It's been a long time since I've read "Dante's Inferno," but I think Dante had it wrong. I don't remember seeing anything in there about Homecoming Mums, and yet, after spending two hours and a ridiculous amount of money at a local store last weekend, I'm convinced that while shopping for that Mum, I was in the fourth or possibly fifth circle of Hell.
I don't know what on earth led me to believe this would be a simple proposition. All you have to do is walk in and order a mum, right? Wrong. You should have a vague idea of how many lengths of ribbon you'll need, or -- like me—you'll end up having to take a wild stab at it. You must also decide the type, style, and width of the ribbon and, at least in my case, you'll be handed a yardstick and a pair of scissors. Then you need to fish through a vast assortment of do-dads, bells, whistles, braids, rope, chains, stuffed animals, and feathers to accessorize said Mum. And be careful! One of the hidden hazards to the uninitiated is that when the recipient is a senior, the school colors are completely irrelevant. The only acceptable colors for the senior Mum-wearer are silver and white. Or so I'm told. And heaven help the boy--and his mother-- who make such a colossal mistake.
Now, please understand. The concept of the Homecoming Mum is nothing new to me. I am from North Texas, after all. I confess to wearing uber-gaudy triple Mums (along with really bad hair) during high school, but today's teens have taken this flamboyant display of school spirit to an entirely new level. Girls practically need a back brace to support the weight of the thing! Back in the day, I was able to at least pin a triple Mum to my outfit. Today, most of the teenage girls I know have to use straps so their Mums can hang from their necks. And did I mention that some of the Mums light up? That's right. Because they're not outrageous enough, lots of Homecoming Mums today are equipped with LED lights! Incredible.
So, as much as the entire Mum-buying experience makes me crazy, I can see why stores and Mum-makers would never decry the wearing of them. After all, if the cost of just one Mum is jaw-dropping (they can range from about $50 to $300 or so), imagine what many Mums from many schools would do for seasonal sales. It's Christmas in October! The entire time I stood at the checkout counter with my son and our cart full of fluff and watched as the clerk rang everything up, I couldn't help but think that this costly Mum would be worn just one time—twice, if it survived the Homecoming game and was wearable for the dance the following night.
So what have I learned from this Dante-like experience? If I can't singlehandedly change the preferred styles of the Mum-wearing world, I'd sure better learn how to make them before my son graduates from high school.
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