Parental Guidance: Prom Time

My new year’s resolutions are long forgotten. My motivation to drink more water and workout regularly have been quickly substituted by the heavenly taste of Girl Scout cookies. Oh, these sirens call out to me. After all, how can I not empower young entrepreneurs and ensure their success? So, here we go — another new year. I dig deep to find the enthusiasm to break old habits and start new ones.

Between flash cards, spelling words and red lights, every morning, as I drop off my kiddos to school, I sneak in a conversation about things we are grateful for. My goal is to acknowledge three things, they can be big or small. Depending on the hectic morning or night before, it could be anything from the beautiful day, great night sleep, the upcoming weekend, each other and/or our pets, who tend to be the most popular. As a parent, I admit, I have an ulterior motive: to keep me accountable and honest. Some days, I’m overwhelmed, stressed and distracted. I try to hide my hesitation and scramble to fill the awkward silence as my kids wait for my list. Then, I am reminded and forced to pause and to be present.

Time is so puzzling. It’s a human construct yet it feels out of our control, slipping away or dragging on, depends completely on us. Five minutes on a treadmill cannot possibly be in the same five minutes on a theme park ride, no way! But it is.

Learning to manage my time has been an ongoing roller coaster. There are apps, calendars, webinars and seminars on how to better manage your time. Yet, to quote the holy saint Taylor Swift, “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me.” I’m the one who struggles making time for myself and recognizing its value. But forcing myself to take a breath, admire a clear blue sky or feel a warm breeze, I’m learning to slow down to savor those seconds.

If you aren’t part of a marginalized group, most all spaces are your space. If you are part of a marginalized group, most spaces aren’t your space and you have to actively seek out these opportunities, looking for folks with commonalities, be it your appearance, identity, lived experience, language, ability or shared beliefs. Others unite! And when we do, magic happens.

We find solace in unity. Relaxing our guard, no longer code switching, allowing for joy to enter our souls and celebrating as we are. For most of us who live in marginalized intersections, these spaces don’t happen too often. Our daily interactions are guarded, swallowing and tolerating bad jokes, stupidities and ignorance because we are too exhausted to correct our friends or partners. Fake smiles. Leaving us feeling alone and empty. However, I’ve come to recognize that my remedy and response from this daily grind is creating experiences to be amongst my people. Igniting my passion, I am driven to build these spaces for myself and others. The others. Those of us who don’t fit into the categories placed on us.

Those of us who break the mold. Those of us who shatter the expectations that we never promised to keep. I can’t sit still. I know our community desperately needs to gather. We need our space. We need to feel that we aren’t alone. We are loved as we are. We are part of something bigger. Hence why I’m in the thick of constructing our 2024 Pride Prom.

With much hesitation, I recall my prom in high school and I cringe. I didn’t want to go. I wasn’t comfortable. I hated my dress. I hated my date, who was a boy and not the girl that I desired to go with. I hated myself for allowing myself to be in that situation. Despite those pictures being long gone, I still try to erase those memories. I know I’m not alone in this shared experience and dread associated with prom. So many of us weren’t allowed to be ourselves. We may not have known what we were, but we definitely knew what we weren’t.

So, NOW I can have a do over my way! I can feel confident in myself, my skin and my spirit. I can wear what I want to wear and bring who I want as my date. I’m still waiting on a prom proposal from my wife (insert eye roll). I may have to take matters into my own hands and ask her again. Pride Prom is our magical night to step outside of our daily routine. It’s our extraordinary chance to dress up, feel our best and together dance the night away amongst our friends, free of judgment.

No one is questioning our relationship. No one is looking at us. No one is whispering or smirking. Just us being us and our closest 1,000 friends!

I’ll admit, as a grown woman in my mid 40’s, I’m way too excited about dress shopping. I haven’t found my shoes yet, and I’m not sure what I’m going to be doing with my hair. But, filled with giddiness, I’m energized by the excitement and anticipation of prom night. And THIS is part of my self-care. One prom night won’t take care of all of life’s obstacles but in these cherished moments I feel warm and fuzzy. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to embrace my queer joy as my authentic self, be in a shared space with my community and dance until my feet hurt and my heart is full!

Come Out With Pride’s 2024 Pride Prom will be at the Orlando Science Center April 12.

Tatiana Quiroga is the executive director for Come Out With Pride. She is a proud mother, wife and LGBTQ advocate in Central Florida.

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