Cue Lionel Ritchie

Cue Lionel Ritchie

As this year’s All Night Long after-prom party begins at midnight, music pounds throughout U-Hall, which feels empty despite the hundreds of kids from Western Albemarle, Albemarle, Charlottesville and Monticello highs, arriving post-prom in various states of formal undress, white tuxes paired with pink ties and pink waistcoats being this year’s sartorial cutting edge. At the entrance, the teens are greeted by a table of Army recruiters with an array of Army brochures, packs of Army playing cards, Army pens and Army key-chains—a real sign of our times. I ask a volunteer why the Army is recruiting at the high school after-prom party and she says they’re not supposed to be “recruiting,” just helping (which seems to mostly take the form of playing basketball all night in their desert camo and combat boots). So I ask a female Army person why the Army is here at a high school after-prom party and she tenses up, not looking at me, and says they’re a sponsor and are just chaperoning. I ask if she’s having fun, to which, still not looking at me, she replies, “It’s O.K.”

What: All Night Long, alcohol-free after-prom party

Where: U-Hall

When: Sunday, April 27, midnight-5 a.m.

The basketball court is filled with giant, inflatable, bouncy rubber edifices, a live karaoke band and a DJ, the prevailing vibe being “slumber party w/amusement rides.” Poker tables, an airbrush tattoo parlor, and two huge TVs plugged into Dance Dance Revolution and Rock Band are arrayed along the circular concourse, while downstairs there is the “food court”: a grotesque buffet with candy spilling across tables, a trough of pudding, slowly browning fruit, fried chicken, hardening spaghetti, bowls of burgers, and pizza piled up in heaps, etc. etc. And the whole thing will go on All Night Long, from 1:30 when the doors close (you can check out anytime you like, but you can’t come back in) until 5 in the morning, you better believe it.

In order to best celebrate the substance-free event, the DJ plays classic odes to getting wasted, from Clapton’s “Cocaine” to Winehouse’s “Rehab.” The staggering array of different clothes, body shapes, hairstyles, and types of kids is a study in pubescence in all its awkward glory. Everything happens in groups—of two, four, 10—and the groups float, collide and break up, in a kind of bee-dance spelling out a message, I’m sure, but what? A t-shirt that reads “Video games ruined my life…good thing I have 2 extra lives” provides a clue, and the Rock Band/Dance Dance videogame area is a hive of activity, with certain kids pretty much camping out, including one girl who, I swear, is there all night long Dancing, Dancing, Revolting.

Most kids went to private parties after prom, but when asked why they came here instead, two All Night Long attendees replied in unison, “There’s food!”

“You’ve been doing this all night!”

Smile, nod, “I know!” but the eyes never leave the screen and the feet never stop stepping.

“Are you getting better?”

Smile, nod, “Uh huh!”

Some kids do one thing all night, other kids do everything, and although by 3am there are only about 50 or so left, those that remain are committed to staying until 5, catching up with friends from other schools, scarfing the free food, and genuinely enjoying the alcohol-free aspect, which, as one 17-year-old girl with way cool multi-colored glasses explains, lets them be themselves and have fun without any pressure or “threats.” It is her first time staying up all night and her knee never stops bouncing as she sits in the bleachers watching her boyfriend dominate the laser tag.

On a day filled with opportunities for excess (from Foxfield to the proms—and yes, some kids were drunk and stoned at prom), these mini-Britneys and Amy Ws and P Diddys, I can see as the hours melt, are only impersonating young adults. They are really here to play, with that wide-open look on their faces that kids get when they are honestly being kids. Nobody is drinking or snorting Ritalin or smoking Salvia or having sex. There are no fights or accidents (other than one cut finger), just pajama pants and discrete kisses and sprints through the halls and a two-liter Pepsi bottle in each hand (“this is like three hours worth of soda!”) held aloft in triumph.

At the end of the night, the basketball game still rages as does Dance Dance Revolution and Rock Band. The sombrero-wearing kid who seemed glued to the bleachers has finally gotten up, and the floor is littered with discarded shoes. Kids collapse exhausted on the giant, inflatable, bouncy rubber edifices. “You made it!” I say to way-cool-multi-colored-glasses and she says, “I did! My father was wrong!” And one girl, a slip of a thing in a purple top with fake diamonds and a fake tattoo, remains strapped into the gyroscope, spinning beautifully upside down, curly pony tail flopping and head thrown back in glee.

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