America, we need to talk. This weekend I saw things. Things I will never scrub from my eyeballs. Things I wanted to shield from my children’s view. Things that will haunt my sanity for years. Was it a crime scene? No. Natural disaster? No. Warzone. No. Rather, I was at my niece’s high school graduation in rural America and based on the things I saw, America, we have a problem.
Last Friday, my brave mother and I loaded my two hellcats into the car and embarked on a two-day trip that included 18 hours of driving. (For those of you not familiar with the horrors of 18 hours in a car with Nugget, I’m likening it to the first level of Purgatory.) But I adore this particular niece and would move mountains, (or Nuggets) to see her proud moment. After several hours of cartoons, soul- shattering kid music, shady rest stops and explosive diarrhea (Nugget’s not mine) we arrived in rural America in time for graduation the next morning.
Having spent several years in education, I’ve been to a graduation or two in my day. I’ve sat through those with gowns and mortarboards and those with suits and dresses. I’ve even been through one with barefoot hippies and while the garb of the grads has varied, one thing does not – it’s a big deal for those kids and should be treated as such. Audience, that means step it up a notch, comb your hair, put on some freaking pants and have some respect. That message didn’t make it to my niece’s school.
Before heading out to the graduation, I was horrified to realize my eight-year-old, now being a full-on man and thus should be allowed to pack his own bag, packed a shirt with a giant missed-my-mouth trail of tears down the front. “For the love of God, you can’t go like that Number One Son, this is a graduation!” Thankfully my years of world travel left me well-versed in the art of hotel-bathroom laundry. Once he was ready, I had to tend to Nugget’s style. I’d packed white pants but due to the afore mentioned explosive diarrhea, my reservations were great. My mother chimed in, “Oh put him in some damn shorts. He’s two. He can get away with it.” Ah yes, magic words Mom. Now pay attention here America, HE can get away with it because HE is two, but the rest of you assholes – put on some damn pants.
Now I am a product of the rural America education system so I had an understanding of what to expect. Unfortunately it seems things have changed greatly since 1990.
As I watched the proud community filter into the sweltering gymnasium for graduation I saw one woman wearing the same “shorts” I’d slept in that night. (Honey, I know you bought those in the pajama department. Put on some damn pants!) I saw men in cut-off jeans. (These haven’t even been a thing since ’79!) I saw way too much camouflage. (Clearly these individuals wanted to be there to see the graduation but wanted to be certain no one saw them in attendance.) I saw one man so covered in oil and grease I’m pretty sure he’d just crawled out from under a car moments before they cued up Pomp and Circumstance. (In his defense, I later learned that his son receiving a signed diploma may have been news that only broke moments before the ceremony.) I saw a graduate’s mother in a day-glow top and booty shorts. (Yes, you read that correctly – booty shorts…in a size 18.) And between the plethora of dollar store flip-flops and truck stop t-shirts came the piece-de-resistance, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. To quote my mother, “We can tell people about these two but no one will ever believe us.” Indeed mother. Indeed.
Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum were in their mid-20s and I’m assuming graduates of this same illustrious institution. Both were obese, though not yet requiring a scooter while purchasing their Ring-Dings and Ho-Ho’s. (How do I know their dietary choices? They brought them to graduation, as obviously a grown-ass man needs a snack during a 45-minute ceremony.) Both had identical haircuts freshly dyed pink. (Yes, pink.) As well as matching dirty jeans, muddy sneakers and best of all, matching lavender and blue plaid shirts open to reveal identical t-shirts reading, “Let’s Get Weird.” And both smelling so fiercely that even Nugget signed, “Mom, somebody pooped. It wasn’t me.”
America, is this a cry for help?
From what I could see, most of the graduates looked smashing and with the exception of the one young lady who I was hoping would not go into labor before receiving her diploma, their footwear was shockingly appropriate. (But hey, when you’re 12 months pregnant at graduation, flip-flops are appropriate.)
America, when Jesus gave us comfort fabrics, he didn’t mean for you to make them the fabric of your life. He didn’t intend for you to wear t-shirts and booty shorts to your kid’s graduation. He didn’t intend for you to think a camouflage tank and seed-corn cap might serve as acceptable attire for the culmination of your child’s early education career. There is a place and time for these things and a public event celebrating your offspring’s academic achievements is not that place.
While solo-parent interstate travel is never easy, I am so thankful the Turk was not privy to this onslaught of trailer-park inspired couture. How do I explain to my foreign husband that when he waved that flag and took that oath, you agreed to be part of ALLLLLL this too?
I leave you with this America, or should I call you ‘Merica now? Yes, that seems more appropriate. ‘Merica, you want your kids to respect you but on the biggest day of their young lives this is the best you could give them? Do you really think so little of education that you couldn’t even put on clean pants? I certainly realize we have far larger issues in this nation at present and my hope is waning, however, how ‘bout we start the change we need with a simple first step. America, show some self-respect and put on some damn pants!