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The Ceremony

If you count High School, I've had three graduation ceremonies so far in my life. The doctorate one next year will hit up a forth, but I've never been to any of them.

I was there for the one in High School. They had it during the day, and put all the students into lines on the basketball courts outside the beat up old Assembly Hall. The courts were all broken wire fences and backboards without hoops and old, faded yellow lines painted to make the courts. At any rate, we're all standing there, and being told to tuck shirts in, straighten up, and all that shit. The principal, an old woman, passed my line, stopped in front of me, and said, "Where are your black shoes?"

"Um. I don't have any."

"They're part of the uniform," she said. "I won't allow you up on stage if you don't have the right shoes."

And that's pretty much how I ended up sitting outside the rundown assembly hall, watching people walk up on stage and get that High School certificate. You'll be unsurprised to learn that many people walked across in non-black shoes. Still, whatever, you know? Even then I had no time for that whole five second walk up stage, that whole look nice, that whole get a piece of paper kind of thing... I remember being given the option to go and ask some people in lower years for a pair of black shoes so I could go up on stage, which, hey, surprisingly, I didn't take, but not because it was ridiculous and faintly degrading to ask for shoes. I just didn't care enough about paper. They gave it to me after the ceremony afterward, anyhow.

Since then, I've just filled out the slip that gets degrees mailed to you. It's easier. I don't have to pay for that gown they make you wear, for example (does anyone not wear the gown?). I don't have to go and sit there and watch people get up on stage. I don't have to do the photos after. I don't have to do anything. And to be quite honest, I've let this attitude spread out to all kind of ceremonies, no matter their kind. I don't even like parades, to be honest. What can I say? But you know: I've been perfectly happy with this arrangement in my life.

Except now, apparently, I can no longer do this. My friends are most vocal. No more, no more, they say. You must go to this. It's pretty easy to ignore demands like that from my friends, but my grandparents, they are the same. No more, no more. They're closing in on ninety. It's easy to ignore them, as well. Likewise, it's easy to ignore my sister, who is in Florida, working on a resort, and obsessed with overweight Americans. But then there's my Mum, who says that she wants it, she wants to go and make me suffer, and make we walk up there, and all that complete and utterly ridiculous ceremonial shit... and she says it, just like that, I'll have you know. "Yes, Ben, I want you to go up there and suffer." And my Mum, she never asks for anything, never. She never makes demands at all.

So, yes, I am going to the Ceremony.

Comments

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deborahlive
Dec. 8th, 2006 04:10 am (UTC)
You're a good man, BP.

(Was that like the only time in your life you weren't wearing black shoes, btw?)

benpeek
Dec. 8th, 2006 04:14 am (UTC)
yep :)

i was in what will be referred to as a 'grunge' period. heh.
deborahlive
Dec. 8th, 2006 04:52 am (UTC)
Say no more.

Don't you get some kind of special robe and collar that you keep and wear at academic ceremonial events from now on (should you have the poor fortune to attend any others)? It seems like I remember all the faculty at Pitt wearing the regalia of their PhD institutions.

benpeek
Dec. 8th, 2006 04:55 am (UTC)
i have no idea. i seem to remember someone telling me i had to rent the gown, or something like that. is uppose you can buy one, but... well, i mean, really, why?
deborahlive
Dec. 8th, 2006 05:07 am (UTC)
Halloween? Academic Regalia and a Hockey Mask: Nightmare in Graduate School

benpeek
Dec. 8th, 2006 05:10 am (UTC)
but i live in australia, land of the non-halloween. so you see how useless it truly is...
deborahlive
Dec. 8th, 2006 05:23 am (UTC)
Wow, I didn't know that about Australia. No stale candy? You poor things!
benpeek
Dec. 8th, 2006 05:30 am (UTC)
every now and then, someone will have a halloween party, or some kids might walka round the streets in costumes. whenever they knock on a door, though, there's a mad scramble for something to give them. heh.
strangedave
Dec. 8th, 2006 04:13 am (UTC)
Go to the ceremony, wear the robe and the silly hat, and all your relatives who want it can have a nice photo to display to impress visitors.

And besides, their a few occasions in life to indulge in anything with as much pomp and ceremony, so take it while you can.
benpeek
Dec. 8th, 2006 04:18 am (UTC)
Go to the ceremony, wear the robe and the silly hat, and all your relatives who want it can have a nice photo to display to impress visitors.

yeah, that's pretty much the reasoning. i suppose it's time a nice looking photo appear of me.
switchknitter
Dec. 8th, 2006 04:35 am (UTC)
You have my sympathies. I went to my sister's graduation ceremony, and I've sworn that even if I get a doctorate I won't make my loved ones sit through that drek. But it's sweet that you're doing it for your mom. *hug*
benpeek
Dec. 8th, 2006 04:52 am (UTC)
yeah, i'm a sucker ;)
ironed_orchid
Dec. 8th, 2006 04:48 am (UTC)
You know, this may be your last opportunity to graduate from anything, so you might as well go to this one.

I don't think the gown is optional, you have to wear the gown. Just be thankful we only have to wear it at silly ceremonies, and not in classes.
benpeek
Dec. 8th, 2006 04:53 am (UTC)
this better be my last opportunity to graduate! i so don't want to go back to uni--but if the job prospects don't clear up, it might be happening. blah. like i need more uni time.

stupid gowns.
ironed_orchid
Dec. 8th, 2006 04:57 am (UTC)
Just pretend you're at Hogwarts.
benpeek
Dec. 8th, 2006 04:59 am (UTC)
...no.

