Spring, 1995. The prom king and queen nominees were announced at my high school. It just so happened that one of the nominees was my pal, Mark.
Mark was tall, handsome, athletic. The star defensive end for the football team and a state champion wrestler. A hard partier and a friend to everyone. If it sounds like I had a man crush, I may have. He was kind of Liam Hemsworth before his time.
A group of us that ran together were talking, making fun of “King” Mark. That’s when he said he wasn’t going to prom. He and his girlfriend had gone as juniors, and neither cared to drop the cash to go again. Most of us, Mark’s friends, didn’t have girlfriends or were in the same financial boat, so he wouldn’t have his pals to hang out with, either. One of us said, “What if you’re king?” Response: “I’m still not going.”
A week later, the ballots came out. Brian, Tony and I – all pals of Mark – were in the same senior English class, where we voted. It was a busy day, and the teacher sat the ballots on the corner of her desk and told us to vote when we had a minute.
Glances were exchanged. A bunch of whispering. Shuffling up to the desk. Snag five or six ballots instead of one. Three guys, 15-20 ballots. All votes for Mark.
When class was over, we tracked down a few more of the crew, explained what was up. When they went to senior English, they repeated the dirty trick. In all, we probably fudged 40 or so ballots in our guy’s favor.
Those votes, combined with the people who actually voted legitimately for Mark, put him over the top. We had a big laugh about it.
Except, of course, when those unintended consequences ended up ruining the fun. Bastard consequences.
See, when we’d all cast our vote for Mark, we also had to circle a girl on the ballot. Here, we went at random. We weren’t looking to stack that deck, was the figuring, so we’d spread the votes.
Little thought was given to the girl who actually won, the one who was standing there alone – with no king – when the big moment came. Alone getting her crown, no one for the first dance. That’s bad enough. But, as you can guess by now, dear reader, it wasn’t the class bitch who won the girl’s crown. Oh no. The stunningly beautiful, incredibly nice (even to awkward idiots like us) girl in our class won. We were told she was pretty embarrassed. And that was laid on us, even if no one else knew we’d done it.
Winning wasn’t as … sweet then. What had been intended as a final middle finger to the institution we had no respect for ended up being a middle finger to a wonderful young woman who was collateral damage to our prank, undeserving of what happened to her.
Not one of my finest moments. And that’s why when I hear stories of polls being closed early, people being turned away for voter registration because they don’t look right (i.e. white), and so on and so on, I think about the unintended consequences of such actions. I’m ashamed of myself for helping fix a prom vote. I wonder if the scumbags working so hard to screw people out of their constitutional right to vote for their president have any second thoughts.
I hope so. But I doubt it.
Vote. It matters. Even when it’s for prom king and queen.