As far back as I can remember, getting asked to a formal in high school was a big, nerve-wracking deal. Will he ask me? What if I don’t have a date? What if I don’t like the boy who asks? But in the end, it was fairly uneventful: getting called to the phone (land-line, no caller ID), hearing a boy say, ‘Do you want to go to [insert name of dance] with me?’, hanging up, calling a couple of friends to let them know the news, telling Mom I needed a dress. Low-key awesome.
But that was 30 years ago. “Uneventful” is about the last word to describe Ethan Samuels’ method of snagging a date to The Emery/Weiner School’s Winter Formal.
Ethan, a freshman, wanted to ask his longtime friend and classmate Sydney Selzer to formal. “I had been thinking about clever ways to ask her, and when my parents told me we were going to New York, something just clicked,” he says. “I was like, ‘Dad, how easy is it to get on the Today show?’
“We figured out you can go to the Today show website and RSVP. The first morning we were there, we got up at 5:15.” Ethan and his dad, Ben Samuels, left his mom and sister sleeping in their hotel room. They were so excited that they jumped the gun just a bit. “We get there, and they send us to a bakery across the street because it was way too early, so we had some hot chocolate. It was freezing.”
Even with the bakery break, once they went back, Ethan says, “Out of the hundreds of people who show up, we’re probably the second family in line. We gave them our email so they’d know we RSVP-ed. And since we’re the second people, we get a spot right behind where they talk.”
Eventually, Ethan’s was one of the six signs chosen to be on TV. “Someone reads my sign and says, ‘Hey, do you want to ask Sydney to Winter Formal on national TV?’”
Ethan had texted Sydney’s parents, Melissa and Scott Selzer, the night before to ask them to record the show, which, as it turns out, Melissa does every day. “He started texting me at 5 that morning, showing me a picture of where he’s standing,” Melissa says. “Then the show comes on at 8, and Sydney’s like, ‘Hey, Ethan’s in New York, and then she saw him and had to rewind the recording about four times to understand what he’d said.”
What he’d said was, “Hey Sydney from Houston, will you go to Winter Formal with me?” followed by cheers from the crowd.
Jen Deutsch, a friend of the Selzers, said, “You would think the date would be excited, but you’ve never heard squealing like the mothers when we found out! There’s never been a time as an adult before that I wished I’d been asked to a dance.”
As they were leaving for formal, Scott, Sydney’s dad, asked Ethan, “Couldn’t you have been more creative?”
Jordan Orsak, a senior at Bellaire High School, also took a chance while out of town. “There’s this school trip through our economics and government class,” he says. “Roughly 30 students were in D.C. for five days, and then we went to New York. There are so many sights in New York that are memorable, and I decided on the Brooklyn Bridge at night.” That’s where he asked Candace Cravey to prom.
“Me and Candace share a lot when it comes to politics, so I wrote on the front of this shirt that I got as a souvenir in D.C., ‘Cravey-Orsak 2016,’ like a political sign. Since it was so cold, I wore a jacket and zipped up.
“Then, at the Brooklyn Bridge at night, the stars were bright, everyone in our group was there, I took off my jacket and said, ‘Hey, Candace, will you be my running mate at prom?’ The whole group went wild, and she said, ‘Yes!’ in front of 30 kids.”
This kind of creativity – not to mention courage – does send shivers of the not-so-good kind up more than a few spines. “My poor kids are going to be the ones standing there with a fishbowl or some prop I bought them at Central Market,” one mom of three boys says. “I mean, what if the girl says no and then they’re standing there looking like a fool? Can’t they just take flowers and ask them?”
Editor’s note: Heard of any fun local “promposals” that should be shared? Leave a comment under this story or email email@example.com. Or be creative.
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