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IF ONLY I'D KNOWN ALL THIS BEFORE

Six years ago, back when Kelly Clarkson was popular and iPhones didn't exist, I went to my first prom. I worried about finding a good place to eat. I took my shoes off because my feet ached (yes, ew). I was furious with my hairdresser for an unflattering updo.

Looking back, I wish someone had pulled me aside and told me to forget about all of those things and just enjoy what was happening in the moment. I fondly recall both my junior and senior proms, but I wish I had appreciated them more.

Here's a list of things I wish I'd known before I went to prom:

KEEP IT SIMPLE: Ladies, I know it's tempting to go overboard with the accessories. How often do you get to spend an entire day dressing up for people who typically see you in whatever you were able to throw on minutes before you dashed out the door? But keep your outfits simple, and choose comfort above all else. (Please.) If shoes hurt/pinch/wobble when you try them on, they won't get you through a night's worth of dancing. And clutch purses? Absolutely no. It's easy to lose track of that teeny bag when your arms are waving back and the forth to that Gaga tune. Try to avoid a purse altogether; bring only what you need and ask your date (or any male friend) to put it in his pocket for you.

PREPARE TO PERSPIRE: Very few promgoers can remain sweat-free dancing all night in a packed room. So plan for that. Ladies, wear your hair up. Guys, try leaving the jacket at the table, or skip the vest. Most of all, don't worry when your hair is sopping or your shirt is stained or your makeup is running down your face. So is everyone else's.

GRIN AND BEAR IT: This is a fact: There will be someone who wants to take photos of you all dressed up and ready for the big dance. Let them. It's not worth getting irritated, and you'll want those pictures later.

LESS IS MORE: It's hard to resist making plans with everyone you've ever known during prom season. That is not a good idea. Aim for a definite plan with three to five people, and stick to that plan. More people means more conflicts, more opinions and, let's face it, more drama. Small groups will make your night less stressful and, chances are, you'll see everyone you want to before the night is over.

DINING: Opt for dinner before the dance at a relaxed, casual location. The wait times will be significantly less than at popular fancy restaurants packed with your peers. And a not-too-elaborate dinner will take the edge off what is already a nervous night.

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