While being completely average students at Spring Hill College, my friends and I spent most of our time mastering the art of acting like idiots. (Before you shove this newspaper into the nearest parrot cage in disgust, this column has nothing to do with the Supreme Court, rape parties or obscure yearbook references.)

Idiotic behavior, combined with the natural awkwardness of being 18 and in a new environment, meant none of us were particularly effective in holding the attention of young ladies at our school. Despite this, we decided to make it even harder for one another by introducing a particularly stupid, but uproariously funny (to us) method of embarrassing each other on those rare occasions when girls actually were around us. It went something like this:

If four our five of us were standing around talking and one of our coeds walked by, one of us would say loudly, “Hey Rob! There she is! Don’t be afraid, go ahead and ask her!” As if the guy had been waiting for a chance to talk to this particular young lady.

This served the dual purpose of totally embarrassing the girl, who usually stopped and stared at us in total confusion. It also left whichever one of us was the butt of the joke standing there looking stupid with nothing to say while the other guys laughed. Sure, there were attempts to reverse the embarrassment by then turning to the girl and saying, “Yes, I wanted to ask if you’ve met Sean.” But by then the damage was done. The girl was either walking away quickly, narrowing her eyes to memorize our faces for future avoidance or just turning red.

Either way, none of us ever actually met any girls that way and I’m sure at a small school like SHC we quickly earned a reputation as jackasses. But I guess I could say it did eventually help me get over nervousness about talking to girls under normal circumstances.

I was thinking about this the other day watching my son prepare to ask a girl to his school’s homecoming dance. Things have definitely changed in the eons since I had the second coolest mullet at Pascagoula High. Now kids are expected to come up with some exciting, clever, very public way of asking a date to join them at homecoming (HOCO) or the prom (“promposal”). It makes having friends embarrass you seem tame by comparison.

It’s not only about who asks you now — it’s about how he asks.

I’m certainly no expert in any of this, as my kids, being teenagers, aren’t dying to talk about it in great detail. From what I can gather through careful research on the internet, an episode of “Laguna Beach” in 2000 sparked this entire craze, which seems just about right.

The one thing we know, the more public and entertaining the “proposal” is, the better. For instance, lots of girls on my daughter’s volleyball team had their HOCO proposals happen after games in packed-out gyms or at least at practice, with an entire team of girls looking on. That has to take guts.

Boys of this generation will be able to charge a machine gun nest without breaking a sweat after having walked into a room of a hundred people to wave a poster board sign that says something like, “Will you Van Go with me to HOCO?” (You know, because the girl likes art.) Hey Jimmy, if you really wanted to make it memorable, you should have lopped off an ear and stuck it to the poster board. (Editor’s note: The columnist is NOT suggesting high school students cut their ears off. Unless it’s the only way to get her to say yes.)

I can only imagine how many girls don’t get asked to HOCO because the boy that likes them was too scared to risk public humiliation. There’s no way I would ever have had the guts to make such a public display of crushiness when I was in high school. The thought of being shot down after gluing 224 Hershey’s kisses to a piece of cardboard is crippling.

From what I could discover there is at least some type of “safety net” going on here in the form of Sally’s friends putting out the word she would be agreeable to Seth parachuting into cheerleading practice after writing “Take a dive with me!” in the sky. Conversely, Todd may have been warned Sally would be less than excited about him showing up at practice to perform a musical puppet show entitled “The Proposal” starring two handcrafted marionettes named Sally and Todd.

But unless things are completely different than they were when I was in high school, there have to be people who get their wires crossed or aren’t part of the Promposal Warning System. In the days before such public proposals, a high school boy could just wither in private pain after having a girl reject his invitation — at least until she told all her friends. I can only imagine how that rejection is amplified while standing in front of 50 of her friends while dressed up like Simba from “The Lion King.” (Her fave!)

These high school theatrics are bound to be good in some ways, right? They certainly seem to draw the parents into the high school dating scene, and that can only be for the best as mothers start comparing how elaborate their daughters’ dance proposals were. “Well, Timmy drew something that looked like Donald Duck and Goofy had a baby on his poster, we couldn’t really read what it said and he spelled Kendra’s name with a ‘C.’ I think his mother drinks a lot, so I suppose it’s to be expected. (Sigh.) Kendra should have held out for the Johnson kid.”

Fathers too are bound to gauge a daughter’s date by how weird or overboard the proposal is. “That kid just lit 500 candles in our driveway! Is he psycho?!”

At the minimum, I suppose this is at least good practice for years later when it’s time for an actual marriage proposal. Of course, if the couple are high school sweethearts, he’d better make sure that proposal is more elaborate than when he asked her to senior prom. Don’t set the bar too high!

Or better yet, leave the kittens and fireworks at home and just go ahead and ask her.