Sunday, February 28, 2010

The tassle.

When students go through the ceremony of graduation from high school or college they traditionally wear a gown, and a cap with a tassel. I knew this tradition before I graduated from high school. However, it wasn't until about the time I graduated from college, from Yale--the first time I graduated from college, that I ever heard of the tradition that upon the very act of receiving your diploma, from an official of the school as you walk across whatever platform they have arranged for all the graduates to be seen one at a time getting their diplomas in front of the assembled public and guests, you are supposed to grasp the tassel and move it from one side of your cap's mortarboard, to the opposite side, and you are supposed to have had it on a particular side beforehand, I'm not sure whether it's the left or right, in the front of the cap.

In thinking about the part of the tradition of moving the tassel as one crosses the stage right at the moment of getting one's diploma, it has occurred to me only very recently that there is a connection between this tradition and what I have heard to be a fetish about the object called a tassel. A fetish, it is my understanding, is something that inexplicably arouses someone. If it arouses you explicably, namely, it is a member of the opposite sex (I don't think homosexuality is a legitimate explanation for arousal) then it's not a fetish. And it was my understanding that any specific fetish arouses only a subset of the population. Curly, of the Three Stooges, had a tassel fetish. I always thought this inexplicable because I had never experienced arousal at anything resembling a tassel.

But I realized recently, as I said, because of an event following my graduation from high school--Glenbard West in Glen Ellyn, Illinois--that tassels are very powerful agents of arousal for everyone who hasn't felt the arousal from them yet. The tradition of moving the tassel from one side of the mortarboard to the other assures that upon the arrival of certainty that a person will have his diploma he will confront a sexual fetish through physical contact with the skin of his fingers, a confrontation which he by virtue of his graduation, and all that it represents, will be equipped to experience, and the sooner the better before other things distract him from whatever lesson is carried in this little act. Plus, it is a public statement that he has been in contact with a fetish, something that he must face to become a trusted, freely moving member of the public.

I wouldn't have given such an analysis credence at the time I learned of the tradition of the tassel, but I am forced to conclude it is accurate in light of what happened to me on the day I received my high school diploma, afterward at a party thrown by a friend. I was sitting with a girl who I knew had a crush on me because she had told me so, and we were idly chatting and glowing in having graduated from high school.

I happened to have my tassel in my hand--we were absent our robes, which were all rented, but we were allowed to keep the tassels--and quite unconsciously she started to toy with it as well, and we sat there for some time talking. For some inexplicable reason I became unable to resist starting to pet with her. We kissed and it was clear that we were then a couple for all to see. I had never been sexually attracted to her. However, we began to date regularly and during Christmas break of the next school year, which we both had spent at different colleges, we consummated our relationship by coitus interruptus.

It is entirely beyond reason that I would start to date a girl I wasn't attracted to at a time immediately antecedent to my entrance into life as a college student, where I was certain to be surrounded socially by many more girls of my own intellectual calibre than was the case in high school, even despite the fact that since Yale was coeducating for the very first time in my freshman year there it would only be admitting 250 freshman girls into a 1250-member freshman class, and 50 girls into the sophomore and junior years, each.

But if it was the fact that the tassel had the effect of bridging the gap between myself and this girl, because all it takes so to bridge a couple is sexual opposition and an enabler, or fetish, then the whole matter of this girl in my life as she came to be is not inexplicable, but is quite explicable, and serves to explain as well why there is this tradition of moving the tassel from one side of the mortarboard to the other as one receives his diploma walking across the stage at the graduation ceremony. I certainly have seen my life thrown into disarray by the effect of the tassel. Yet the ultimate result is good, because I have learned a great deal about sexuality, without getting married to do it.

After coitus with this girl I soon woke up to the fact that my options for partners were vastly superior in college, and I broke up with her over the phone after we were back at school. This ending served to prove the awareness benefits of coitus.

I don't mean to offend the girl here. She was a good intellectual comrade, and I never told her I wasn't attracted to her. But in fact, I was unable to get aroused by her when we were naked together so I imagined myself enacting what was the only way I knew would bring me to climax, which was another fetish--cross-dressing. This way I appeared to be her partner and she apparently was satisfied with me. The toward effect of the relationship was that I maintained a legitimate heterosexual partnership in public for a duration of about a year. This was a very different toward effect than that of feeling aroused by girls I really was attracted to. The issue for me was not so much who was my intellectual peer, something I regularly was able to learn about, but who was my erotic peer, and what magic would be able, ultimately, to bridge the gap between me and such a girl. The girl I did date proved I could bridge the gap and maintain it naturally for some time. But it was a weak eros. During college, both times, I learned much more than this about not only making a connection, but doing so with an erotic peer.

Crystal is an erotic peer of mine. Her morality is superior. This outweighs the deficit of her having no high school diploma. If she accepts me as her partner in marriage I can be sure our offspring will benefit from this as they cannot from me. Even I can benefit from her example, and I believe I am already doing so.

That, however, is a separate issue.

This issue is the reason resident in the tradition of moving the tassel from one side of the cap to the other on the graduation stage, when one grasps for the first time a token of public passage, his diploma.