I generally don’t like events where you’re expected to be happy or sad just because it’s a certain day such as anniversaries of things, Christmas Day and my birthdays. I tend to find that doesn’t work for me. I can’t turn emotions on and off and I’m not very good at pretending. My general awkwardness means that often I feel a little bit moody due to the pressure to enjoy myself on other people’s terms. I’d generally be much happier reading a book or watching a good film (that applies to most of life).
I successfully avoided my graduation from nursing college. I was painfully shy (and still am in some ways, although I hide it better) and the notion of walking across a stage in front of other people horrified me. I asked my parents what they thought and they were about as enamoured with the idea of attending a lengthy graduation ceremony as I was. I’d enjoyed the nursing course, found the academic work quite easy and didn’t see much to celebrate. I just wanted to get on and work.
I was pressured into attending my graduation from my degree against my better judgment by the rather conventional police inspector I was dating at the time. I’d studied for my degree part time whilst working full time and got a passable mark. It was lengthy, tedious and dull to do, taking up valuable time during which I could have been reading novels or keeping the house clean. I was glad it was over, happy with my certificate being posted out and had no intention whatsoever of attending any sort of ceremony (or ever studying again).
I made the mistake of telling the aforementioned policeman about the ceremony and my plans not to attend and was convinced into going. I did something I don’t often do and bowed to the pressure of conformity. He lectured me about how it was weird to not want to attend and how much he’d like to attend. I failed to understand this and couldn’t imagine why he’d want to celebrate me getting a qualification he hadn’t even witnessed me working for. He persuaded me to ask my mum if she wanted to go and she expressed a half hearted interest.
Before I knew it I was hiring a nylon gown and a silly hat and setting off on a freezing November day to a large sports hall. Inspector Twat was away the night before on a leaving do in York but insisted he’d get up early and drive down. He appeared in an out moded suit with a Nehru collar which looked only a little bit more finely woven than the cheap gown I’d hired.
I was bustled through a series of work tables in the foyer where a slick operation kitted me out in a long black gown, a sash and absurd looking hat. I felt very silly. Then I was rushed through into a sports hall where I sat with a group of people I’d never met before to nervously await the horrifying experience of walking across a stage without passing wind or tripping over. The waiting was torturous, made worse by having to engage in polite chit chat with uninteresting strangers.
My nerves gave way to boredom. There was no celebrity to give a speech, just a rather dull college dean. The only entertainment was the dean’s terrible attempts at pronouncing a series of Eastern European and African names. The poor man was engaged in reading aloud a tongue twisting list of names which all sounded like Countdown Conundrums.
It passed. I was cold and bored. I had a mild headache. We convened for photos and I posed for the photos, my smile not quite reaching my eyes. I knew it was pretence and as ever was feeling my inability to fake things. Inspector Twat had to rush off to a meeting (I later found out he was going to meet another man for sex and also had most likely never been to York the night before. Apparently he could fake it much better than I ever could hope to). We rushed a quick lunch at a cheap carvery and I was back home feeling resentful at the money spent and time wasted for what seemed a joyless experience for us all. I’d inadvertently made Inspector Twat’s jaw drop during lunch with my usual bluntness. He’d told me that my dad was obviously watching down with pride.
“He’s dead though.” I said incredulously. “How could he be watching?” He winced as he often did when he spoke. I do hate an asinine comment and am not good at biting my tongue.
The moral of the story for me is don’t be pushed into doing things you don’t want to, especially if they cost you valuable time and money and are just for show. Life is short and we don’t all like the same things. Just because people around you can see the Emperor’s new clothes doesn’t mean you have to pretend you can too. The Emperer is clearly often naked.