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Gentlemen or We’re Making Mistakes But At Least We’re Trying

By Michelle Lehnardt


“A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out.” George Bernard Shaw

It started with a phone call. The daughter of a friend-of-a-friend from our neighboring high school would really like to go to her senior prom, and would my son be willing to take her? I told her I’m sure he’d be willing (he’d done a similar set-up as a sophomore when he was old enough to date but too young to ask to prom), but what about finding three or four girls and we’d set up a group? Less awkward for everyone.

Just a week later, I stood in my side yard chatting with a darling group of teens as we took prom photos under our rose arch. Seven of the eight couples had met only minutes before, yet everyone talked freely, pinned on boutonnieres and struck all the usual prom poses as I snapped away on my camera.

By all accounts, the evening progressed beautifully– after photos in my yard, the group enjoyed dinner at my saintly friend Tiffany’s home (where she took this darling photo) before moving on to the dance and arriving back at my house, sweaty and laughing, changing into comfortable clothes to eat cookies and play games until 1 a.m. Listening from the next room, my husband and I marveled at the conversation and laughter among these new friends.

The date was a success, but the planning…. oh my, it was PAINFUL.

While Xander (and his older brothers) had participated in set-ups like this before, he’d never been in charge of recruiting, arranging and facilitating communication. Happily, he had no problem finding friends who were perfectly willing to take out a girl they didn’t know. It was rather lovely, in fact, to see how many of these ‘big men on campus’ eagerly volunteered and never even asked for a photo of their prospective date.

But the communication….well, there was the embarrassing incident where one girl called a boy to thank him for asking her to the prom and he replied, “What’s your name? I don’t think I asked you.” (That one was cleared up by approximately 37 texts and 3 phone calls).

And then there was the boy who didn’t know he should call his date before the morning of prom. Jane had no idea of who he was or what was going on and the conversation quickly went beyond the diplomacy powers of a 17-year-old boy. I called Jane to explain and was impressed by her spunk when she responded, “Well, this is great. Thank you. I’ll go find a dress.”

In the midst of other minor miscommunications, Xander jokingly grumbled to me, “See, this is why we shouldn’t try to do nice things.” He wasn’t serious, but I think we all feel similarly at times– the effort to do something kind often seems to outweigh the benefits. The fear of offending surpasses the joy of generosity.

Putting together something like a group prom date requires patience and courage on both sides. I respect a girl who says, “I want to go to prom and I’m willing to deal with the discomfort of attending with a stranger.”

While the boys were willing to go, over and over I heard them express to each other, “I just don’t understand why Prom is so important to girls.” Despite our eloquent explanations (“It just is!”) they never seemed to grasp the mystique of the last dance of high school. We could criticize this inability to understand, instead, I saw real beauty in doing something not because they understood it’s value, but simply to make someone happy.

This week, we’re setting up dates for girls from our own high school for Senior Prom on April 29th. I feel an especial responsibility to girls in our ward to ensure those who want to go have the opportunity. I also believe we are gifting the boys with experience in acting as true gentlemen. We’ve learned some lessons from last week– better communication soars to the top of the list– but it’s all a bit easier with the knowledge that our efforts, be they ever so awkward, bring just a few more drops of happiness into the world.


  • Arranged dates should be a straight set-up. No elaborate ‘promposals’ or even cupcakes on the doorstep. Go for clarity, not cutesy.
  • At least one of the groups should be a group of friends. Most of the boys should know each other or most of the girls should be acquainted.
  • Make sure all monetary costs are outlined ahead of time.
  • Put one girl in charge of forming a group text and one boy to do the same for the boys. 90% of communication problems solved!
  • Let the girls do as much planning as possible.
  • Keep it simple!

What are the prom traditions in your neck of the woods? (there’s no precedent for going stag to prom around here).

Have you ever tried to put together something kind and been discouraged by the details? Was it worth it in the end?






About Michelle Lehnardt

(Blog Team) I'm the kind of mom who drives through mud puddles, throws pumpkins off the roof and lets the kids move the ping-pong table into the kitchen for the summer. Despite (or probably, because of) my immaturity, my five sons and one daughter are happy, thriving, funny people. I'll climb a mountain with you, jump into a freezing lake hand-in-hand or just sit with you while you cry. I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ will heal the earth. Founder of buildyourteenager.com, scenesfromthewild.net and rubygirl.org.

3 thoughts on “Gentlemen or We’re Making Mistakes But At Least We’re Trying”

  1. That is so great! My daughter is going solo to her prom this weekend. It has been a big family production and I'm like the boys: "What's the big deal?" But it is to her, enough to be willing to go alone. I'm praying she has a good experience. I'm new to the Georgia prom customs, so we'll see.

  2. What a sweet experience! And what delightful, wonderful young men.

    We live in New York and the experience of prom is different. Dating is different. Everything about girl/boy relationships are different. I can't even imagine girls here allowing themselves to be set up with perfect strangers. Our ward covers a huge geographical area and the boys outnumber the girls at least 4 to 1. Most of the YW in the ward are younger than 16. We have a huge group of priests and they basically don't have many options when it comes to dating. Dating non-members is challenging to say the least-especially when dealing with different standards and expectations.

    I don't know that my sons here will go to prom. My oldest has only gone on two dates since he turned 16. I feel kind of bad and I wish he had the opportunity to group date and enjoy the fun things I see coming from areas with more members. I don't know how this will affect him when he goes to college. What can you do?

  3. Same as Tiffany here (I'm in metro MA). Your description of dating, proms, social connections and even gentlemanly-ness is completely foreign to me. Here,prom is expensive and over the top, and definitely not something many kids are even thinking about (at least my kids aren't — I've checked with them, and they look at me like, "huh?" ha!). I'm thrilled when my kids ask groups of friends over to watch a movie or play games. That's the majority of their mixed gender socializing and I'm totally good with that. They still have to make arrangements through about a thousand group texts, but these types of situations seem more egalitarian and accessible to all kids.


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