Monday, June 7, 2010

Cap and Gown

There's an debate in my house right now. My dad, who paid for a lot of my university experience, is really gunning for me to attend my convocation ceremony, while I would rather set myself on fire than go to this particular milestone.

It's not that I'm not glad to be done, or in some ways, kind of sad. There's a mix of emotions about this transition period, and I agree with my parents' position that having a marker - something - is a good idea. Buy me a car, buy me a school ring, buy me dinner. Throw me a party. Give me flowers. Whatever. Mark it, dude. It doesn't have to be some some material thing. I am slightly princess-y, but I'm not a jerk. A mix CD? A letter?

I understand the importance of milestone-marking. People the world over have their growing-up rituals; we in North America are no different. We have quinceanera, sweet sixteens, high school graduations, getting hammered on your 18th/19th/21st birthday, buying your first legal lottery ticket/porn/cigarettes/goldschlager, champagne birthdays, wedding receptions, christenings, retirement parties, book launches, Irish wakes, and yes, convocations. I'm sure there are others; hippie communities in Portland probably have some dance party when their younger members start their monthlies. While I am not nearly weird enough to start a wymyn's collective (at this point - ask me in ten years), I can respect the urge to put an exclamation point after a period.

I'm skeptical of the more lavish productions. The buy-me-things spirit of a sweet sixteen, for instance, leaves me cold. Maybe it's the gross consumerism of shows like MTV's My Super Sweet Sixteen, which showcases spoiled teenagers in all their Daddy-I-want-a-pony glory. That show makes me tired. And, while I realize that weddings run the gamut from highly produced events with cakes made of virgin's tears and veils tatted by Rhodesian nuns, to low-key affairs that serve Kraft Singles and potato salad from a bucket, I'm not on board with the kind of bride that demands a $10,000 setup for her dancefloor lighting. I will admit to being amused by the overblown fanciness that celebrities often design (see: Dion, Celine), but would scoff until I died if someone I actually knew pulled that kind of tabloidy bullshit.

Convocations are a different kettle of fish than a birthday or wedding. I'm generally a pretty awesome girlfriend when I'm all girlfriended up; weddings make sense, because they celebrate love and successful relationships. Good begets good. If I had been an attentive student with a rich on-campus life, maybe I would feel differently about my graduation. I barely spent any time on campus while I was a student; why would I go there to mark my departure from school? In this case, indifference begets indifference.

My father is convinced that years from now, I'm going to lurch awake and feel a deep melancholy that I missed this moment in my life. I doubt it. I went to my high school graduation, and I'm glad I did; then again, I knew the people I was graduating with, and I got to wear jeans. University grads are forced to wear those hideous polyester garbage bags - sorry, gowns - and brush their hair. That sounds boring. I just don't think, after eight years of the slow crawl towards the degree, the way I want to celebrate actually getting it is sitting alone in a crowd of twenty-two year olds in a rented dress.

I'm interested in alternative methods of marking the occasion. Instead of walking under a red-streamered trellis (hello, and welcome to shark week!), maybe I'll get one festooned with the various accoutrements of post-student life: an alarm clock, a driver's license, a snappy pantsuit, a fax machine, a second alarm clock because I slept through the first one, a pair of bags under my eyes. And my degree, which I picked up a week after the ceremony and proudly hung at the center of it all. Just because I don't want to go to the event doesn't mean I'm not damn proud of the achievement.


  1. I think that you are 100% right on this one. And I think that your very well-thought-out reasons for not wanting to go should be enough for your dad.

  2. I went for the benefit of my parents. My brother, who is also graduating from university this year, is skipping town on a road trip to a music festival in Louisiana. This put all the pressure on me... I think my parents needed to go to at least one of our ceremonies, it was a moment that seemed more important to them than myself. I'm not sure your parents feel the same, or maybe they just hide it well. Since you are the oldest, they'd probably love to witness your convocation.

    It helped that OCAD is pretty small and I knew quite a few people there. Steph and I were close to each other and got to hang out most of the time. I saw Emily, and the hot beardies (convocation = good excuse for full body hugging).

    It was admittedly gratifying to strut across the stage, I'm glad I went in the end, though I never expected to be. Maybe you'll be similarly surprised? Maybe not. I've heard U of T convocations are super long and super boring. hah....

  3. I barely remember walking across the stage. It was not a life defining moment. I do remember the celebration afterwards with people I love. I'm not mad that I went, but I really feel that I wouldn't have missed out had I not gone. What matters is that you get a chance to celebrate your achievements, because you deserve the celebration, as this is a huge accomplishment and you should be proud of yourself.

    Maybe we should throw a degree party when you and I happen to be in the city at the same time? I have two caps lounging somewhere in my closet, from graduating high school twice (silly OAC), so we could wear them and take pictures and celebrate the night away.