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FauxCo By Cate Weiser

COVID-19 has ripped many experiences from high schoolers: graduation, in-person classes, lunch with friends. School closures have put a stop to almost all high school traditions, including homecoming.

While COVID-19 brought the possibility of school dances in Ann Arbor to a screeching halt, some teenagers didn’t let that stop them from dressing up and having fun with their friends. Zoe Simmons, Miriam Leo, Paloma Duda Cortés and Lottie Winegarden were among some of the teens who celebrated Faux Homecoming, or FauxCo.

Zoe Simmons, a sophomore at Pioneer High School (PHS), proposed the idea of FauxCo to her friend Alex Hummel; after going through elementary and middle school together, Simmons and Hummel have been friends for 12 years. The pair agreed on a date, and Simmons set to work on a sign to officially ask Hummel.

The Saturday came, and Simmons picked up Hummel with a rose in hand. They took photos together, after which Simmons made a half-pepperoni, half-cheese pizza for dinner.

Simmons set up lights and a playlist of music in her basement, and they spent two hours dancing to artists like Cardi B and Nicki Minaj.

Once they felt tired enough to climb into their pajamas, the two watched five movies and spent the next 24 hours eating pretzels and drinking Diet Pepsi.

“[Alex] is a very imaginative person when it comes to ideas of how we could hang out and do stuff,” Simmons said. “I'm a very good planner and organizer. Logistics have kind of always been my thing when it comes to planning. It was the same thing [with FauxCo] too. It always ends up working out. I was really glad that I got to do that with her.”

Miriam Leo, a junior who dual-enrolls between PHS and CHS, wanted an excuse to dress up and take photos with her friends. They all got new dresses, each either thrifted or bought brand new ones. The group of four girls got ready together on a friend’s back porch.

After spending a few hours talking, laughing, and putting on makeup, night had fallen. The night they dressed up happened to fall on Halloween; they decided to drive to Party City and buy masquerade masks to complete their look.

They drove to the Skyline High School parking lot, and spent some time taking photos in the dark. The girls ran back and forth between the warm car and the cold, jacket-free photo spot. The photos turned out goofy and fun, a testament to the night. The experience provided some sense of normalcy amidst the pandemic.

“Normally, I don't put on heels and a dress and makeup to not do anything,” Leo said.

Once they were too cold to continue, they decided to go back to the house where they got ready. The girls put on comfy clothes and took their makeup off, and watched a scary movie to finish the night.

Paloma Duda Cortés, a junior at CHS, has watched her friends attend homecoming without her throughout all of high school. Duda Cortés was never able to go with them due to an annual soccer tournament that fell on homecoming weekend.

Her friends told her that the dance itself was overrated; getting ready together and taking photos was the fun part. While COVID-19 has made it virtually impossible to host a dance, Duda Cortés and three of her friends (who have been bubbling together) decided to do the fun part.

The group ordered new dresses all together, successfully getting a shipping discount. Once the day arrived, they got ready and did each other's makeup while listening to music. By the time they finished, it was pitch black out. They went to a nearby park to take photos in the freezing cold — their jackets were coming on and off all night.

After they finished taking photos, they drove to Shake Shack to get dinner, then returned home for a sleepover. Partway through the night, they decided to head to Meijer. They got funny looks, being four girls in formal dresses and big coats.

“Getting ready really was the best part; we had on music and were talking, and we did our hair and makeup and put on our dresses,” Duda Cortés said. “It was really fun to be all together.”

For Lottie Winegarden and her friends, the idea to have FauxCo was inspired by Tik Tok. After sitting in their pajamas since March, the group wanted to do something to get out of the rut. After formulating a plan, they all ordered new dresses and decided on a location.

They got ready by themselves, but drove together to the Nichols Arboretum, a park in downtown Ann Arbor. Two of the girls brought their little sisters; the sisters held their keys and masks and acted as personal photographers.

After taking photos in front of a field of flowers, they headed back to a friend’s house to have dinner and a bonfire.

While the girls had only been seeing each other, they were trying to only see each other outdoors with social distancing.

“They're all my girls; we always hang out — that's my friend group,” Winegarden said. “We hadn't [hung out normally] in so long. It was so nice to be able to hang out with them and sit there and talk and edit pictures. It almost felt like things were back to normal.”