Friday, May 13, 2011

Conceding the Argument

I got into it with my dad.

“You should send out commencement announcements. Let everyone know that you have succeeded.”

“Why?” I asked, it all seemed so arbitrary. Plenty of people graduated every year; I was just another face in the crowd. What stake did anyone have in knowing whether I had cross-dressed and picked up a piece of paper?

“Because people want to know. It’s tradition.”

“Tradition? It was traditional for women to be sold off at marriage with a dowry. Are you seriously asking me to send out announcements because of tradition? If I die am I supposed to have a funeral?”

“I understand that tradition may not be the best argument. If you die you don’t have to have a funeral. But it is customary for friends and extended relatives of the deceased in Japanese culture to give sums of money to the surviving family members. So expect that whether you want it or not.”

“Ok…” I was reluctant to say the least, I shouldn’t have to conform to anyone’s standards.

“Look at it this way, it’s important to everyone else. They want to know that you have succeeded.”

“What? That I got passing grades and lived off my parent’s buck for four years is a matter of celebration?” I didn’t want to do it, “what is it supposed to say: I didn’t flunk out, I’m not an addict, give me money for partying for four years, whoo!” I just didn’t buy that anyone really wanted to know that I was graduating.

“Ciera sent us a really beautiful graduation announcement, you should follow her lead. By the way, tell her we really enjoyed the announcement.”

“I will Dad, but should I really do it just because everyone else is? If they were all jumping off bridges, should I do the same?”

“Here’s where I’m coming from. If you want to get a little extra cash to help you start your new life, you should send announcements. It’s important to them and it benefits you.” He cut straight to the point. I was broke; I really wasn’t sure how I was going to get my life started without significant financial help from my family. I was starting to turn. “Listen, just think about it.”

“Ok Dad. I don’t know what to do though, who should I send it to? Could you make me a list of people who would like announcements with their addresses on it and e-mail that to me? I can make something up and send it off I guess.” I felt kind of like a sell-out. Everything my Dad said was true though, there were many people in my life who had seen me grow and develop. They would all want to know that they were integral to that process. I conceded the point, it was just a matter of logistics now.

“Good. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Alright, bye Dad.” It was one of those moments where I realized a few things. First, the ceremony of graduation is a community event; the celebration of one person’s achievement is seen as the accomplishment of a community. Second, my Dad was ornery as hell, but I’ve always known that. Third, that my perspective was skewed; I always just thought of my parents as my sole support, but realistically there were many people involved in what I had accomplished, and they all deserved to know that they were integral to my formation and successful graduation to adulthood. And fourth, a little cash was not a bad idea, as awkward as I felt about sending an announcement with the implicit assumption that I would receive some, it was something happily and readily given because of the previous three reasons.