The mum of all fears

My freshman year of college I lived in an apartment (because I was simply too cool to live in the dorms, if you must know) with four girls from Texas.  They were from a little town in eastern Texas named Gilmer (not Gilmore!).  They told me all about Homecoming and how the girls would wear these big mums that sounded like really large, weird corsages.  I made a mental note of mums in the “weird regional American miscellany” file in my brain and went on with my life.

Fast forward almost 20 years. I am now living in Texas. And it will soon be Homecoming.  I was at my friend Michelle’s house yesterday and though of mums.  My grey matter chimed in, “Michelle has a teenage daughter. Maybe she has heard of this mum phenomenon.” And sure enough, Michelle not only confirmed the existence of mums, but had her daughter’s mum from last year that she hauled out.  My eyes nearly popped out of my head (Am I right Lisa?)  This thing was a monster.  Kind of like Dr. Frankenstein meets Martha Stewart at a pep rally.  I don’t have a picture of it, but I downloaded a few off of the internet to show you.  Michelle’s daughter’s mum looked very silmilar to the top picture:

Since this is no doubt as baffling to you as it was to me, let me share the knowledge I gleaned from my in-depth investigation of “The Mum”.

–A boy gives his date her mum.  Which means that his mother has to order one or make one herself.  The girl gives him a garter, which is a mini-version (although still surprisingly large) that he wears around his upper arm.  Awww, they’re so cute and matchy:

–This is a Texas-only tradition (although rumor has it some Oklahoma schools have them too.) These originally started out as just regular old flower corsages, but Texans like things big and showy, so you can see where this led.

–Mums do actually have a flower (or two or three)–a chrysanthemum–although it’s silk and purely there for name’s sake only, since it’s entirely covered with other things, most likely a teddy bear wearing clothes.

–The mum is made in the school colors. It has the name of the school, the girl’s name and her grade. The ribbons hanging from it are nearly floor-length and not just plain old ribbons. Oh no, that would be too boring. A lot of the ribbons are braided, and woven with other ribbons. Feathers, tassels and maribou boas are also usually added. There are trinkets tied to the ends of some of the ribbons that reflect the girl’s interests (soccer ball, cheerleading pompoms, football helmet, etc.) Somewhere on there is usually a cowbell (seriously).  Add lots of glitter and anything with pizazz and there you go.

–These suckers are heavy. Like 10 or 12 lbs heavy. Imagine pinning a baby to your shirt. That’s the kind of weight we’re talking about. According to Michelle, the mum is worn to school the day of homecoming as well as to the game itself. Not to the dance, though. (Because that would be tacky, I guess.)

All this makes me wonder what I would have done about the mum situation if I had gone to school in Texas. First we have the issue of me never having had a date in all my high school years. Nobody would have given me a mum. Would I have made one for myself? What do girls in my situation do? Make each other mums?

In high school I also had an issue with tacky things. Let me tell you, it was hard to avoid the tacky stuff back in the 80’s! Even if I had had a date to homecoming, would I have even worn a mum? I mean, his mom would have made/bought it for me, so it’s not like I could have been that picky. But I would have died if I’d had to wear one of those things. Really, I would have. I guess it’s a pointelss question, but it’s the sort of thing I like to waste my time worrying about.

Anyway, happy Homecoming!

| Filed under Texas

10 thoughts on “The mum of all fears

  1. Ack I hate it when I finish a whole comment then forget to send it… Yes, girls get together and buy/make each other mums or their parents do it. For many girls it feels really uncomfortable not to have one when most/all the other girls do. And there is no shame in wearing one your parents bought you as long as it is appropriately large 😉 I totally wore one in Jr High, not sure why I bowed out of this tradition in HS. I loved my mums and have huge regrets that I didn’t save them over the years. That is one of those things that my kids some day would find totally weird and totally cool.

  2. I do so remember all those girls. They were very, um, tolerant. And I remember long talks about mums, cheerleading uniforms (what was it, 8 uniforms for 6 games?), and the honor of being elected Yam Queen. Ah, Gilmer: someday I’m going to drive through just to make sure it’s all real.

  3. You must have moved here last year after I posted about Lindsey’s mums she gave to friends. Yeah, it’s big here. It’s very odd, but the kids really get into this tradition. It’s kind of a status syblol wearing around your gaudy mums. Lindsey has her old ones hanging in her closet as cherished high school memories. I’ll have to find the link to my last year’s post to send you to check out hers.

  4. Oh.yeah. Went to college in Texas and was shocked, shocked, I tell you, about the Mum Phenom. Had no idea–and then of course, was concerned that I would never receive one to wear to the Homecoming game–oh the stress over not receiving the gaudiest, most awful collection of faux floral I had ever seen….

    Loved your comments over at my place–wow, what a season for you. We likewise have a house on the market (even longer than yours…doesn’t that help you feel good?…) Making a list–great idea~


  5. Well, you brought back lots of “Mum” memories for this gal. I was raised in Texas and was actually Homecoming Queen, so I had to wear two mums all day at school and that night—but not when we walked onto the field to be crowned…

    But—I must admit that ours were a lot smaller and the girls clubs made and sold them at our school in El Paso—-so maybe things have gotten bigger since I lived there.

    Those pictures are pretty hilarious! I actually still have mine in my scrapbook—it has my picture on the ribbon…pretty freaky, huh?

  6. I went to college at Rice University, never having been to Texas before. Some of my friends from Texas had actually brought some of their old mums from high school to decorate their dorm rooms. I remember being totally bewildered by them! Mums are certainly one of the things that makes Texas unique and endearing.

  7. my friend just posted her high school senior’s FIRST experience with “the mum”–she went through the 5 stages of grief: anger, denial, depression, bargaining, ACCEPTANCE.

    guess that’s where you’re gonna be pretty quick? 🙂
    (and then take photos and blog)

  8. Wowsa – my husband is from Texas and this is one I never heard of….

    But I do know that Texas makes a big deal about school activities and everyone has those vinyl stickers on their rear car window advertising that their kid is on the football team or in the band or the drill team….

  9. Oh. My. TACKY. That thing is horrificly attrocibeuatifulame! Wow. All I know is that I bet Mindi secretly wants one because she loves all things fancy and sparkley.

    I’m sure in high school I would have died if I didn’t have one too.

    I’m just glad to know they don’t have to wear them to the dance because that thing could seriously ruin a beautiful dress (not to mention pulling a strapless RIGHT OFF).

  10. I remember you telling me all about this when we were roomates. I had no idea they could be even more hideous than I imagined. At least a real mum is a real flower. Yikes. This might be the final “I’m going to have to homeschool Inida” straw!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *