Here it is, summer ended and everyone back in school – the nights no longer “good for sleeping” but edging toward cold. The old timers (and the young timers) say that this summer rushed past. I know that it did for me. It took me a full six weeks to recover from the emotional toll of two daughters graduating eighth grade.
It was joyous. It was lovely. It was, more than either of these, harrowing. Read on.
By my count, including kindergarten, I’ve graduated five times. Of course, that was what my children call “back in the day,” before iPhones, $200 ballet flats, and instant status updates – which is to say, pre-culture.
Still, I know about commencement. Three of my nine children have actual college diplomas, and they received them only yesterday, it seems. There were rituals, observances, fountain pens given and then re-gifted.
Despite this, nothing could have prepared me for the onslaught associated with the graduation of my two eighth grade daughters.
Said Thoreau, beware occasions requiring new clothes. Beware especially five of them in six weeks.
OMG, as my daughters would say.
At first, my shy girls, Mia and Merit, weren’t sure about the “semi.” (Merit, born in Ethiopia, thought this dance might be held in an eighteen-wheeler.) We urged them to reconsider and go.
After all, we’d had an eighth grade dance. It was in the gym – in a gym similar to the place where, four years later, we would go to the prom. We bought dresses. We bought them at Sears.
How could we know that, once unleashed, our girls’ desires would make Anna Wintour look like the poster girl for voluntary simplicity?
They thought we might have to go to New York for a weekend to shop.
They discussed how to measure up to Simone, Stephanotis, and especially Serena, whose dress was created for this purpose when she was eight or something by a designer in Istanbul using age progressions.
Then came the class trip. Not a day trip to the amusement park. A week trip to D.C. No more than $150 each in spending money!
Next, an LBD.
For the dinner dance.
What’s up with dinner dance? A dinner dance is what your parents went to in 1969 at the Moose Lodge.
The EIGHTH GRADE dinner dance is being held at a place called the Jailhouse Tavern. I’m not making that up.
This leaves only the yacht cruise.
Now, our family is so large that when we moved to this small town, it basically changed the census data. We have a certain need. So the school was gallant in helping make sure that our daughters were included in all these adventures.
We also did our part.
Each event required multiple corollary events.
Christmas tree sales, wrapping paper sales, bumper sticker sales, fudge sales, bake sales, yard sales, plant sales, car washes, cat grooming, piñata demos, spaghetti dinners, pancake breakfasts, pizza lunches.
Of course, as with all school fundraisers, no one except the parents buys anything. Co-workers now avert their eyes when they see us coming, even if we pretend the sign-up sheet is just a petition to ban books or something.
Now, there are the tributes. Serena’s parents are buying ads in the local papers and hiring a videographer. Stephanotis has an uncle who designed fireworks for their family celebration. There’s a question of dresses for the private parties? Is re-wear okay?
I put my foot down. It’s okay for Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge. It’s okay for you, too.
We bought dresses. We bought those dresses at Sears.
And yet, since January it’s been a check check here and a check check there. Here a check, there a check, everywhere a check check.
What am I going to do for high school graduation? Sell my plasma starting in tenth grade? Will Serena’s parents host a destination party in Tuscany?
Does anyone else think this is a little excessive for the culmination of only the first eight years of school?
Isn’t this consumer culture pushed to its extreme, ordinary life as an MTV reality show, the unsurprising adultification of adolescents, the trickle down of red carpet desires into a blue-collar world, the crass reification of life altogether?
And isn’t it nuts that I have to do this three more times?