October 18, 2008

homecoming mum

it all started one day earlier this year in a conversation with my friend from dallas:

jake: did your high school have homecoming mums?
anneke: i don't think so. is that like a sorority mother? some kind of maternal figure that presides over the homecoming court?
jake: no, mum like chrysanthemum. you know, the big flowers that you wear on your shirt?
anneke: like a corsage or a boutonniere for a formal dance? yeah, i guess we had those.
jake: no, no, no. they're huge, and you pin them to your shirt and wear them around at school all day. they have ribbons and stuffed animals glued to them...
anneke: *disbelief*
jake: you should google it.

so, i did, and i couldn't believe what i found. a homecoming mum looks like a glorified best-in-show ribbon. it's an obscene floral bouquet, streamed with ribbons, often adorned with spirited flair. from what i can tell, it is tradition in certain parts of this great country of ours for high school girls to receive homecoming mums from their parents, their boyfriends, and/or their boyfriend's parents. they affix these monstrosities to their shirts and parade them around during homecoming season. as with any bizarre and materialistic ritual, size matters. the bigger the mum, the more popular the girl. and some of these are big. think: dinner plate. in addition to conducting some google research, i confirmed the myth of the homecoming mum with my texan coworker, and i've been mildly fascinated by this previously-unknown-to-me sliver of americana ever since.

i've been traveling a lot for work lately -- hanging out with our sales force inside retail stores. so, you can imagine my surprise when i found myself in dallas...in mid-october...inside a grocery store. jackpot.

apparently, kroger is your homecoming mum destination:

inside the floral departments, you find walls of unadorned mums just waiting to be jazzed up with accessories selected from the "flair board."

i was so shocked to see this seemingly unreal phenomenon with my own eyes, i started to feel like snapping pictures on my blackberry was producing results akin to those grainy photos of the loch ness monster. if my california compatriots were to understand the true nature of the homecoming mum, i was going to have to capture one in the wild and bring it back to the west coast.

to select my homecoming mum, i had to talk to the experts. i met with two floral department employees at a kroger store in allen, tx. upon going native to procure said mum, my first shock was to learn that homecoming mums can put you back up to $200. lucky for me, allen high school's homecoming had just passed, and i was going to get a substantial discount.

the second shock was the weight of these bad boys. especially once they've been weighed down with flair, a homecoming mum can start pushing a few pounds. when i asked how these abominations are worn, i got a lesson in creative pin usage. apparently, some girls attach their mums to their bra straps for extra support. others go the less-aesthetically-pleasing route and hang them around their necks with ribbon. the florist told me about one girl whose mum was so big that she requested straps so she could wear it like a backpack. a mum backpack.

and that's just the tip of the mum-culture iceberg. i started to ask about who buys the mum, because i'd heard it can come from different sources. i learned that buying your own mum is just about the lamest thing you can do -- it's much more socially acceptable if someone else buys it for you. "but what if multiple people buy mums for you?" i asked, "is it appropriate to double mum?" the answer is yes, and it's not that uncommon. yikes.

it also turns out that the color of the mum is very important. each class has to wear different colors. for example, freshman have red mums, sophomores have blue mums, juniors have red and blue mums, and seniors wear all white.

the mum i finally settled on was a heart-shaped junior mum. it featured a stuffed eagle head (for the school mascot: the allen eagles), a glittery football helmet, sequined streamers, feather boa bits, two(!) whistles, and a cow bell. it was a thing of beauty and a joy forever. i presented it as a gift to my dear friend julie.


KYS said...

WOW. I never would have known! And in our own back yard (kinda). I've been missing out on the greatest of all flair!

Pamela said...

This is the funniest thing I have heard of in a very long time!
I found your blog, while googling "Texas Homecoming Mum",after a conversation with my little sister who lives in Houston, telling me she has to make a "Homecoming Mum" for my nephews date. I asked "what do you mean make a Mum?". I was blown away at the Garish bizarre nature of this....haha!
Being from the south, but living most of my life in Denver, that is truly a cultural thing I had yet to hear of until today. I had the exact reaction you did! *GRIN* I very much enjoyed reading your blog and looking at your photos. The proud look of your co-worker's face with her newly bestowed riches hanging elaborately off of her chest the way excessive ornamentation would.....LOVE IT!
Thank you for adding a bright touch to my interesting exploration of a "Texas Homecoming Mum" =)

Kathleen said...

I've lived in Texas my whole life, so I've known about homecoming mums. Let me tell you it was a big shot to find out that not everyone does this tradition! I only found out this little tidbit when I saw your YouTube video today.

I love the tradition of the Homecoming mums; making them was a blast! I had a mum every year in high school and senior year I had 2. They are a little annoying with the bells, but I love them!

Homecoming mums are EXTREMELY cheaper to make then buy. The mum you had bought would in reality only cost about $50-60 to make at the most. The ones I've made only turn out to be around $30-40. If I had bought the exact same mum I'd have to pay around $100. Homecoming mums are VERY easy to make. You only need stapler and a hot glue gun to make them.

Middle Aged Mom said...

Being a native Southern Californian who now resides in The Woodlands, Texas, I can relate! We have a lot of expats who live here so you can only imagine the culture shock they have when homecoming season rolls around. My daughter's boyfriend is from Norway. I though his poor mom's head was going to explode when I explained this tradition to her. I'm sure you know that the girls make matching garters for the guys!

chickenpielover said...

Your are strikingly attractive, both beauty and personality. Enjoy your stuff.

Kayla said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kayla said...

I'm from Allen, Texas. I just want you to know that not everybody here is this crazed (though if we're honest, most of them are). I opted to skip the mum tradition and when every one of my friends complained about the heaviness of them or the sheer noise their mums made while they barely changed positions in class (you mentioned cowbells), I just nodded with mock sympathy. Though your mum is great, it's missing battery powered lights. It's okay... there's always senior year.
Thanks for your sane perspective on this psychotic tradition.

P.S.You better watch out, those crazies are bound to show up and be appalled that you called that a junior mum (which are only blue and white at Allen)

deseri williams said...

Hello, I am from Central Texas and I must say I recently had the reverse experience. I was recently visiting a friend in Arkansas. Her mother was making my 3 year old daughter (who adores football...lol) a cheerleader uniform to match the local teams HS cheerleaders. So i thought hey lets go get mum stuff for homecoming and we can make one together. She (formerly from Texas) says uh they don't really do that up here. I thought ok Hobby Lobby here we come. No Joke I looked a little and asked an employee Where the mum stuff is. She stares blankly at me and points to the artificial flowers and says right there. I asked you don't have anything for football mums, you know homecoming stuff? She said oh no honey, you must not be from here are you from Texas? I was flabbergasted, like seriously could not believe this. I must admit the mum you have shown in the picture much like many girls in the current generation, have these ugly, trashy, hooker award looking crazy business. I feel they are rather inappropriate.