:)
exp_err
Dec. 8th, 2006 05:47 am (UTC)
I went to my high school graduation ceremony and thought it was dull, stupid and a waste of time. I didn't go to my undergraduate ceremony. The high school and undergraduate graduations were a given, there was nothing special in them, but during my PhD, there were times when I really thought I wouldn't make it through. So when I finished my PhD, it was an achievement, and (once I'd got past the initial anticlimax) something to be celebrated. Objectively, the PhD graduation ceremony was just sitting in a stuffy hall in a funny gown, waiting for a lot of names to be read out. But subjectively, it was special - it meant something, because the PhD itself was such a struggle. It made me feel a bit ashamed, in retrospect, for being so dismissive of the first two graduations - they might not have meant anything to me, but they were special moments for some of the graduates there, because not everyone breezed through their studies. In retrospect, I'm also glad for my grandfather's sake that I went to the PhD ceremony, because it meant a lot to him. He made a special effort to come from Newcastle, and it turned out to be the last time I saw him.

None of this necessarily relates to your own experience, of course.
benpeek
Dec. 8th, 2006 11:02 am (UTC)
you know, i don't think less of people who go to the ceremonies. i just don't dig them. if you want to go, if getting the actual paper at the end is a big deal, all cool. me, it's just the act of doing it. that's all i care about. everything after it is a bit on the meaningless side, you know?
mattdoyle
Dec. 8th, 2006 06:41 am (UTC)
i totally get what you're saying Ben. I'm not one for ceremony either. Didn't go to my high school one, didn't go to my degree ceremony, not going to my honours, and though i don't want to go to my phd, which is 3 years ahead of me, i am sure something similar will happen to me. my mum will want photos to show off to all her other bourgeois friends! ;)
benpeek
Dec. 8th, 2006 11:00 am (UTC)
apparently those photos are important, or so i am told.
(Deleted comment)
benpeek
Dec. 8th, 2006 10:56 am (UTC)
all i can say is that there better be jugglers.

anyhow, hello, also. welcome to the blog :)
(Deleted comment)
benpeek
Dec. 8th, 2006 11:45 am (UTC)
that's cool. i like meeting new people, so all good.
drasecretcampus
Dec. 8th, 2006 11:00 am (UTC)
I quite understand why you wouldn't want to go to a graduation ceremony - I didn't go to mine because I was pissed at the uni at the time, it wasn't actually going to be the end of the process for me (that's still on-going after ten years) and there were no other students I knew graduating. It wouldn't give me me closure. And my parents had had their day when I got the BA.

I'm not sure now I did make the right decision though.

I went to one the other week, partly because I had half a dozen undergrad mates there whose ceremony it was, but also because it was the first lot I'd seen through from start to finish at the current job. It seemed a moment to mark. And, you know, tedious though the whole affair was, it felt right to be there as a mark of respect to those I taught. I currently plan to go to next year's (especially no I've discovered I don't have to dress up, but actually that turned out to be part of the fun and the appropriate humiliation).

I'd say give the folks this one day, hire the garb, make nice for the photos, and close this chapter so the next starts without baggage.


(Dr Avuncular writes...)
benpeek
Dec. 8th, 2006 11:08 am (UTC)
i wonder if anyone is going to tell me not to go? heh.
azhure
Dec. 8th, 2006 12:33 pm (UTC)
I didn't go to my PhD ceremony. I actually regret it - but it would have been impossible for me to sit through without something like a morphine drip :-/

benpeek
Dec. 8th, 2006 09:14 pm (UTC)
hmm. maybe i can get a morphine drip...
(Deleted comment)
bodhichitta0
Dec. 8th, 2006 01:41 pm (UTC)
I was just thinking that too--that it was like a funeral. The corpse here (Ben) doesn't care, but all the other participants do! :-)

(Ben I reviewed your book on amazon last week and they wouldn't post it and I emailed them and they said, um yeah, they would post it, but I don't think they were happy about it because I referenced cunt even though I didn't type it. Down with censorship! :-p Anyway, it should be up today or tomorrow. I think.)
benpeek
Dec. 8th, 2006 09:17 pm (UTC)
yeah, it's reappeared now. how weird, huh? amazon is a bunch of insane bastards. and if they're worried about cunt, then how come i can say it in my post as an author?

anyhow: thanks for the review! and i'm glad you like the book!
benpeek
Dec. 8th, 2006 09:15 pm (UTC)
...i almost forget why i wasn't married.
wendy_waring
Dec. 8th, 2006 01:50 pm (UTC)
but if there's a pancake hat?
I didn't go to my PhD grad -- I was in Oz, it was in Canada, no question really. And the viva was closing ceremony enough. I don't really remember the high school thing, although there is a photo, so I must have gone. Maybe that's why you need to go. To combat the loss of braincells.

Anyways, seeing as you've committed... Re: logistics. Generally, you are loaned robes by the uni. You may have to put a deposit down, but you get it back. But you'll just get a bog standard black robe, I think.

Each university has special robes and headgear for PhDs. You should investigate what your unis are. You might want to buy 'em.... If you're going to participate in the ceremony, why not mince in in a blue velvet robe with ermine trim and a burgundy pancake hat, Ben? Unfortunately, said gear will set you back upwards of 300 bucks. (Which would explain why I don't have any. Otherwise, I'd be wearing mine to the beach.)

Am looking forward to seeing the pics.
benpeek
Dec. 8th, 2006 09:18 pm (UTC)
Re: but if there's a pancake hat?
Unfortunately, said gear will set you back upwards of 300 bucks.

i think you just explained why i won't be buying that gear.
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