Friday, May 19, 2006


Even if my MFA weren't a terminal degree (this means it tries to kill you), I'd probably never go for a PhD, because the robes are too heavy. They have these lame velvet stripes on the sides of the arms, and in general make the wearers look like bouncers in a Shakespearean nightclub. You also can't stash your Jack in a PhD robe; it's just a bad deal all around.

I'm the juniorest member of the English department at an aeronautical university, so my seat at graduation was pretty much in eastern Guam. They plopped me down in the last faculty row before the students, which was fine, because they at least somewhat wanted to be there.

"Aren't they cute," said the professor sitting next to me. "They have no idea, do they?"

But the true sucking was underway almost immediately when the graduate sitting directly behind me, dressed in full formal Marine attire, tapped me on the shoulder as the National Anthem started and informed me in no uncertain terms that I ought to remove my stupid flat hat.

Normally, my response to this is "Gladly, dawg." Academic regalia is supposed to be all about dignity, but I defy any human being to look remotely distinguished while balancing what looks like the world's most boring board game on top of his head. However, for some reason this pissed me off to no end. Not only was this kid wrong--ladies do not remove the mortarboard at any time during an academic ceremony (which perhaps made him right, anyway; "lady" is not exactly a word I would use to describe myself)--but he did so in tones that made me feel as though my mother was reminding me to flush. I responded by taking it off anyway, but with a highly imperious hair toss, (that'll show him!) because I felt it was slightly wiser to break academic protocol than to get into an argument in the middle of the National Anthem with a person who had access to high-grade weapons systems.

When we sat down again I made an enormous, classy show of whisking back the pointy sleeve of my gown and stretching my hand across the empty seat next to me so that he had a close-up view of my camo green SUPPORT OUR TROOPS bracelet. (That's right. I have the bracelet. Therefore, I care more about the troops than you braceletless Ziplock bags of scum.) As I sat there listening to my butt ossify, I figured out why the incident had made me so angry: I'm a huge supporter of my ROTC students, as they seem to know their right from their left, for the most part, and I'm mindfully respectful of such things as the National Anthem, so respectful that I rarely attempt to sing it, as in so doing I would mightily offend the hearing-able population of the entire country. And here I stood accused of... anthem dissing. Me! I flip my hand dismissively at you, Marine graduation guy!

Then I realized (there were a lot of opportunities to think throughout the entire exercise; if you ever need to trap yourself someplace where no one will think of joining you in order to accomplish a great deal of soul-searching, or research your back taxes, I recommend that you find your nearest college graduation) that he had probably endured four year's worth of abuse at the hands of my colleagues, who... are not particularly ginormous fans of the military. When I attended Scott The Taller's Air Force commissioning, I was the only non-military faculty member for miles and miles. It was as if anyone who entered the room would be barred from NPR for a year. The graduate probably thought I had just finished a dissertation entitled "Marines: Shall We Disdain Them Entirely, Or Simply Snicker Derisively In Their Evil, Evil Presence?" No wonder he thought I was acting like a big blonde ball of snot.

Well, good luck to you, kid. Super pie, or whatever that one thing is Marines are always yelling at each other. I would salute, but the hat's in my way.

oorah at:


Rick said...

MB, The young Marine was in error. When the national anthem is played, only men who are not in uniform are supposed to remove their hats. As a Marine in uniform, his job was to stand at attention and salute. He shouldn't have been making any other movement or speaking. I'm surprised that he did not know the protocol. I believe all branches of the military teach this to their troops.

MB said...

I think that was one of the reasons I was so kicked sideways by this. It's a heavy contender for my biggest WTF moment of the year. I appreciate that he was under the impression that this was instilling a sense of respect, but, to quote the great philosopher Napolean Dynomite, GOSH. Like, don't they cover this type of thing on the first day of Marining? Well, if that's the biggest mistake he makes as an officer, kid's doing a'ight.

Pam said...

I also recently attended my college's graduation ceremony (first time I've worn my master's hood and stupid mortarboard since I graduated last May). The ceremony was held in a theatre, and the faculty were made to sit on the stage. Under the glaring stage lights. Dressed in black. Not only was I sweltering, my motorboard kept sliding off my head, so I kept adjusting it -- which wouldn't have been so bad except for the fact I was facing the audience. Not to mention I couldn't see a blasted thing due to the solar intensity of the stage lights and being several rows from the front. The only reason I would consider a PhD would be to trade in the motorboard for an ultra-cool tam.

HelloBettyLou said...

