mention that shopping with friends, although fun, can bring on its own set of difficulties. It can be scary to step out of that dressing room in a dress that doesn’t fit, or to compare yourself to your friend if you both try on the same outfit. We expect so much of ourselves, and set expectations that are impossible to fill.

But we do try to fill those expectations. Many people will go to extremes before homecoming to try and look their best. Not even accounting for the sheer amount of money girls will spend on their hair, makeup, nails, many will push their bodies to the brink in order to look their best. It’s not uncommon to hear someone say that they didn’t eat at all the day of homecoming, at least until after the pictures were taken. And even then, they only had a small snack, so they could still fit into their dresses. Many will also work out excessively in the week leading up to homecoming, doing endless crunches in an attempt to lose just a little bit of stomach fat. 

While this may seem harmless in the long run — it’s only one week, after all — the mindset that leads to this pattern of behavior is alarming. There’s nothing wrong with exercise, or with eating healthily — but that’s not what this is about. It isn’t about being active, or about losing weight because we want to live healthier lives. It’s about looking good, for one day, for the pictures we’ll take and the people we’ll see.

And that’s another thing we take out our enormous expectations on — the people around us. Let’s be honest, who hasn’t compared themselves to the people around them every once in a while? But it is incredibly common to hear girls say to one another, “You look so pretty!” “Oh, me? No, I look terrible — but you look gorgeous?” Again, maybe this seems relatively innocuous to try and compliment a friend. But these compliments, given by putting each other down, are hardly the best way to boost confidence in others. We shouldn’t have to put ourselves down to make others feel good.

It can also be difficult not to pass judgement on others as well. Girls and guys alike may both size up the people they’re going with, and think to themselves about how they wouldn’t have gone with that hairstyle, or that color, or that cut. Because everything has to be perfect.

Everyone knows that our school dances won’t be exactly like the movies. We know that we aren’t gorgeous, 25-year-old actresses and actors well past the awkwardness of puberty, who have witty comebacks for every bully and a perfectly scripted love story. But coming of age stories are always compelling, because they remind us of ourselves, and they make us feel like that could be us — maybe. 

But, quite honestly, it probably won’t be. 

So if your homecoming wasn’t everything you wanted it to be, if you didn’t look quite as nice as you wanted to, or your night wasn’t as perfect as you planned, try to remember the good times too. Because we’re not in a movie, and as much as we wish our lives could be perfect, as much as we wish everything would go according to plan, it won’t. Homecoming probably won’t be the best night of your life, but that doesn’t mean it still wasn’t fun. That doesn’t mean there weren’t really good moments. And even if it was terrible, and you hated it — that just means that the best night of your life is yet to come.