I just arrived. Today, I acquired the regalia that visibly identify me as a member of the scholarly class.
I got my PhD in 2006, but I never bought the regalia. I also never made the trip back to Indiana so I could “walk” (i.e. walk across the stage during a graduation ceremony, be “hooded” by my advisor, and be photographed so I could add that photograph to my collection of status markers). Why didn’t I get the regalia and “walk”? I didn’t have the spare cash that would fund a trip to Indiana as well as an expensive set of robes. Of course I was also a new mother at that time, and I couldn’t really spare the time either. Also, my parents are in Pakistan, so who was going to tear up as they watched me walk? No one. The ritual didn’t hold meaning for me.
For the past several years, I’ve rented robes whenever I was obligated to attend my employing institution’s graduation or convocation ceremonies. This costs me about $60 each time. After a few rentals, one realizes that this is a bloody waste of money. In other words, it’s become cheaper to buy the regalia. I confess, too, that I envy my colleagues’ colorful regalia, and feel like a poor country cousin when I show up wearing a rental gown with the colors of my *employer* and not my doctoral institution. Horrors! I always shrink a little when eyes are cast upon me with the question, “Why don’t you have regalia from a different institution? Don’t you have a PhD? Is your PhD not from a reputable institution worthy of recognition through regalia?”
As a member of the toiling scholarly masses, this month – seven years after my PhD was awarded – I was able to purchase a velveteen gown and hood with the correct colors and a six-sided tam, no less. It’s probably no accident that I felt stable enough to also frame my PhD diploma and my MPhil diploma and tack them both up in my office.
It’s just one thing I can cross off my list. I now have regalia. I have arrived. Possibly, for some, donning regalia and posing for photographs in said regalia is a moment of pride and joy. Me, I feel like I just finished a load of laundry. What’s next on the list?
What’s next on your list?
Education and its symbols are some of the most hilariously bourgeois status markers of all. How affluent are you, after all, that you have the money to study for years and years, in contrast to most people in the world who struggle daily to fill their stomachs? The affluence of scholarship is not enough, though. I must fling it in the face of the world by donning gowns and caps with gold tassels on them.
The years spent in the service of scholarship are not enough though. One must pay through the nose to obtain the markers of this scholarship.