End of term leads to scary ballroom blitz

IT MAY have happened many years ago, but if I close my eyes I can still hear the screams of the young girls and I see the impassive countenance of the man behind the wheel. Yes folks, we all remember the first time we saw a stretch limo full of drunken ladettes, don't we?.

For many of these fine young women, the lifestyle choice to harangue male bystanders from the windows of outsized cars starts with transportation to the school prom. Arriving at the hotel venue in a black hackney or, heaven forbid, a private hire car, just isn't cool: it's almost as embarrassing as being dropped off by mum. No, in the absence of a pumpkin coach and horses, our latter-day Cinderella and her ugly sisters must have stretched Humvees.

Peer pressure to look good is overpowering, thus girls purchase - or, depending on the school's location, shoplift - elegant dresses to add glitz and glamour to the social event of the year. Unfortunately, for every elfin Audrey Hepburn, there are five Michelle McManuses with beer-glass figures bursting out of ball gowns. It's a sight that causes hitherto heterosexual lads to question their orientation.

Image is everything for the prom princess, thus the day begins with a visit to the money-laundering business masquerading as a beauty therapy (pronounced "ferapy") salon. Eyelash extensions, nail extensions, waxing, aromatherapy, plastic surgery - OK, I made up the last one - help turn the ugly duckling into a Plain-Jane swan. Such pampering doesn't come cheap, so to help fund the outlay, sacrifices have to be made, such as forgoing weekend spliffs.

As for the lads, it has become fashionable to wear a kilt to the prom. Like true Scotsmen, they wear nothing under the highland garb and somewhat predictably, after a few snifters from a hidden hip flask, perform a Braveheart bum-slapping show for the lassies. Although only a tiny minority of the pupils are 18 years old, some trendy schools foolishly allow senior students to have a glass of wine with the meal, at a stroke condoning under-age drinking. Popular staff have been known to collude with kids to buy bevvy from the bar and it's all harmless fun until a sixth-year lush is carted off to the local A&E after choking on her vomit in the, er, "Ladies".

For the most part, teachers maintain their professionalism at these pageants but there are always a few idiots who let the side down by over-imbibing and dancing as if suffering some sort of seizure.

The nightmare for staff occurs when the DJ spins a slow song, a move that sparks a spontaneous outbreak of dancefloor snogging. Some outraged (or should that be frustrated?) staff pull the Romeos and squiffy Juliets apart but I've always preferred a quiet word in the ear of the lustful ones. I jokingly told a kissing couple to "Get a room!", forgetting for a moment the prom was in a hotel. Apparently they followed my advice and the very next year, the assertive female proposed to the lad in the traditional manner of Glasgow girls - "The test has come back and it's positive."

Today's prom is a world away from my final year dance, when a Ben Sherman shirt and platform shoes made me feel like the bee's knees. A couple of glugs from a bottle of Scotsmac - a fine blend of wine and whisky according to the warning label - drunk al fresco in the local park, confirmed my perception of being a lady-killer. In a scene reminiscent of Ocean's Eleven, our rat-assed pack swaggered into the school assembly hall. OK, it was no chandelier-filled ballroom, but at least the badminton court lines gave us a sense of direction. Simpler pleasures, simpler times and not a stretch limo in sight.