I showed up at school today in my Astro/Elroy Jetson print shirt, fruit print surfing shorts, and my Batman insignia Converse All-Stars. I looked pretty wacky. I looked pretty tacky. Today was "Wacky Tacky Day." It was day four of Spirit Week, and I could feel my spirit being crushed as sure as my collar chafed me yesterday on "Dress Up Day."
Nobody asked me if I wanted to have Spirit Week. I confess that when we had almost made it to the end of the year without anyone bringing it up, I figured that I had gotten away with something. Alas, middle of last week brought a hastily penned memo in our mailboxes announcing the lineup: Monday - Pajama Day, Tuesday - Twin Day, Wednesday - Dress Up Day, Thursday - Wacky Tacky Day, and Friday - Sports Day. I don't know who came up with the categories, but I recognized most of them right away. This is not my first Spirit Week.
Back when I was in elementary school (back when the earth was cooling and dinosaurs roamed the earth), we didn't have Spirit Week. That kind of ritual humiliation was saved with special ironical glee for that time when self-esteem is at its most fragile: junior high. When the posters went up at Centennial Junior High, I made careful note about which day was what and started making plans to participate as fully as I possibly could to show my school spirit. The thing is, nobody in junior high really wants to admit that they own pajamas, let alone wear them to school. Cheerleaders were exempt from the horrendous cruelty that awaited anyone foolish enough to fully engage in the whole "spirit" deal. The rest of us who were foolish enough to try and go along with the program were fated to being punched in the shoulder, hard - two for flinching - whether you flinched or not.
In high school, school spirit was doled out a little more evenly, but cheerleaders and the most popular kids could get away dressing in the most outrageous ways without attracting unnecessary attention or torture. I was in the Pep Band, so spirit was pretty much required. We made a point of dressing in different and bizarre costumes for all of our many appearances. By this point, we had the comfort of our own oddness to ward off the zombies who might do us harm. When our basketball team went to the state championship, it was almost cool to be a part of the Pep Band. We were the ruling class of band geeks.
Now, in my forties, I have this whole perilous threat to my ego set up once more. "Mister Caven, why are you dressed like that?" I explain to them that it's all a part of showing your enthusiasm for the school and being a part of something bigger. Whee. Isn't this fun? A few years ago, I won a certificate for "Best Pajamas." I found it when I was cleaning out my room for next year. Tomorrow I'll wear my John Elway jersey and the kids will all want to know who he was, and then it will be over - for another year.