Thursday, May 17, 2012

Can I Bring My Light-Saber?

Ah, summer.  All most, at least.

So, the graduation season is in full-swing.  I've got to go to my... hold on, let me calculate this... NINTH graduation of which I have played a roll (as graduate or faculty member) in the ceremonies themselves.  I believe, without checking the facts, that I've easily been a spectator at more graduations than that.

Let's face it.  Graduations, as a social exercise, suck.  They keep on sucking too.  I can tell you that I didn't get the magical packet of perspective handed to me with my PhD diploma that allows me to, all of the sudden, see the importance inherent in the ceremony.  

Renting regalia is expensive, buying regalia is even more expensive.  As I was preparing to graduate for what I had self-styled as the "last time", way back in 2007, I had to make a trip to the campus book store to reserve the proper regalia for the event.  The deal was that I had to buy my tam (the proper name for the oh so stylish floppy hat that academics sometimes where with their regalia) and the nice lady asked if I wanted to buy or rent my robes.  I WANTED to buy, so I enquired as to the cost (I think there was around $50 to my name at that time) and when she replied that it would cost $800 I don't imagine I was able to hide the look of shock on my face.  Even renting would cost (as I recall) around $170.  I had to put it on the credit card.

It didn't occur to me at the time that I would look back and wish that I could have bought that regalia as a cost-saving measure as well as because I just wanted it as a celebration of my achievement.  It doesn't take very much math to see that you end up saving money in the long run to buy your regalia, but I've yet to put together $800 (or more) at once and made it make sense to my lizard brain that I should spend that money RIGHT THEN, never to be recouped for a garment I'll only wear twice a year (we also dress up for the incoming freshmen during convocation each year).

The now retired provost once told me that he found his regalia at a yard sale for cheap; a lucky find indeed, and not one likely to be repeated for me given my 6' 4" frame.  (I'm pretty sure I get the same rental robes twice a year and I wouldn't be surprised if they don't see any other use.)

I no longer associate robes primarily with academic achievement.  On the surface, sure, I love being able to put on the robes, tam, and various acoutrement of my academic station; I feel pride at doing it.  But, like so much puffed up paraffin, my pride melts under the heat of the noon-day sun.  Robes are torture, being crammed in tiny seats is torture, and the endless monotony is torture.  Graduations, to my mind, are not distinct, they are just re-runs of the worst show on T.V.  It's like a marathon of Three and a Half Men or a symphony of Nickelback "music", the episodes and movements are all indistinguishable and all painful.

As a relevant aside, why are advertisers this time of year so likely to take sunburn so lightly?  The two chief offenders this season thus far have been Sonic (whose reoccurring dim-witted drive-in characters sport and complain about their bright red facial sunburns) and Xfinity ((come on people, we know you're still just Comcast) who have their most recent satellite dish collared simpleton sporting a raging sunburn so bad her "friend" can't even bring herself to suggest that... maybe they should go inside).  Look, let's forget for a moment that there's a real link between excessive exposure to the sun's harmful U.V. rays and melanoma.  Sunburns HURT, and bad sunburns hurt BAD and abidingly.  When you show me what would be obviously excruciatingly painful sunburns (if they were real) on your commercials, it doesn't make me want to buy your stuff, it makes me want to change the channel.  Listen carefully, sunburns: Are. Not. Funny.  Seriously, are all ad agencies staffed with "that guy" who always thought it hilarious to slap sunburn victims on the back and then cackle with laughter?


The difficulty that I face this Saturday is that my perspective on these things we call graduations, will not serve my purposes for being there very well at all.  I'm there for THIS batch of students.  I'm there to celebrate the achievements of THESE particular people.  I'm there to wish THESE students well and to, with the proper dignity in pomp and circumstance, mark the significance that is inherent in THEIR PARTICULAR achievements.

So, I'll try to keep that foremost in my mind... but I still can't promise to listen to the commencement speaker (or any of the other distinguished guests, for that matter); I'm going to be too busy trying to force my body through power of will not to whither entirely away.   

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