A news report this spring stated that high school kids spend almost $4 billion each year for dresses, flowers, fancy suits, pre-dance dinners, limousines and other prom-related items. What an incredible industry this right-of-passage has become.

Although I have no reliable data, I will state with some certainty that my flower-child generation that came of age during the 1960s spent nothing close to $4 billion on proms ó not even adjusted down for inflation.

Actually, most of us didnít even want to go. Perhaps I should say that most of the guys didnít want to go.

You would think that after almost four decades, the month of May could arrive without my remembering fondly the events surrounding my own high school graduation, but I guess I need to accept the fact that this will never happen. It is, or it should be, a magic time in the lives of every young person who completes high school. Fortunately, all the other events during that last month of my high school career have helped suppress the less than lovely memories of prom night.

The anniversary of one of those happier days that I canít shake from my memory ó nor do I want to ó came yesterday. May 10 was the day my parents bought me the first car I could call my own. No longer did I have to align my schedule with my fatherís carpool commute to his job. A car represented freedom, mobility and the successful completion of all the requirements Mom and Dad had laid out in order for me to qualify for such an important graduation gift. And it came into my possession just in time for another big day for a high school senior ó prom.

I hadnít planned on attending. I told my mother as much, and my plans abruptly changed. I distinctly remember being told that some young lady, somewhere, would never forget not being able to attend her high school prom because there was no boy who would ask her to go. Asking someone to be your date to the prom, Mom explained, is not asking for a commitment to a long-term relationship. Simply going to the prom, you see, is more important than the person who goes with you, and at our high school prom, only couples were allowed.

It didnít matter that, unlike Archie Bell and the Drells (from Houston, Texas), I couldnít dance just as good as I walk. In fact, I couldnít dance at all. As it turned out, neither could my date. At least, thatís what she graciously said before leaving the table where we were seated and making the rounds to see how many friends she could talk to.

I donít know if she had as much fun there as I did. I found out that summer she tore up the photos that were taken of each couple attending.

But hey, at least she wasnít burdened with that other set of horrible memories because she did NOT attend the prom.

The thing I remember best about prom night ó and remember most fondly ó was the restaurant where about a dozen of us went to get dessert after the dance was over. A great time was had by all. On a visit to that New Mexico city a few years ago, I asked some friends from high school about our prom-night restaurant. It happens that today, people of good reputation donít choose to go there.

Perhaps it would have all turned out better if we had spent hundreds of dollars on wardrobe, rented a limo and trashed a hotel ballroom. My crowd probably would not have considered any of that to be a good time, especially at a time when we had a lot of other places money could be better spent.

Times change, though, and do they ever. But thankfully, I went, so I havenít spent my life wondering what I missed had I stayed home. Itís just as well that I saved my money, because either way, it was bound to be one of the most memorable, if awkward, days of my life.

Gene Deason is managing editor of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Friday. He may be reached by e-mail at gene.deason@brownwoodbulletin.com.