IHS prom ‘slays’

Commentary: Overheard at prom, a younger generation's show of support is an encouraging sign for the future (even if we don't understand their slang).


Local News

April 22, 2024 - 3:23 PM

A trio of girls shout compliments as Kennedy Maier and Kendall Glaze enter Iola High School prom Saturday. Photo by Screenshot/Iola Register Facebook Live

A trio of junior high-age girls shouted their compliments as couples emerged from their vehicles during Iola High School’s prom Grand March Saturday evening. 


“Yass, queen.”

“It’s giving, it’s giving…”

“You’re serving.”

“You ate.”

Because I’m not current with the Gen Alpha and Gen Z lingo, those apparently are all flattering remarks. I overheard a mom explain that “you ate” is “the thing right now. It’s like ‘you rocked it.’”

Again and again, the girls whooped and hollered their support and encouragement, whether they knew the couples or not. 

It was one of the most inspiring things I’ve seen in a while.

If you were ever a middle school girl, you know it’s the worst. 

When my oldest was in middle school, I read “Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls” by Rachel Simmons and “Queen Bees and Wannabees” by Rosalind Wiseman (the inspiration for the movie “Mean Girls”). 

I wanted to help my daughter navigate that difficult transition period between childhood and the teenage years. My own experiences were pretty terrible, too. Girls at that age were vicious. 

Those books helped me understand how girls between fifth and eighth grades, in particular, use relational aggression — exclusion, rumors and gossip, manipulation, cyberbullying — rather than physical force to establish their place in the social pecking order. Drama, drama, drama.

Certainly, it hasn’t gotten any easier thanks to social media. 

Relational aggression can lead to depression, anxiety, academic problems and peer rejection. Years of study show the damage caused by such aggression. 

Studying, analyzing and highlighting this problem led to the development of programs that teach young children empathy skills, social problem-solving abilities, and prosocial behaviors. Schools now make teaching social-emtional skills a priority. 

The National Institute of Health outlines several programs such as the Early Childhood Friendship Project to reduce physical and relational aggression while teaching pro-social behavior. 

Is it working? Study results are mixed. The Early Childhood Friendship Project, for example, showed positive outcomes but the NIH said it needed to be replicated on a larger scale. Other studies showed no difference in incidents of relational aggression or depression. 

Yet, another report showed that women who had supportive female networks were more likely to advance in their careers.

Those three girls who showered their older peers with compliments and support probably don’t understand their impact, just like I barely understood their Gen Alpha language. 

It’s giving empowerment. It’s giving hope.