Can I have school spirit for a school I didn't attend?
Can I have school spirit for a school I didn’t attend?Illustration by Jack Unruh

Q: I wear the colors and symbols of a university I never attended because I admire its history and traditions. Does this make me as stupid as the people who wear burnt orange simply because UT has a big marketing program?
John Dull, Pasadena

A: Clothes make the man, whether you choose to cover your naked body with jeans and a plain white T-shirt or the pin-striped suit of a big-city banker. (A corollary: In the Texanist’s experience, there are certain situations where a lack of clothes can also make the man, but it is absolutely critical to properly judge when you are in these situations and not in another type of situation where a lack of clothes only makes the man have to write letters of apology to all the people in his wife’s extended family.) Along the spectrum of sartorial significance (at one end lie the myriad uniforms of our military; at the other, a pair of plain blue swimming trunks), a piece of clothing adorned with school colors and symbols falls somewhere between the jersey of a professional sports team and the tank top of a bygone political campaign. Be the wearer a card-carrying ex—student association member or a non-attending booster such as yourself, he is required to sport that garment with purpose. Donning a school’s colors (or a “Save the Whales” T-shirt) effectively deputizes you as an emissary of that institution (or cause) and means that you must possess reverence for—or at least some vague awareness of—its storied traditions, current win-loss record, and ranking in the coaches poll. Nothing is more depressing than striking up a urinal conversation with a man wearing the ball cap of your alma mater only to discover, after an unhinged ten-minute rant about the special-teams coach, that this man did not attend your school, is wearing the hat only because his wife’s brother left it in his car, and couldn’t care less. As long as you are mindful not to become this man, Mr. Dull, it is fine to wear whatever you like.

Q: In the midst of planning our March wedding, my fiancé and I have hit a wall with regard to the perfect song for our first dance. We’ve narrowed it down to “I Cross My Heart,” by George Strait, and “Waltz Across Texas,” by Ernest Tubb, with my soon-to-be voting for Ernest. We thought about a coin toss, but then we thought of you. The decision is all yours.
Tracy Parker, Houston

A: It was a bright and muggy day. Saturday, the twentieth of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand. High noon. Austin, Texas. Reception to follow around back. The Texanist remembers it like it was yesterday, as do all who were in attendance. Somehow the musical entertainment for the postnuptial doings (which was the one thing he’d been put in charge of) ended up being Joe King Carrasco, still king of the still-obscure genre known as Tex-Mex rock and roll. With everybody gathered round, the band launched into the prearranged song for the first dance, “Buena,” a quite jaunty number that had at the time seemed like a good idea but, as the archival footage makes clear, was not. Too fast. Never one to retreat from a challenge, the Texanist, with toothy overbite and eyes afire, circled his freshly minted missus with a jerky bouncing motion as she stood slack-jawed and helpless at the sight of his demonic flailings. Some might say this particular gambol set the tone for their future cohabitation, which has included many situations in which an off-kilter outcome results from a less-than-perfect decision on the part of the Texanist. Yet here they are, ten years later, as dedicated to each other as the day they first swapped spit. You see, married life is full of tough choices (kids or not, rent or own, corn or flour), and the important thing is not learning to make the right decision but rather learning to accept that your husband will almost always make the wrong one. There’s no better time to start absorbing this lesson than on your wedding day, so the Texanist will respectfully decline to make the call for you. Let it be a coin toss. Heads it’s Tubb and tails it’s Strait. And here’s to a “Buena” day.

Q: I was recently invited to attend a college football game with a friend who has two season tickets. I accepted the invitation and went to the game. We lost pretty bad. After the game my friend insinuated that I owed him cash for the full face value of the ticket. We had no pre-arrangements, and I had just assumed that I was his guest. Do I really owe him anything?
Name Withheld

A: Your so-called friend is either completely clueless as to spare-sporting-event-ticket etiquette or a low-down bamboozler with whom you should not keep company. Full value in cash money? The Texanist thinks not. The ticket was long since bought and paid for, and had you not accepted the invitation it would have likely gone unused and thus wasted. So who did the real solid for the other here, anyway? The answer is both of you. By accepting the invitation, you saved him the shame of having to attend the game solo like some kind of friendless loser, and, thanks to him, you got to see the game. We have a draw. No money should change hands. But as everyone knows, there are three acceptable forms of currency that can, and should, be used to repay the debt of a free ticket: use of your pickup truck, beer, or a shoulder to cry on after the team loses its next three straight.

Q: My grandfather passed away last year. We’ve decided to plant a tree in his honor, but we aren’t sure what kind of tree it should be. I say magnolia, because they’re beautiful when they blossom; my sister says pecan, because of its status as the state tree of Texas; and my brother says mesquite, since Granddaddy was tough and could be a bit ornery at times. What’s the appropriate tree for a good ol’ Texas boy?
Name Withheld

A: This is a nice plan. For the reasons you’ve stated, both the magnolia and the pecan are fine choices. Apologies to your brother, but the mesquite is a mistake. Many a Texas boy harbors ill feelings toward this tree. The Texanist’s own father hated them because of their detrimental effect on his spread. And the Texanist would happily never see one again because clearing them was a chore so dreaded that it was meted out as punishment for his boyhood misdeeds. The Texanist is just guessing, but your grandfather probably had a similar distaste for the mesquite tree bred in his bones and would be none too pleased to see his name forever associated with one of these gnarly shrubs. Live oak is another good option. They’re majestic and will live forever. Call your local extension agent for planting instructions. The Texanist is sorry for your loss.