I never went to Prom.
Prom, for those of you who don’t know, is an annual high school dance and an American cultural institution. Its name is short for Promenade, pointing to its roots: those who get to go to Prom get to promenade or parade a bit. They parade as couples, from which line a Prom Queen and King are elected. The most preferred of the preferred.
I was naturally never a Prom Queen, either. But all my friends seemed to be. Because, as I said, I never went. Never was invited.
Oh. Did I write that already?
There are reasons behind why I never went. It might have had something to do with having been hospitalized for a good part of one high school year, having been in Salzburg another, and having essentially dropped out of high school for the better part of my senior (or graduating) year.
So all right. A bit of a hard catch.
I made up for that Prom famine by living in Vienna in my late teens — in Vienna, where there’s a whole two-month-long official Ball Season, as you probably already knew. If you’re in Vienna from January to March and if you have a hankering, you can go to every possible sort of Austrian Prom your heart desires.
You can salsa at the Mexican Ball. You can hip hop or even bunny hop at the Rabbit Breeders’ Ball. You can cakewalk at the Bakers’ Ball. My heavens, you can break dance or do the limbo at the Orthopedists’ Ball, belly dance at the Gastroenterologists’ Ball, foxtrot at the Hunters’Ball, do the gallop or the pony at the Race Track Owners’ Ball, work on your java at the Coffeehouse Owners’ Ball, do the jitterbug at the Exterminators’ Ball or the volte at the Electricians’ Ball. Learn the kurdish at the Cheese Makers’ Ball. The bossa nova at the New CEO Ball.
You can even do the can-can at the Plumbers’ Ball.
Endless options. If you want to have a ball.
And which ball do you think I went to? With the likes of Jürgen, Franz, Adalbert, and a man who for hours explained to me the finer details of how to make pork sausages, I, a quasi-vegetarian, polkaed the night away.
At the Butcher’s Ball.
But I never, ever went to Prom.
(These are not, as you’ve noted, my own Prom pictures. Since I don’t have any of my own to insert.)
Which never bothered me. I am being completely honest. It never fazed me at all. Really.
Until last spring.
Last spring, I was this close –- this close — to having an important and substantial manuscript go to press. (It was not this one, not Global Mom, but another one with my whole soul pressed flat between its pages). Indeed, the very week that volume was scheduled to go to press, the publisher and I— Prom date and moi, to build a metaphor — broke up.
The French call “breaking up” a rupture. The best word, since it did feel like something burst in me.
My bubble, I’m thinking.
In Prom lingo, the cancellation of an intended publishing undertaking meant that I wasn’t going to Prom at all. This, after having said yes to the fancy invitation, after having bought the dress, after having involved a fair number of sharp friends and family and other seasoned Prom-goers in the jubilation for My Very First Prom. After having stayed up night after night for weeks and months on end preparing for said Prom. After the boutonnière, the up-do, the limo, the music, even after walking out onto the dance floor. . . After all that work and fervor, my Prom date and I stared at each other. Did a double-take. Decided his tux and my gown just did not match.
And we walked out separate doors.
Aw. . .
And disheartening. Enough to make you swear off Proms forever.
I was flat-out sad for about twenty-four hours. “Flat-out” meant lying flat on my back and reasoning with the ceiling while I let tears slink their silent way down my cheekbones and fill up my ear reservoirs. My ceiling, to its credit, listened. It was also rather bossy. It insisted that this was a kink in the road, not the end of it; that there was not, as I told the ceiling, a cosmic moat around the magical fortress of the publishing world; that taking up learning how to make macramé birdhouses now was not, c’mon Melissa, the wisest place to rechannel my talents.
“Talents? Ha-hoh!” I groaned right then to the ceiling, “You used that word! Not I!”
(I’m editing out here all of the loving and overbearing —the loverbearing, I call them — pep talks I got from my dearest friends who believe in me more than I do. They were the ones who happened to be on my phone with me while I was communing with the ceiling.)
In spite of them and the vaulting promises from that ceiling, for a week or two I was done with writing.
Done. DONE with it.
Then a friend set me up on a blind date (back to that Prom metaphor) with a man named Christopher Robbins. OK. I was told he was a great guy, really loyal. The former CEO , I learned, of a prominent regional publishing company, Gibbs Smith, and had just launched his own media company, Familius, which meant that he just happened to be looking for seasoned authors who had writing projects underway that met with his company’s vision and mission statement. He was interested specifically in my writings about living internationally as a family.
Translated into Prom-ese, that means he just happened to be looking for a date. And preferably one with a gown a lot like mine.
The idea of a fresh, cutting-edge publishing company looking for manuscripts on global living was just enough to get me to sit up in bed. And take my eyes from the ceiling. And point them in the direction of my wrinkled Prom dress hanging dejected on the back of the bathroom door.
Via email and Skype, Christopher was competent, engaging and unquestionably involved in all aspects of the publishing process. He was super savvy. He was also snappy, getting back to my many concerns and queries in a day or less, unusual if not utterly unheard of in the publishing business. He was scrappy, too, working feverishly with numerous other authors on a long list of projects ranging from film festivals to vlog launches. And in next to no time, significant results were already sprouting up among his authors’ titles.
Just last month, in fact, two Familius titles were listed among the top of Amazon’s “Favorite Reads”. Merited results, I’d say, especially for a Skypey, savvy, snappy, scrappy and happily married father of nine (nine!) who didn’t bat an eyelash when I asked him if, for our second Skype session, he wouldn’t mind, (Uh, this might seem just the teeniest bit bizarre, Christopher), wearing his tux?
Just so I could be sure we match.
And now Global Mom, A Memoir is in the Familius pipeline slotted for a top-of-2013 release. I’m writing on a full-time schedule, as writers with contracts and book covers must.
Having a private little ball here all by myself, now.
Thank you from my tender heart for your kind support, readers and friends.
© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2012. This work (text and images) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.