It all looks silly, no matter how prestigious it is. You would think after obtaining so many years of education, we smarties would find a better way to attire ourselves upon graduating. Tradition be damned. I am all about the comfort. Of course, I graduated outside with the faculty under an air-conditioned tent, while I, a graduation honoree, sat in the sun, in navy blue. That was fun.

Dantelope said...

It's a really good thing I wasn't there. What he might have said about my assless chaps and the T-shirt emblazoned with "Pimpz n' Hoz" we'll never know...

Besides... he'd have woken me up and I'm really grumpy when that happens.

Attitude Amy said...

dantelope: I once worked at a prison with a gaurd I nicknamed "lukemia" (his real name was Loomis, former USDB Army guard). He had a big purple van with the words "Get In Bitch!" spray painted on the sliding door. You two should meet.

MB said...

Guys, please keep the comments somewhat family-friendly with regard to language. Thanks.

susan said...

You were so close to a man in uniform and are griping? And it was a Marine wearing all his pretties? Blood stripes, leathernecks, spit-shines and the potential to carry a saber.
Only thing better but far too casual for graduation: Watching Marines PT in Boots & Utes.
I'd make a reference about how many people yearn for what sounds like a certain Marine coiffure. But you said keep it clean.
To JTP, sorry but Air Force dress duds are boring and possess few little emblems of history.

kredin said...

Susan - I really doubt the "dress duds" having "few little emblems of history" on the Air Force uniform keep the dedicated men and women of the United States Air Force from performing their honorable duties. Granted the Air Force is the youngest service (born September 18, 1947) and doesn’t have the 200+ years of the other services, but to bash their uniforms? Get with the program.

Ruby Rose said...

mb said: " order to accomplish a great deal of soul-searching, or research your back taxes, I recommend that you find your nearest college graduation"

Oh - oh - oh! I laughed until I cried at this one. I run graduations at my University. This is very different from being in the academic procession - being the go-to-fix-it-bend-the-laws-of-time-and-physics person who has to wrangle the graduands, the guests, the musicians, the ushers, the diplomas and make nicey-nice with Protocol and the Higher-Ups, I often look at the Academics, sitting serenely on stage, and wonder what on earth they find about the situation to amuse themselves. Well, NOW I KNOW and never shall the droning hush of a hot afternoon where 1200 people drowning in their own miasma are trying desperately not to fall asleep be a mystery unto me.
And by the way, the young gentleman of the military persuasion was suffering from a condition I call Ceremonial Head Space. When people get into a ceremonial situation they are bereft of referents about how to act and so relieve their feelings by doing bizarre things and/or telling other people off. I then relieve MY feelings by telling them to shut up and sit down, so there's an upside.

Alexandra from Australia

MB said...

Thanks, Alexandra! Somehow it's comforting to know that not even an Australian accent can prevent the deathly boredom of a commencement ceremony.

kredin, I understand where you're coming from, but Susan has a bit of Air Force Joke Immunity: Her husband is an officer who wears the uniform in question, and after many years of looking at it, I think it's OK if she occasionally wishes to see something a bit different once in a while. :)

Jenib said...


I love it...lolol.

You should have drawn yourself up and declared the rule about ladies in an imperious tone. Or just stared and blinked at him. Or tap his shoulder after graduation and tell him he needs to remove his ass from his shoulders...

You need a game face. One that, when enacted, no one dares to mess with you or tap yopu on the shoulder to correct you like a child. I know you have it in you-your students probably get to see something like it every day. It's close to "mommy face". I can look at my child a hundred yards away (hyperbole)and she will know to stop, drop, and feel fear if she doesn't stop what she is doing and behave. It's a very effective deterrent and preventative.

Yours truly,
Queen of all typos and bad grammar

amy lou the reader said...

I can't even remember if the national anthem was played at my college graduation. It probably was, but the whole day is kind of one big blur.

But I do know for certain that my brother - who sat in a satellite theatre with a friend - fell asleep during the ceremony and missed the .00002 seconds I was on stage.

MB said...

But jeni, the problem is, I only barely-secretly fear my students. I couldn't stare them down if they stole my sammich. Instead I cower in a corner (here) and grumble where they can't hear me.

Attitude Amy said...

Mb: Sorry, I should have paraphrased and used "biotch" instead. But, I thought Lukemia/Loomis might not appreciate me taking liberties with his writing. People get so sensitive when you misquote them. And, as much as I hate it when men use the "B" word (damn that OJ trial for what it hath started) I think quoting Lukemia accurately presented a more humorous aspect than it would have the other way. I'll try not to use any of the five banned from TV words on your blog(as stated by George Carlin).

MB said...

S'okay, AA--it wasn't the "bitch," it was the post that followed, the one I removed. Chaps discussion.

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