Column: Pluses of Homecoming Weekend outweigh perils of pushy parents

By Julian Scharman

Alas, Homecoming Weekend is quickly rearing its ugly head, prepared to take over our social lives for a two- to three-day period. Let’s take our minds off the subject for just a moment as I share a fun “factoid” with you about Homecoming.

Did you know that an equivalent of the United States’ homecoming exists elsewhere? Let me share it with you; it could make a great awkward silence breaker.

In Portugal, the homecoming equivalent is dubbed “the freshman’s reception.” Typically held annually in university towns, celebrations are conducted through a student street parade or “latada,” where traditionally, freshmen participating in the parade stroll through town with tin cans tied to their legs.

See? That little nugget of information took your mind off of that tasty dinner at Olive Garden you’re going to have with your parents and younger sister this Saturday.

Let’s all be honest with one another. If you’re any older than a freshman in Champaign-Urbana, you understand that Homecoming Weekend is a perfect opportunity to see your parental units and others in rare form. Unfortunately, my parents won’t be flying in from California this weekend, because I’m more than sure that they don’t know what Homecoming is, nor know that it is this weekend. Their unawareness is largely my doing, but it isn’t my fault that the only time I can handle them is over some roasted turkey or at a company Christmas party.

But I’m sure that for some of you, any sort of back door escape out of the Homecoming-parent hostile takeover is not feasible. Because for some reason your roommate also happens to be your Orland Park neighbor, and your mothers exchanged a few words when they were clipping roses about how they couldn’t wait to go to the Clybourne this weekend. It’s how life works.

Picking a locale for you and your parents can also present its own set of challenges as we students try to very carefully find a place that will limit awkward conversations and encounters. This will require a place where the ambient noise is loud enough to fill in those seconds of painful voids in conversation. It could also require a place where you know enough people to occupy your parents with more uninspiring questions than you encountered at your seventh-grade Bar Mitzvah. Avoid questions like “So how’s work been?” when all you truly care about is if the girl you sit next to in chemistry lecture will remember your name because you lent her a No. 2 pencil.

Also, on location, going to a place with interesting décor can also help you and your parents break some of that semesterlong ice. You can try Fubar. It’s a nice little place with decorations that look like they came from the same catalogue that “The Jetsons” used to decorate their space apartment. Any place can work really; just make sure you’re standing and not sitting and avoid too much eye contact with the parents. Do this and you’ll be golden, I assure you.

I do hope that you are all well-versed in your conversation skills because you’re going to be having a lot of them, as I have highlighted generously through this column.

But we have to learn to cherish our last days at this fine institution. Trust me, because before you know it, you’ll be teetering on your mahogany rocking chair in some remote Chicago suburb, bickering about how when you went to the University, politicians were honest, prices were reasonable and the line at Station was never this long.