When I think of Homecoming, I don’t necessarily think of football games or seeing old friends. I don’t think about tailgating or special alumni receptions or anything related to Penn, really.
I think of high school dances.
You know what I’m talking about. The Homecoming dance. The popular kids were reassured of their social status by a coveted spot on the Homecoming Court and a chance to be king and queen, and the whole school got guilted into going to a football game where the home team would probably lose, all made more exciting by the yearly tradition of finding a date, buying a corsage and then being really awkward for a sober, two-hour dance.
Homecoming was when girls didn’t know that I liked boys and I would turn away date requests because I “didn’t want to ruin our friendship” and then finally cave and go with someone who I knew wouldn’t try to make a move. Homecoming was also the time when I was an asshole, apparently. Sorry about that one.
The best parts of Homecoming by far, though, were the overdone themes and gaudy decorations. My senior year, for instance, the theme was Candy Land. Naturally, the gymnasium (we didn’t rent out a ballroom or anything classy like that) was filled with lollipop forests, monstrous bowls of fake balloon candy and a giant rainbow road encircling the dance floor. In my yearbook, there is definitely a giant picture of me putting the finishing pre-dance touches on a giant lollipop. I was, obviously, very cool.
Today, Homecoming lacks the sense of frivolity that it had in high school. The tradition is, of course, a bit different at Penn. We don’t have kings or queens, and there’s no dance. Instead, it’s a chance to see our graduated friends who got jobs close enough to Philly that they can feasibly make it back for a weekend, and a reminder for us seniors that we too will be the ones coming "home" a lot sooner than we would like.
Homecoming will be a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong. But when the weekend is over and the hangover wears off, the rapid influx of alums will have about 2,500 of us thinking hard about The Future, the world where you don’t get a tiara and a sash for being popular and where there’s no pep rally to get you pumped for the big game.
Me? I’d take a corsage and a sweaty gymnasium any day.