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Teen Called ‘Selfish’ For Opting Not To Go To Prom After Mom Insists She Wear Sister’s Old Dress

unhappy girl in pink prom dress
Image Source/Getty Images

Prom—short for promenade—has been around probably longer than most people might think. Similar celebratory events for young people go back to ancient civilizations, but modern prom is an offshoot of 18th and 19th century debutante balls.

Those high-society gatherings were an introductory parading of adolescent girls or young women who reached the age when courtship and marrige were possible.

Guests attended in formal attire at a co-ed banquet with eligible bachelors looking for wives and the new crop of potential wives.

The balls’ origins are kind of awful, but for outside observers—those not of high enough social status to attend—they looked like a fun time combined with an excuse to dress up.

In the United States, proms are usually tied to high schools, with junior and senior—the 11th and 12th/final grades—proms held in the spring being common. Some cite the increased popularity of English proms as related to their prominence in US movies and TV shows.

Internationally, a number of countries opt for winter proms. Others hold a “100 days” celebration, which includes a prom-style dance 100 days before the final day of school.

Not everyone attends their prom, but it is seen as a rite of passage in many cultures.

The trappings of prom depend a lot on the community they take place in. From donated dresses to six-figure one-of-a-kind creations to competitive duct tape couture, prom ensembles can vary greatly.

But what they usually have in common is being a reflection of the person wearing it.

A daughter who prefers to do prom as herself or not at all turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback.

ViolinistNovel3752 asked:

“AITA for not wanting to go to prom because my mom wants me to wear my sister’s prom dress?”

The original poster (OP) explained:

“I (17, female) personally don’t see how I’m wrong, but my mom is upset with me.”

“My mom wants me to wear my sister’s prom dress for my prom. I told her that I didn’t want to do that because my sister’s dress is not my style and it wouldn’t match with my boyfriend’s outfit.”

“I told him I was gonna wear a black dress, so that’s why I needed to match him because the suit he was getting was picked just to match mine. Or was supposed to.”

“My sister’s dress is pink and not that nice looking—to me.”

“My mom told me that she didn’t have enough money to pay for my dress and that my sister’s dress was the only option. I don’t care where the dress is from as long it’s black and looks nice—thrift shop, Walmart or something.”

“I found one for $165 that I really like.”

I told her that I could use the money from my savings to pay for my own dress, but she told me that she didn’t want me to do that because she wanted me to save my money.”

“My dad’s around, but he said he wouldn’t spend money on it because it’s not a necessity.”

“So I just decided that since I wasn’t allowed to buy the dress I wanted, I just wouldn’t go. She was upset that I chose not to go and told me that I was being selfish and unfair to her.”

“She’s mad at me right now and told me that I’m hurting her feelings by choosing not to go, which I don’t necessarily see how.”

“I don’t see why she wouldn’t let me pay for my own dress when I can afford it instead.”

“She has access to my account. Usually, if my mom needs to take money out of my account, she’ll let me know, and she’ll put it back.”

“I don’t think she’ll do it without letting me know. I trust her.”

“It’s my senior prom. I’m graduating a year early, so I didn’t go to prom last year because I was classified as a sophomore.”

“My boyfriend and I weren’t even planning on staying that long anyway. It was mostly just for me to say that we went.”

The OP summed up their situation.

“My mom wants me to wear my sister’s dress, and I don’t want to.”

“She couldn’t afford to buy me a dress but is refusing to let me buy my own.”

“I told her that if I’m not allowed to buy my own dress, I just wouldn’t go.”

Redditors weighed in by declaring:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

Redditors decided the OP was not the a**hole.

“NTA. She feels guilty that she can’t buy you a new dress, and she doesn’t want you to make similar financial mistakes that lead to her situation. To most adults, a $165 dress that you’ll only wear once is a huge waste of money.”

“However, she also wants to see you happy and not miss out on a childhood experience.”

“All that said, that’s her guilt to deal with and $165 isn’t that high for prom. You can try compromising on renting or buying a cheaper dress, but you’re not the a**hole for deciding to just not go or deciding to buy the dress.” ~ karivara

“NTA. ‘She was upset that I chose not to go and told me that I was being selfish and unfair to her…’.”

“How? This is projective because the reality is your mom is being unfair to you. She’s also being manipulative.”

“It’s not her fault if she can’ buy you a dress; times are tough for a lot of people. She should let you buy one out of your savings though.” ~ Apart-Ad-6518

Some wondered why anyone buys a prom dress if they don’t routinely attend formal events.

“INFO: Is renting dresses no longer an option? Almost everyone rented their prom dress when I was in high school, so it’s a legitimate question. Maybe she’d say yes to a rental.”

“Regardless, NTA. Someone bought your sister a dress, she can’t afford/doesn’t want to buy you a dress, and won’t let you buy one either.”

