Boom boxes, big signs, and bare chests painted with the letters P, R, O, and M. These are all hallmarks of an average day in March at Berkeley High School during promposal season. 2023 has been no exception to this tradition.
Simone Landau, a senior at BHS, asked her boyfriend to prom by singing the words to “Dancing in the Moonlight” while friends played the drums, saxophone, guitar, keyboard, and more in front of the C-Building during lunch.
“I picked that song because we both love it, and we used to listen to it a ton at the beginning of our relationship,” Landau said.
Besides practicing with the band to prepare for the big debut, “the day of (the promposal), I left third period 30 minutes early with my friends and we took all the band equipment from the A-Building down to the courtyard,” Landau said, “It took like six trips. … We almost didn’t set up in time … so I asked (my boyfriend’s) friend to stall him.”
Historically at BHS, promposals, where students propose to each other to go to prom, have gone all out. Mia Jeffery, a BHS alumni, choreographed and participated in a flash mob to the song “Take on Me” in 2018 for her promposal in junior year.
“In 2017, there was a competition run by Mr. V. (where) whoever had the best promposal would get two free tickets to prom … and people got really creative with it, doing dances, giving out gifts, (and) singing,” Jeffery said. However, in 2018, BHS stopped sanctioning promposals or holding a competition due to the distractions some posed to learning.
But in 2023, the vote for best promposal is back. With prom tickets priced at $70, or $40 with free or reduced lunch, free tickets posed a powerful incentive for elaborate promposals.
“There is a fine line between being fun and being disruptive with (promposals) that are huge spectacles at school,” said Joey Hall, one of the seniors behind the BHS 2023 Promposals Instagram account.
Promposals that happen in the middle of class can disrupt learning, frustrating students and staff and leading promposals to be painted in a negative light.
Because of this, “when people are doing promposals at school, I like that they tend to do them at lunch, because people are already out, it’s fun to see it, and it’s just a good time,” Hall said.
Most importantly, to keep promposals fun, consent is key.
“It’s important to know that the person that you might be asking won’t feel uncomfortable being in the public eye,” Jeffery said. “They might not be open about their relationship status or sexuality, so you definitely have to keep that in mind when proposing.”
For Emmett Tjen, senior and co-commissioner of athletics at BHS, privacy was an important consideration for his promposal so that the special moment could be celebrated without feeling overwhelming.
“I decided to do it during the sixth period (because) we both have a free sixth period,” said Tjen. He added, “It was on the football field and I just told people that I wanted to be there, so it wasn’t super public.”
Tjen’s promposal was soccer themed, including flowers, a poster, two goals side by side labeled “yes” or “no,” and it ended in a soccer ball being kicked into “yes.”
Promposals also provide an opportunity for students to step outside of traditional gender roles assigned within relationships.
When Jeffery performed her flashmob, “a teacher was watching out the window, and she was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s a girl promposing to a guy!’” Jeffery said. “She was so happy and excited to see that, (which) made me feel validated and not weird for doing it.”
Landau also wanted to disrupt the idea that guys should ask girls to prom.
“I wanted to make him feel special,” she said.
Maia Kesler, a senior, platonically promposed to her friend by serenading her during fifth period, with the help of her guitar class and the permission of both teachers.
“A lot of the promposals that I see are straight, cis couples … but I think that friend promposals are so sweet,” Kesler said. “It’s fun to do something out of your love for a friend.”
On Monday morning, the BHS morning bulletin announced that the promposal contest winners were Zoe Brown-Bankhead and Jackson Harris. Brown-Bankhead promposed to Harris with a flowers and a football that read, “You intercepted my heart! Prom?”
Originally, winning free tickets had been a big motivator for Kesler. However, though “that’s what the idea started from, now it’s just a really funny memory,” Kesler said.
Landau similarly viewed the vote as fun, but not her main goal.
“Though it would (have been) super cool to get the vote, I don’t need the title of ‘best promposal’ to know I am a winner,” said Landau, “I won the second he said yes.”