Submitted by Emily G. Boutilier

It’s prom night, and once again, I don’t have a date. This time, it’s because my husband is home with our 3-year-old, who is, I hope, in bed. Usually my Fridays end around 9 p.m., when I fall asleep on the couch while watching TV, but tonight is different: it’s nearly 10, and I’m not even in my jammies. I’m going to the Pratt Prom, a dance that Katherine Black ’10 and her fellow RCs have put together for the Class of ’11. It will take place in Charles Pratt Dormitory. There will be a band, a DJ, a dozen cakes and sparkling cider for a midnight toast.

I won’t reveal the year of my high-school prom (which I skipped), but I will say this: there was a Bush in the White House and a Clinton on the campaign trail. So really, except for the absence of shoulder pads and big hair, tonight’s prom should be just like my own. Inside the dorm, I find a handful of people milling about. The band is playing, but no one’s on the dance floor. Black isn’t worried. She doesn’t expect a crowd until 11 or 11:30.


Dressed in a short, sparkly silver dress, Black matches the “Winter Wonderland” décor. She says the RCs bought out the silver-ribbon section at the local craft store. “I said, ‘I want it sparkling.’” Her hands gesture to the silver snowflakes that hang from the ceiling. “’I want winter. I want people to remember this.’” Black got the idea for the prom in August, when she set eyes on the sweeping staircase in the newly renovated first-year dorm. “I said, ‘You guys, this is made for prom photos.’” Her plan was to bring the Class of ’11 together in one place. “Following freshman orientation,” she says, “there are no opportunities for a class to gather as a whole until senior year.”

I’m not the only one here without a date. In fact, on the staircase, official prom photographer Jessica Mestre ’10 spends most of her time shooting groups of friends, not couples. The women are dressed in everything from little black dresses to full-on prom gowns. One is wearing a yellow sundress with knee-high boots. Many of the guys are in darks suits and ties, but some have opted for jeans and sneakers, and one looks ready to go to the gym. But that’s okay; the dress code is loose. “You don’t need a date,” Black says. “You don’t need a corsage. We used the word prom for alliteration only.”

I introduce myself to Ester Johansson-Lebron ’11 and Scarlett Johnson ’11, who live on the third floor of the building. Johnson says it was easy to decide what to wear: she’d brought only two dresses with her to Amherst. The women say they’re going to dance—“even,” insists Johansson-Lebron, “if no one else does.”

At 11 p.m., as Black predicted, the lobby is filling up. That’s when I decide to call it a night. Later, I get an e-mail from Black, who says the rest of the party was even better than she could have hoped. Her e-mail reads like an Oscar-night acceptance speech: “In addition to Dean Haynes, Dean Moore, Dean Lieber, Dean Hart, Program Board and Social Council, I want to make sure that I thank both the freshman RCs as well as the upper-class RCs that helped make Pratt Prom such an amazing, special night. Also a special thanks to Jessica Mestre for photographing the event and to the Blue Nomads and DJ Lenore Bell ’08 for amazing music. I am especially grateful for my wonderful co-RCs in Charles Pratt: Sara Nelson ’08, Carrie Dulaney ’10, Ryan Shields ’08 and Josh Nathan ’10.”  

The RCs are happy; the first-years are happy—not bad for a Friday night.

Look for more on the Pratt Prom in the Spring ’08 issue of Amherst magazine.

Emily Gold Boutilier is editor of Amherst.