The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

Farewell to Formalities

Photo Illustration by Kristin Kuwada and Kate Schrage

When Marc Novicoff ’18 walked onto the quad after his eighth period class, he was immediately led to a chair in the middle of a crowd on the quad. Awaiting his arrival in the center of all the commotion was Nicole Bahar ’18, prepped with a sign, flowers and backup dancers ready to spring into a choreographed dance to the tune of Justin Bieber’s “One Less Lonely Girl.”

“I was definitely a little caught off guard when I first sat down,” Novicoff said. “Halfway through [the dance] I tried to get up because I was kind of thinking I could participate, but instead I was supposed to sit. I was definitely a little nervous in the chair. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with my hands and my eyes and anything.”

Bahar felt confident in asking Novicoff because of her status as a senior, she said.

“Being a senior kind of gives you the confidence and lets you get away with certain things because people respect you more,” Bahar said. “So even if you’re doing something crazy on the quad, people won’t judge as much because they’ll respect that it’s something a senior is doing.”

Bahar said she has noticed that significantly more girls have asked their dates to formal this year, especially among the senior class.

“I feel like our grade has a really big, confident group of girls and so I think that obviously attributes the ‘girl asking boy’ situation,” Bahar said.

A Chronicle poll of 301 students found that 84 percent think more girls have asked guys to Homecoming Formal this year than in the past.

Novicoff said he enjoyed being at the receiving end of the ask, which was unlike any of his past homecoming formal experiences. He said he prefers to ask people with a punny sign in a hallway or a classroom, where there will not be a large audience.

“In past years, I’ve asked people in a pretty low-key way just because I don’t usually want to put somebody else on the spot like that,” he said. “I think [Bahar] figured because we’re both in improv together that she could really pull anything, and I’d be okay with it. It was nice to have it in her hands this time and not have to worry about it.”

He said that while he acknowledges there are certain expectations for homecoming asks to be planned and initiated by guys rather than by girls, he appreciated the change.

“I liked the switcheroo,” he said. “It was nice to have the roles reversed and get flowers and a poster and stuff like that.”

This trend is indicative of an increasingly progressive student body that is becoming more conscious of gender stereotypes, Bahar said.

“I definitely think every year things are changing for the better for women,” Bahar said. “We’re really in the heart of it, we’re in the thick of that change, because we’re the generation growing up with a really strong feminist movement and with feminist ideals.”

Alyse Tran ’18 said she also believes her ask for her boyfriend Owen Hallinan ’18 corresponds with the trend of more girls asking their dates to formal. She said her peers, however, were not as open to the idea as she thought they would be.

“I got a lot of weird comments from a lot of people actually saying things like, ‘that’s weird’, ‘why isn’t he asking you’ or ‘he should ask you,’ ” Tran said. “I was really surprised because, especially in this time, I didn’t expect to receive comments that were judgmental.”

Likewise, Bahar said there still are implicit deterrents against a girl asking someone they have a romantic interest in.

“It’s just the scenario where girls are being more bold and asking guys—it’s a very new situation, so it’s going to take some time until girls are just asking any guy the same way that guys just ask any girl,” she said. “I think for guys, the way they choose their dates, a lot of the time, has to do with physical traits. When girls are asking guys, I think there’s more consideration of personality and friendship.”

Standing on the quad holding a plate of brownies and a sign with a reference to the TV show “The Office,” Dahlia Low ’20 said she felt no hesitations in asking her best friend to formal.

“If you’re going just as friends, I don’t think of it as nerve-racking as if I were asking a love interest or something,” Low said. “It’s more laid back and more of a funny thing with a friend.”

Bahar said she attributes girls’ inclination to ask friends over love interests to the comfort of knowing their date is less likely to reject them.

“I think boys [are still less embarrassed] to go and ask a girl that they’ve never spoken to. But for most of the girls, we’re asking guys who we’re friends with and who we’ll get a safe “yes” from,” Bahar said.

Low, on the other hand, said she believes girls ask their friends to formal because they tend to have known them for longer than potential love interests.

“When you’ve known the person for longer, it makes it more comfortable for you. Like for me, I was totally comfortable asking [my date] because we’re so close,” Low said. “Maybe for some people, in lower grades, the relationships haven’t been going for so long and there’s a different dynamic between classmates because they haven’t known each other for so long.”

Bahar said she thinks having a close friend as her date will make her experience at formal more enjoyable.

“I feel like I’m going to enjoy Homecoming a little bit more just because the reason I chose my date is because I know I’m gonna have a fun time with them,” she said. “Before, it was a little more orchestrated, like ‘if I go with this person then I’ll go to this preformal, and he’s nice and people won’t judge me.’”

Flynn Klace ’19 surprised her girlfriend Josie Baker ’18 with a sign, flowers, balloons and a pie in Baker’s kitchen. Klace said she decided to do the Homecoming Formal ask because they had already agreed Baker would ask her to prom.

“She had golf so I asked her mom to let me into the house before she got home so I could set up all of the stuff in the kitchen,” Klace said. “I had told Josie I couldn’t hang out until later so once she got home she wasn’t expecting it at all.”

Like Bahar, Klace also enjoyed being in the position of planning and asking this year, which she found to be more exciting than being on the receiving end of an ask.

“It was super fun asking,” she said. “I got asked last year, and that was awesome as well, but seeing her reaction and planning the whole thing was probably more fun than being asked myself. I actually put a little note on the door for her to come into the kitchen because she might not have otherwise but she was still surprised. Her reaction was hilarious, and it made it worth it.”

Klace said she appreciates the school’s community for being accepting and inclusive of LGBTQ couples.

“I feel really lucky to go to a school where I can feel comfortable being open about my true self and not have to hide,” she said. “It’s always a little nerve-wracking, but overall I’m really excited [to go with Josie].”

Although Klace thinks there has not been a rise in LGBTQ presence at Homecoming Formal, she acknowledges that more students are beginning to feel comfortable with coming out.

“I hadn’t noticed that there had been an increase in LGBT couples going together to homecoming, but I have noticed an increased ‘out’ presence of people on campus, which does make me happy,” Klace said.

In addition, she agrees that there has been a recent increase in reversing gender roles because of shifting mentalities within the community.

“I think it is becoming less and less important which gender asks the other which is something I’m really glad to see,” she said.

In the poll, 73 percent of students think gender roles have influenced Homecoming asks, while only 12 percent believe gender should have an influence in asks.

Similarly, Novicoff said he appreciates the rising trend of girls asking guys because it defied conventional perceptions of expected gender roles.

“I think it’s just like a typical, normal gender role that guys ask girls out, guys pay on their first date and stuff like that where it’s just assumed, but I’m glad guys are letting girls ask and that girls are wanting to ask,” he said. “This year, for sure, there have been way more asks that girls have done for guys than in previous years.”

More to Discover
Activate Search
The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School
Farewell to Formalities