ThreeSixty: A prom story

THREESIXTY JOURNALISM

ThreeSixty’s Your Turn writing contest is taking a summer break while we run summer camps and take some time off. See you in September!

Meanwhile, read the winning essay in our Prom Stories contest. Nakami Tongrit-Green won $100 and a much-coveted ThreeSixty t-shirt.


Nakami Tongrit-Green, Harding Senior High School

In my family, I was always the most feminine out of my sisters. I was the little, frilly and emotional girl wrapped in silk ribbons and decorated with white dresses and bows. Unlike my older sister, I was too afraid to play in the dirt, fall off my bike or even to roll around in my own mess of stuffed animals and dolls.

Because of this, I have always been a little hesitant to just let myself go. I was a friendly girl but for as far back as I can remember, I have always been fairly reserved and in many ways, unsure of the strength that I possessed. So I contained myself, never allowing myself to completley express myself physically or emotionally.

I have been fortunate howevever, to have an older sister with an amazing outlook on the meaning of self-confidence, personal freedom and life in general. She has taught me so much and as we have been growing older, I have learned so much from her; more than I could ever imagine and for this reason I love and respect her highly.

When I was 6 years of age, my family was in a tragic car accident which left my older sister, Maryama, paralyzed from the waist down. Her recovery was in no way, shape or form easy but simply phenominal. Her strength and determination through numerous surgeries and medications is mind-boggling to me as I imagine myself in her situation. This positive attitude is what has carried her through her life up to this point, particularly in high school, a place where peer pressure, acceptance and conformity often overshadow our true identities.

Hers has not been moved. Because her difference is recognized immediately in the silver spokes and rubber tires that graze her hands each day, there is no reason to hide any other part of her. And she doesn’t. Not for anyone.

It was this year, her senior year in high school, that she figured she’d try something different. When she came to me and told me that she had bought a ticket to the prom the last day that tickets were on sale, and got a date, my girly girl instincts sent a burst of excitement from my red-painted toenails to the bun on the top of my head. I swear pink and yellow hearts began dancing around my head and the pages of the prom catalogue flipped through my mind in slow motion.

The point is, I was extremely excited for her, and she gave me the honor of doing her hair and make-up for the night. She left me out of the task of picking out her dress, knowing I would have made the process more painful than neccessary. Although I am only a sophomore, I had already searched through the pages of the prom catalogue and picked out the perfect dress that I was going to wear to prom.

However, my best friend informed me that I did actually have to have a date who was an upperclassmen in order to go to the prom, and no matter how in love I was with that dress, the dress did not count as a date. So I focused full-time on making sure everything was right for my sister on prom night.

Her friends helped her find her outfit, and I remained the advisor, suggesting the proper jewelry, accessories and shoes. When prom day finally came around, I had to rush home from work get the make-up and tools needed, then go to her friend’s house and work my magic.

In that moment, as I bent down on my knees and touched my sister’s beautifully soft and toned skin, I felt it. This was my moment to give back. To give back a little of what she’s given to me and do it in my own way, the way that she knew I could. So I picked up the eyeliner and glazed the pencil along her almond-shaped eyes, tickled her cheeks with blush and lifted her eyelashes with mascara. She didn’t need any foundation. As a matter of fact, she didn’t need much of anything. A little eye make-up did the job. So I twisted and styled her jet black hair, pulled the sides back with silver hair pins to bring out her cheekbones and simply glossed her lips. I took a step back, and stared in awe.

“I’m supposed to be the pretty one!”, I joked. But inside I couldn’t have been happier.

I was even happier when she got back from the prom and told me what an amazing time she had and how pretty everyone told her she looked. Her date was a perfect gentleman and everything worked out as I hoped.

Prom this year was not about me. It was not about me looking cute and finding some upperclassman just so I could wear a pretty dress. Prom 2008 was about watching my older sister grow, as she has helped me grow.

I am blessed to have a sister who is so different from me because in so many ways, we fill in each other’s gaps. I want my sister to know that she has always and will always be beautiful to me…inside and out. And I will always be here for her, beyond fashion ideas and fancy occasions. When she leaves this fall for college, I will miss her terribly.

But this year’s prom will be a memory that we will both have for the rest of our lives, as it brought out a type of beauty richer than any dress or make-up caked face: the beauty of my relationship with my big sister. That is something that cannot be found in the movies, books or the pages of a prom catalouge.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by John Olson on 06/10/2008 - 12:13 pm.

    As we watch our children grow up in a world that is substantially different from the one we grew up in, we all too often forget those simpler times. More importantly, we often forget as parents that we need to slow the speed of life down enough to let our own kids be kids and allow them to enjoy life.

    We hear too many of the negative connotations and stereotypes of today’s youth almost daily. Articles written from the heart such as this remind all of us that some things in life are more important and should not be taken for granted.

    Nakami, thank you for sharing with us! May you and your sister both find success and happiness.

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