Imagine you are sitting in a high school classroom and a poker-faced police officer pulls you into the hall. He’s got bad news: Someone has just smacked into your car in the parking lot.
And then, when you go outside to the survey the damage, a guy pops out of a car trunk like bread out of a toaster and asks you to the prom.
That’s what happened to Natalie Hoberman at Michael Krop Senior High School. The kid in the trunk was her boyfriend.
This is what’s known as a “promposal”, an over-the-top invitation to the school prom. They are getting ever more popular, ever more creative and ever more outrageous, employing elaborate videos, choreographed dance numbers, ice sculptures, ukelele solos, skywriters, glow sticks, marching bands and whatnot.
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Gone are the days when a bashful kid would shuffle over and say, “Um, you don’t want to go to the prom with me, do you?” and that would suffice.
Promposals are showbiz.
Rachel Askowitz’s promposal from Lu Wei Huang came while she was watching a Miami Heat game at home with her family. Rachel’s sister, Danielle, who was conspiring with the would-be suitor, created a ruse to get everyone outside. She pretended to smell something burning in the yard.
“So we went out the front door and there was a trail of rose petals,” said the Miami Palmetto High senior. “He was standing there with sunflowers, which are my favorite flowers, and ‘prom’ was written out in candles.”
Lu is one of her best friends, so she wasn’t shocked he would ask.
“But I didn’t know he was going to go all-out like that,” Rachel said.
Bruno Lulinski is a senior at Krop. He produced a video during the Ultra Music Festival as a vehicle to ask his would-be date, Massiel Leiva.
Although the video eventually made its way to YouTube, the first time he showed it they were alone. He pressed play on her computer and walked outside to his car.
“Instead of doing something outlandish and something big that everyone was going to see, I thought it was more important to do something personal,” Bruno said.
The video shows the couple, along with their friends, having fun during the extravaganza at Bayfront Park, and then it cuts to Bruno alone, asking her to the prom from various locations: by the VIP tent during the closing set by Swedish House Mafia, while filling Camelbacks with water, and with two friends hoisted onto his shoulders. After the video had concluded, Bruno walked back in, with flowers
“She liked the surprise a lot,” Bruno said. “She thought it was cute. It was memorable. That’s what I wanted to go for.”
Massiel said yes.
“I don’t think a girl would say no after you put in that much effort,” Bruno said
Another Krop student showed up at the airport dressed like a chauffeur to meet his would-be date and ask her to prom.
“If you wanna get attention with so many people on there you have to do something big,” said Dionne Stephens, a teen psychology expert at Florida International University.
The way Stephens sees it, promposals are about the classic social hierarchy in high school, except now the right promposal on the right social media network is a shortcut to celebrity.
“You can be the biggest geek, not have the greatest clothes, etc., but if you do something different, you can become a star, and so in a sense what we’re finding is that this is another way that we’re seeing how culture is pushing this sort of cult of celebrity via social media,” she said.
For Adam Tzur, the trunk-popping promposal wasn’t about celebrity. It was about expectations. He has been dating Natalie for a long time, and he could have just asked her to the prom over the phone. But he knew Natalie better than that.
“It would have been more disappointing, but it wouldn’t have been a deal-breaker,” Natalie said. “I still would have gone.”
She was sitting in her AP government class — “one of my hardest classes” — near the end of the day at Krop, reviewing for a test when she noticed the school police officer standing at the door.
The cop walked in, pulled aside the teacher to consult, then asked for Natalie to come into the hallway.
“And all of a sudden there’s people looking at me and saying ‘what, what is she doing? Why is she being escorted out?’ And he’s telling me that my car got hit. So I’m like ‘oh, no.’ ”
During the walk to the car, she checked her phone and saw a text from some boy with a number she didn’t recognize.
“So I see it. He’s like, ‘Hi, Natalie, I had to go pick up my parents from the airport, I was rushing, and I hit your car. I’m so sorry.’ ”
Natalie was getting agitated now. Her blue Jetta had been in pristine condition. She wondered how much damage was done, how much it was going to cost to fix, and if this guy was going to pay for it.
As they approached the VW, the officer pointed to where the damage supposedly was, and that’s when she saw it: There was a new license plate on her car. It said: “Prom?”
At that moment, the trunk of another car popped open.
Out came Adam, wearing a tux and clutching flowers.
“To be a little funny I played Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye,” said Adam. “It was nice and surprising.”
At least he thought so.
Fortunately, Natalie thought so, too.
Natalie and Adam will be heading off to the prom Saturday night.