In high school, we were expected to cheer and scream and clap and stomp our feet for our team at their homecoming celebration. One day in the Fall we all gathered in the gymnasium and were expected to cheer and yell for the uniformed boys from our algebra and German classes as if they were Van Halen. We were expected to be enthused and if we weren’t, we were told to be. We were expected to be engaged. In fact, one year I was disciplined by our homeroom teacher for reading a wrestling magazine in the bleachers rather than screaming and cheering along with everyone else.
I don’t think our football team was ever worth a shit. But, of course, we weren’t supposed to think about that. Rather, we were there to blindly support since it was our team and therefore something quite special.
I didn’t understand why I should care. What were we celebrating? A mostly meaningless athletic contest? Or was it more? Were we celebrating a part of our collective identities represented in the school? And my school, as a part of me, being represented by its team?
The school as part of my identity? That school of bricks and pipes and windows that taught me how to read and write and do some math. That school that was like any other school doing the same thing for any number of other students anywhere else. For fuck’s sake, now I know the school was just doing its goddamned job, which was pumping out good and docile boys and girls possessing a modicum of reading, writing and math ability. I pay the fucking taxes for that shit how, so I know.
But I was too stupid then to know what it was all about. All I knew was to cheer and celebrate as if the whole stinking thing was a collective birthday party, though the presents and cake and ice cream were curiously absent. All the substance of the party was in its label. It was called a birthday party so that’s what it was, so that’s how we behaved. I was to support without too much consideration to what I was actually supporting. I was to pretend this homecoming contest was far more import to me than whatever the fuck it was the Chess or Debate Clubs were up to. None of it meant shit, but I was too stupid to pretend like it did.
Later there was a big parade, so it must have been some heavy shit. And we got out of a stupid class to go to the gym to act like dogs trained to bark or sit on command. We got out of class, so again…..heavy shit. Somebody was voted or elected homecoming queen and king. Teenaged school monarchs for fuck’s sake. There we were closing in on adulthood and still playing make-believe. At the time, our town didn’t even have a McDonald’s. But we had high school monarchs with crowns, sashes, gowns, flowers…..the whole bit. And how in the fuck did we even vote? I assume we had a ballot but I’ve no recollection of it. Anyway, it was supposed to be a big deal but I imagine it seemed about as stupid to me back then as it does describing it now. Just imagine, there was a parade and a king and queen. Now imagine coronating somebody at your workplace king or queen for a day with sashes and crowns and gowns. And you’re supposed to take it seriously as what – some kind of motivational bullshit? Idiotic, right? Idiotic now but not then? I think that’s why it never meant anything to me. It meant no more to me than all the parades and homecoming queens and kings in any of the schools in the counties that surrounded us.
Today, I think I see a lot of folks doing much the same shit as homecoming with their ideas of family and religion and politics. It’s disheartening to see them accept these things and cheer them on without considering why. They cheer on, for example, the primacy of family without considering what that means. Without ever stopping to consider or examine what it actually looks like beyond the slogans, memes, cheering and celebrations of the idea of it. They cheer on their ideas of God with bumper stickers and root for their idea of country with t-shirts on Memorial Day and the Forth of July. They root for and cheerlead these ideas by reciting hymns and anthems without giving much thought to their actual meaning or content, since the heaviest shit is in the mere performance.
I dunno. It didn’t make sense. Maybe I didn’t learn what I needed to learn about kings and queens. I was too aloof to the nonsense of it. Consequently, I didn’t learn to aspire. I didn’t learn to assimilate well enough. I didn’t learn to be motivated or driven by the crowd to want to shine through as one of the best it could produce. I never learned to attach my identity to something as arbitrary as where I happened to find myself at the time.
I don’t know if I ever went to an actual homecoming. Our senior homecoming queen might have been named Julie. Then again, she might have been prom queen. I’m not sure. She might have been both or neither. I remember there was a pretty popular girl in my class named Julie. So it might have been her but I wouldn’t bet a hundred bucks on it. Honestly, I can’t remember how it worked. Maybe we picked the king and he’d already chosen who’d be his queen. We might have voted on the packaged deal. I don’t know. Honestly.