Jonathan the Tortoise is a Seychelles giant tortoise who lives on the South Atlantic island of Saint Helena. It’s believed that he was born in 1832, making him about 187 years old.
He’s got some problems. He’s blind. He’s lost his sense of smell. One of his favorite female tortoises, Frederika, was discovered to actually be a guy a couple years back. But he still enjoys food, roaming slowly around the grounds of the governor’s mansion and, um, other pleasures. (The website devoted to Jonathan has one picture of him and another turtle, Emma, engaged in behavior that a child might incorrectly identify as wrestling.) Visiting him is said to be one of the top 20 things to do on Saint Helena.
I bring up Jonathan the Tortoise because last spring, I helped chaperone a high school prom. If you ever want to feel as old as Jonathan, I suggest you do the same.
My wife is a high school teacher who grew up in a country where they didn’t really do proms, so she loves chaperoning every year. I’d always declined the invite to attend with her, believing there’s a good number of proms to attend in a lifetime, and that number is one. But last year I relented. It was then that I discovered something that, as the years pass, I seem to discover more and more: things have changed.
Here’s how prom went down in my day. Girls picked between the roughly 15 to 20 different prom-suitable dresses available at the Galleria. Boys’ choices were precisely two: single- or double-breasted suit. You went to Men’s Wearhouse with your dad and you picked out the suit that you’d basically wear from prom through all the weddings you attended in your 20s.
It is no longer thus. At this year’s prom, I’m not sure any two boys wore the same suit. Every clothing color was represented. One boy had a suit with shorts. (It worked!) Another wore a sort of gold-patterned surgical mask. And the girls … I mean, from the way everybody was dressed, if Chris Evans and Brie Larson had gone onstage to give out an Oscar, I would not have been surprised.
This was baffling for me because – prepare to be stunned – I’m not a fashion guy. I like clothing with a certain je ne sais quoi, which is French for “coffee stains that are not so noticeable.” But I appreciated this. Kids were using fashion to express themselves on a special night.
And in one corner, I was holed up by the buffet. I don’t necessarily get modern fashion, but I appreciate snacks. I reckon I’d do well on Saint Helena.