“Your solution of not going sounds like the best option.”

“It’s definitely better than being forced to go in a dress you dislike or aren’t comfortable in just to satisfy your mother.”

“Prom is supposed to be about you going and having fun, not an act you’re forced to perform.” ~ LakotaGrl

“There are a number of cities where there are programs to make sure that underprivileged teens can borrow dresses and tuxs for prom. Underprivileged doesn’t mean dirt poor.”

“It can just mean a family is living paycheck to paycheck and doesn’t have extra funds for luxuries like prom attire, so don’t think that borrowing a dress from a program like this is some kind of shameful thing. A lot of families don’t have money for extras right now.”

“Alternatively, perhaps you could rent a dress from Rent the Runway. It is certainly cheaper than buying a designer gown. Maybe that could be a compromise with your mom since you wouldn’t be blowing all your savings.”

“I hope you decide to go, no matter what dress you have. It’s a great way to celebrate being a senior and to make memories with your friends.” ~ fashionably_punctual

“NTA. Also renting prom dresses and formal wear/evening gowns is becoming a lot more popular and common, and a rental doesn’t cost anywhere near what a purchase does. I would see if there’s a boutique near you that offers rentals.” ~ Fantastic_Lady225

“NTA. I can understand your mom feeling bad that she can’t provide the full experience for you, but she’s also being unreasonable here. There are places that collect donations to give to people who can’t afford new dresses.”

“Also, secondhand stores like Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Savers always have dresses and you should be able to find a nice one for under $40 at those places. The Savers near me gets a lot of bridesmaid dresses that make good prom dresses.” ~ Boop-500

One person felt the OP was being manipulative—giving her mother an “ultimatum.”

“I’m not going to give you a judgment because I remember what it was like to be 17, and your feelings are valid. But I am going to try to translate what seems to be going on from an internet stranger’s perspective.”

“Your mom feels bad because she understands that senior prom is so important at your age. But she also doesn’t want you to spend your savings on a dress that you’ll wear for just a few hours when life after high school is crazy expensive, and she might not be able to help you as much financially as she would like.”

“This doesn’t necessarily make her right or you wrong. Far from it. You both have different perspectives based off your lived experiences.”

“She also likely feels that by giving her an ultimatum you’re trying to make her feel bad or that you’re trying to guilt her into buying a different dress. That’s of course not what you’re doing but your mom already feels guilty and that is coloring her perspective of the situation.”

“I do think there is a middle ground where you can find a dress you like second hand and/or if your sister agrees, sell her old prom dress to fund one for you.”

“Ultimately, I would suggest you go to your prom, dance with your boyfriend, have fun with your friends, and enjoy this special moment that can’t be repeated, no matter what dress you wear.” ~ Ok_Ad_2437

But their opinions got plenty of pushback.

“Adults don’t need reassurance from their minor children.”

“Part of being a parent is keeping that sh*t to yourself and not putting the burden of it on your child.” ~ dustandchaos

“Let me simplify this question, since it seems there was some confusion created by you assigning good motives to the adult and ill intent to the child then viewing everything through that bias.”

“17-year-old daughter (OP) position: wear a dress she likes that matches boyfriend’s attire and willing to use own savings for it OR prefer not to go in a dress they don’t like”

“Mom position: daughter must go to prom, daughter must wear dress she doesn’t like, daughter cannot buy her own $165 dress, daughter is ‘selfish’ and ‘unfair’ to the adult if they don’t comply”

“Your nonjudgment is OP needs to be more understanding of their parent. That’s what you got from that?”

“OP isn’t demanding mom buy a dress. OP isn’t demanding she be allowed to buy a dress. If they were, they’d need to be more considerate.”

“Their inconsiderate solution was to be comfortable in a dress they like—however it’s obtained—OR not go.”

“Which you labeled an ultimatum. Is it because of OP’s age that you’re trying to vilify her or are you a parent who thinks parents are always right and kids are always manipulative?”

“Mom’s only offered solution is mandatory prom attendance in the dress she doesn’t like. PERIOD. Noncompliance means getting guilt-tripped and insulted.”

“You can’t judge the actual situation as presented, but you can twist everything into a scenario where OP is wrong and mom is a victim? 🤔 ~ Reddit

The OP hasn’t updated their post with their final decision about prom, but they had indicated they plan to speak to their mother again about finding a more suitable dress.

Maybe mom doesn’t realize it, but pink is pretty polarizing—you either love it or hate it.

A daughter whose ideal dress is black is unlikely to want to wear pink.

Written by Amelia Mavis Christnot

Amelia Christnot is an Oglala Lakota, Kanien'kehá:ka Haudenosaunee and Metís Navy brat who settled in the wilds of Northern Maine. A member of the Indigenous Journalists Association, she considers herself another proud Maineiac.