Perhaps there is no greater indignity than missing one's prom. Or not having the right dress.
So feared Wyandanch parent Yessenia Santana recently, as she calculated the cost of the trappings of her daughter's senior year: a prom ticket and a seat on the party bus, $200; close to $900 on a class ring. Prom night seemed daunting. The dress was still a question mark; and hair and makeup sessions loomed. "I'm going to spend another $600 on that, because she's got long hair!"
Saturday, she fretted a little less.
Her daughter, Maria Leon-Santana, 18, was among 200 students from Long Island and New York City schools to register Saturday for a free prom dress, donated by boutiques, some "gently worn," said Joanna Konopka, president of WGIRLS Coastal Long Island chapter, which held the event at Kings Park High School.
"Prom these days has gone up so much in price," said Konopka, who enlisted The Body Shop and Cactus Academy to offer free makeup and hair appointments, respectively. Easily "$1,000, for the limo, hair and accessories," she said. In the midst of it all, she and teachers said they fear some students can't keep up.
Dozens of students -- many from low-income families, whose parents work multiple jobs -- swarmed the racks in the school's gymnasium.
Some young women, said Laura Santiago, the senior class adviser at Wyandanch Memorial High School, were glad the event was not at their own school. "They don't want the other girls to notice," she said.
The issue is fraught with anxiety for young women who'd like to partake in a tradition but not the cost. As Anabelle Marmol, a senior from Comsewogue High School in Port Jefferson Station put it: "It's ridiculous, for one night."
But it is hard to take such a stand. "It makes me mad," said Andreana Diaz, 17, also a senior at Comsewogue. Other girls have "had their dresses since October," she said, and there is a Facebook page devoted to dresses, so the girls do not duplicate. "I don't really care about prom, but I still want to look nice."