High school graduation is one of those milestones that people remember for the rest of their lives, right up there with their first kiss or the moment they stopped believing in Santa Claus. Graduates, here are some tips to ensure that your big day is memorable for all the right reasons:
Press to impress. Your graduation gown, that is. The flimsy thing comes in the mail, folded into a 9-by 12-inch package in such a way as to maximize the wrinkles and creases. Believe me, every one of those creases is visible to the entire audience. A little forethought and a warm iron can make you stand out as a responsible young person who is bound to go far in life. If you’re unconcerned about your own reputation, think of your poor mother, who wants to focus on her pride in your laudable accomplishments but is distracted by the origami effect of your unpressed gown. All she can focus on is the monumental task of teaching you to do your own laundry before you head off to college.
Come prepared for tears. Slip a tissue pack into the flowing sleeves of your graduation gown, just in case. Sure, you’ve been looking forward to this day for the last two and half months, if not the last four years, and you wouldn’t be caught dead crying over the end of high school. Although you’re not planning to get emotional, your mother is bound to shed a tear or two. When you offer her a tissue, she’ll be so touched by your thoughtful maturity that she might even overlook the wrinkles and creases in your gown.
Wear high heels at your peril. Of course you want to dress up, but remember that in order to get to your diploma you must navigate a flight of steps and an expanse of stage monitored by countless video cameras including those of your younger siblings. Unless you want to give them potential blackmail footage of you wobbling across the stage or tripping in front of your principal, you should stick with comfortable shoes that are easy to walk in.
Take with your left hand, shake with your right. It’s easy to forget which is which when you are faced with the daunting prospect of shaking your principal’s hand as if the two of you were equals.
Slip some hand warmers into your pockets. Nerves make your hands cold, which your principal will notice and potentially comment on at the moment of the obligatory handshake. Your goal is to refrain from giving your principal any opening for conversation, leaving him or her with nothing to say to you except, “Congratulations.” Anything else only adds to the blackmail potential of your younger siblings’ video recording.
Don’t be that guy. You know, the one whose phone goes off at the very instant that the graduation speaker calls for a moment of silence to reflect on the cherished memories of your high school years. That’s one memory that you don’t want to make.
Clap for everyone, even the kids you don’t like. There’s something therapeutic about celebrating the accomplishments of someone who really irritates you. Then when you encounter this unlikeable person at your 15th class reunion and you discover that the two of you have a lot in common and really enjoy each other’s company, you can bask in your moral triumph at graduation when you clapped for that kid you didn’t like.
Think before you throw. Your mortarboard, that is. There are a number of factors to consider when deciding whether or not to toss your cap at the end of the ceremony. Make sure you have a plan as to how to get it back. All caps look alike, after all. The last thing you want on the night of your high school graduation is a case of head lice from popping someone else’s hat onto your head. Then you might want to think about your hair. Ripping a hat off your head and tossing it into the air may be satisfying, but it’s bound to muss your carefully executed hairdo. You should also make sure that cap tossing is sanctioned at your school. After four years of hard work, it would be a shame to be denied a diploma just because your head was bare at the end of the graduation ceremony.
Finally, enjoy the spotlight. Your mom and dad and all your relatives (with the possible exception of your younger siblings) will tell you how proud they are of you, and they’ll really mean it too. Be proud of yourself—you’ve earned it!
• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother and debut author who lives in Juneau. Her first novel, Uniformly Dead, is available through Kensington Lyrical Underground under the name “Greta McKennan.” She likes to look at the bright side of life.