Writing on the wall

By the

February 22, 2001

I think it’s exciting when I come into a room and see a bunch of crap up on the board?stuff I know has nothing to do with the class I’m in but is just up there. It’s funny. I mean, I have to assume that there is some coherence involved, that these words actually have some grand unifying theme. I don’t know why I make this assumption. I once had a professor go up to the board and draw nine or ten vertical lines and then sit back down. He never explained why he did it, never even paused from what he was talking about, but he drew lines up there. I saw the person next to me draw 10 lines in his notebook, so I did too. But I still don’t know what they meant.

Recently I came into class and saw the following chalkboard leftovers:

Nice Abs


-Women & Work


-Asian Men





What? This cryptic message just baffled me. Sisterhood and women and work, OK, that makes a little sense. And labor can kind of tie into that, and I guess Asian men make a lot of money or something. But how this all comes back to a good six-pack was just beyond the realm of my comprehension. Virgins, sluts … I didn’t even want to try to figure those two out.

Then I began to examine the real importance of abdominal excellence. Did one’s stomach have the power to foster a strong sense of cohesion among the working women of the world? Abs do transcend race, social class and sexuality; they can be admired publicly or even from the comfort of one’s own home. Could I be close? Was I seeing the results of a lecture about the overall world-saving value of the Ab Roller?

I began to look more closely for other clues. I could see that the word “Communism” had been erased. There had been an arrow running from “Communism” to something else that I couldn’t make out because “Slut/virgin” had been written over it. Alas, a dead end. I continued to search the chalky swirls for a sign?something, anything?that might clear up what the hell had been going on in here.

Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Abs? Could it be? I panicked. What the hell was I doing? Why was I here? I should be at the gym. I should be doing sit ups. I should be pumping out sets on an ab machine. Crunches, bicycle crunches, combined crunches, crunch and twists, knee raises, lateral crunches, torso rotations, plate crunches, cable pull downs, uppers, lowers, obliques. What am I doing? Sluts, money, success, these things require abs. What the hell was I thinking? I was a failure. The sisterhood, women, hell, the entire labor force, even Asian men: I had let everybody down. I would be condemned, publicly, privately; it was over. Abs?

I fought for my pride. I was not going to let that damn board beat me. There had to be something else.

I started drawing like a madman. Charts, arrows, side notes, footnotes, endnotes, and even pictures. Two stick women holding hands: sisterhood. I was desperate. I drew a house with a window; I drew a house without a window: public, private. I wrote “Labor” in bubble letters and called it a picture. I spent 10 minutes perfectly rendering some sort of quasi-samurai character.

I was just beginning to visually depict the “Slut/virgin” portion of this endeavor when I noticed the girl next to me was staring. I made eye contact. Something close to terror flashed in her glance, and I noticed that she had begun to duplicate my crazed diagram. But something had stopped her, and she just sat there looking at me. She started to shake her head and wrote something down; she underlined it: “Nike Ads.”

Nike Ads? I checked. She was right: Nike Ads. Needless to say, I felt stupid, but there was also a great sense of relief. Nike Ads?it makes perfect sense really. No gut wrenching workout sessions, no never-ending runs, no food deprivation, just shoes; it’s gotta be the shoes. You have no idea how happy I was that the situation turned out OK in the end …

My roommate just came in a minute ago, and I’m wondering if he’ll catch a few words over my shoulder. I don’t know what words he might see, and if he’ll wonder just what the hell the rest of it means. I hope not.

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