Having just attended a high school graduation in smalltown Western Illinois, we offer these helpful reminders for general commencement etiquette.
Regarding mobile phones: you might want to switch to vibrate; if someone calls, don’t pick up and shoot the breeze for a couple of minutes (a guy did this one row down from us – yes, he had on a t-shirt and a camo hat). If you are one of those self-important bastards who just has to take the call, proper procedure is to remove yourself to the lobby discretely and do a callback.
Regarding PowerPoint: probably only an issue at smaller schools, but all you teachers, class sponsors, etc. should resist the urge to do a powerpoint presentation to sappy theme music. Save it for the wedding receptions. Especially resist the urge to let each graduate choose their own theme music and throw it up there with youthful photos. Nothing says awkward quite like eight seconds of ill-chosen music to the backdrop of poorly staged photos. Unless you’re making an ironic statement on the subject of awkwardness and its integral place in the high school experience; then by all means proceed.
Regarding applause for Beavis: All you parents, relatives, friends, etc.; if you’re going to come to graduation, at least have the decency to, you know, applause for Beavis when his or her name is called for the diploma. Why even bother coming if you’re only going to applause for Beavis for your own kid? What the hell is the matter with you? For some of these kids, it’s the last/only time they’ll hear their names called in public short of the courtroom.
Regarding oration: All you valedictorians, salutatorians, administrators, etc. – keep it short and sweet. No one’s going to remember anything you said in a few years anyway. Don’t waste your time trying to be funny or poignant. It’s only high school.
Regarding wardrobe choices*: Your child’s/relative’s/friend’s graduation is probably a worthwhile occasion for wearing a decent shirt, pants, dress, and/or shoes. After all, this graduate has managed to show up for school one last time in sharp clothes; why not return the favor?
- This means no tanktops or muscle shirts
- T-shirts are probably out as well (unless you are so devoted to the success of that particular brand of beer or NASCAR racing team that to leave the house in anything else will cause you physical pain)
- No crocs or thong-type sandals
- Baseball caps are definitely out – even those with cool camouflaged hunting patterns (not likely to find any big bucks hiding out in the high school gym)
- No sweatpants – period
- If you have the Dunlop syndrome (your gut done lopped over your belt) for the love of sweet Baby Jesus wear something big enough to cover your Dunlop
And finally, to all you graduates: Remember that high school isn’t as important as Hollywood would have you believe. Too many people spend too much time either trying to relive high school or trying to redefine themselves in the context of high school. And that’s more than a little sad.
*I grew up in one of these little towns, so I can tell you for a fact that people used to care enough to show up to functions like high school graduation in decent attire. And I’m not that old.