I always thought my legacy would be something grand and inspiring, like discovering the cure for cancer or being the first person to read Naked Lunch while completely sober. Technically, I suppose I could still end up doing either of those things, but that’s not how I’ll be remembered. My claim to fame, the reason people will remember me after my death, lies in all the things I did in school that now have specific rules against them because some authority figure got ticked at me for doing them. I’m surprisingly okay with this, so much so that I’m sharing a couple of my favorites:
1. You’re not allowed to defend your thesis before you write itI was pretty notorious in school for waiting until the last minute to write my papers, but even for me, this was pretty extreme. I’d done everything else I was supposed to do–gotten approval for my honors thesis topic, outlined my arguments, researched my secondary sources, done everything other than write the thing–when it came time for honors candidates to present and defend their papers. In front of the entire faculty. The day before they were due. I hadn’t written a word. Did I mention it was supposed to be twenty pages long?
In my mind, this wasn’t a problem. I didn’t have to submit the completed thesis until the next day and I already knew exactly what I intended to say, right down to the citations. So I blithely dashed off some speaking notes and made sure to lead off with a joke about Derrida, and my defense went very well due to my cunning strategy of a) picking an obscure topic only my thesis advisor really understood and b) going last. I then had some dinner and went to bed early, meaning to get up at midnight and write my thesis, which was due at noon.
I recognize in retrospect that this was already a bad plan, but there’s no denying that it went from bad to flat-out disastrous when I overslept and woke up at 5:15 AM. I remember seeing the clock, feeling undiluted panic, and getting tangled in my comforter with unfortunate results as I tried to jump directly from my bed into my computer chair. After that, it’s a blank until about 10 AM, when I finished the first draft. I then breathed, which I don’t think I’d been doing, and spent the next hour and fifteen minutes alternately editing my thesis and cursing my own name.
I’m sorry to say that I then coolly walked the paper over to my professor’s office to drop it off and stayed to snark with the prof about all the students who didn’t turn in their papers until 11:59. I did indeed get honors, and I’m fully aware that this is one of those moments that’s getting played on the Celestial Jumbotron when I try to convince St. Peter to let me in. At this point, my strategy is to end up with so many of those moments that St. Peter never gets a chance to make up his mind. I think it’s my best bet. But no one else from my school will have to wonder how to explain that particular offense while at the pearly gates because you can’t do it anymore. They made a rule later that year, and that’s my legacy.
2. Wearing costumes to class on days that aren’t Halloween is strictly prohibited
I think there’s still some leeway for Friday classes when Halloween falls on a weekend. What I did that you’re no longer allowed to do at that school was to go to class in costume in the middle of February. I didn’t do this just for kicks, although I would have if I’d thought of it. I had an evening seminar that ended at 9:30 and there was a costume party that night that I wanted to go to. If I’d waited until after class to go back to my dorm, style my hair, put on the necessary makeup, and wiggle into my outfit, I would have missed my ride. I therefore did all of that before class and went to my seminar dressed as Xena, Warrior Princess.
I want to emphasize that no part of my costume was against the school’s dress code. I also put on a jacket so I’d appear at least somewhat conventional in class. The first problem was that, given the relative lengths of my jacket and the costume’s skirt, I ended up looking like I was wearing the jacket, thigh-high boots, and nothing else. Focusing on the positive, the next problem actually fixed the first one: the seminar met in the basement of an old building, and it got a little stuffy and overheated. During a break, I went to the parking lot outside and took off my jacket to cool down, at which point it became obvious that I was, in fact, clothed (and possibly a dominatrix). I was in a school parking lot during school hours, minding my own business, and I don’t think it’s fair to blame me for what happened next.
The building my class was in shared its parking lot with an athletics building. Now, I like sports as much as the next person who can’t see the playing field, but I don’t think I should have been expected to know that an Ultimate Frisbee tournament between teams from several schools had just ended and that fifty buffed-out, worked-up, 20-something guys were about to pour into the parking lot toward the giant buses parked right in front of me. True, I didn’t have to pose for pictures with them, but it seemed like it would be rude not to, and I didn’t want to present my school in a bad light. They were all very nice and most of them were perfectly polite, if a bit sweaty.
I was a little late getting back to class, and quick life lesson: it’s hard to slip into a room unnoticed when you look like you forgot to put on pants, but both class and life went on and I didn’t miss my ride to the party. The lesson I took from this experience was, don’t wear a costume that requires body makeup because you’ll never get it off your sheets. The administration obviously took something different from it (although it really is impossible to get that stuff out of your sheets), and now there’s a rule. Sorry. This probably wouldn’t have happened if I’d gone to the party as Bill Nye.
So that’s my legacy. What do you think? Icon for iconoclasts? Symbol of all that’s wrong in the world? Or just a girl who’s smart enough to know that she’s only got a small window of time when she can pull off a tiny leather skirt? And let me tell you, I did pull it off. Fifty guys have the pictures to prove it!