Rules I Broke Before They Existed

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 it


Defending my thesis [image in public domain via]

I 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.


Xena by Indy-Lytle on deviantart (license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

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!

Crackdified Trivial Pursuit

When we were in school, my friends and I played Trivial Pursuit in the snack bar.  There was only the one edition, year after year, so we eventually came to know all the answers.  Rather than moving on to another game, however, we just morphed that one into its own beast.  We would rope in more and more people into something that became an amalgamation of Charades, Twenty Questions, and Truth or Dare.  We called it Crackdified Trivial Pursuit.

The rules of Crackdified Trivial Pursuit, as far as there are any, are as follows:  you keep to the normal game directions until it comes time to give the answer.  If the person whose turn it is to answer the question is unable to think of the answer right away, those who know the answer because they’ve played that edition about a hundred times will start giving clues.  For instance:

Questioner:  What is the capital of Peru?

Peanut Gallery:  “Blank” beans!  “Blank” beans!  Oh, what do you mean you can’t get the answer from that?  All right, all right:  the flavor of Sprite is lemon-a, “blank”!

If the person still couldn’t get it, the rest of the players would start acting out the answer a la Charades.  “OK.  1 word, 4 letters.  Rhymes with…Wonder Woman?  Buffy the Vampire Slayer?  Oh, Xena!  The Warrior Princess??”

The person trying to answer the question could also ask questions to try to narrow down what the answer might be.  This was especially helpful in categories like Science and Nature, but less so in History; it doesn’t help to ask “Alive or dead?” if you’re trying to figure out the answer to “Who won the battle of Waterloo?”  At least, not unless your educational system has completely failed you.

Nachos with Chilli

Image via Wikipedia

We usually had a pretty good crowd going, so we could almost always get it by this point, but if that didn’t work and the person gave up, they had to take the questioner’s pick of Truth or Dare.  If the crowd was feeling restless and we agreed that it was the questioner’s fault, then the questioner had to take his victim’s choice of Truth or Dare.  Being starving students, we would also allow the person to avoid this by getting appetizers for the table.  Loaded nachos were favored, but resulted in some truly disgusting cards by the time graduation rolled around.

What strikes me most about this, though, is that there weren’t any teams and yet we were all trying to help each other win.  We just wanted to have a good time.  I’m not sure we ever even finished a game.  I miss that attitude.  I miss those nachos.  Also, I racked up some seriously inane knowledge this way.  Nobody needs to know what a thin layer of chromatography is.

P.S.  For those of you who are of age, this makes an awesome drinking game.  Play Crackdified Trivial Pursuit responsibly!  Can you believe my spellcheck doesn’t like the word “crackdified”?

Yoga in the time of ramen

Yoga Wii

Image via Wikipedia

I’m a devotee of yoga.  I especially like how I can do it indoors with the heat/air conditioning going full blast.  Also, no special shoes required.  As a matter of fact, no shoes required at all.  I’ve attended many classes over the years, but when I first started learning, I used an instructional video of a yoga “class” and played it in my friends’ dorm room as we all stretched and focused our minds in innocent ignorance of what was to come.  For, alas, I had chosen a Power Yoga video.

The instructor was a little weird, but I suppose most video yoga instructors are.  This one was a guy with long curly hair pulled back into a ponytail and the most ill-advised tank top I’d seen in a while.  He liked to start demonstrating a pose, then have his assistants finish showing how to do it while he rested his hand on one of their asses, which would inevitably be shoved up toward the ceiling while their wrists and ankles intertwined in some unfathomable and presumably mystic way.  I should add that all the assistants were young, attractive women.  Nice work if you can get it.

So my friends and I dutifully settled ourselves on the floor of the tiny dorm room with two beds, two desks, a dresser and a sofa crammed into an area the size of a utility closet.  We saluted the sun and felt the spirit of the earth pervade our limbs.  And then the serious poses began.  “Ow,” I heard muttered quietly somewhere behind me.  Then, “OW! (*crack*)  Oh, that didn’t sound good.”  Then, “Wait, what are we supposed to do?  I can’t see the screen while my head is under my knees.”  Then, “Ow ow ow, I don’t think I’m supposed to bend that way!  Pause the tape, I can’t get my legs off my neck!  Crap, I’m gonna fall!”  WHUMP.

If you haven’t already guessed, that last one came from me.

The next day, I signed up for proper yoga classes in a spacious gym with an older female instructor wearing a tee shirt and stretch pants.  I explained things to her, and she promised solemnly that she would not let me fall, nor would she rest her hand on my backside.  If she laughed at my sorrowful tale, she had the grace to wait until I’d gone. But, oh, the bruises I got from that first time!

Why not be a frog?

A Australian Green Tree Frog

Image via Wikipedia. Blissful or dead?

Ah, college!  The vast opportunities for learning, the endless ability to procrastinate, the lack of consequences for skipping class…I once skipped an introductory philosophy class so often that the professor asked my classmates if I was sick.  Then there’s the time I defended my senior thesis before I wrote it–successfully!  I hear that one still gets talked about.

I majored, among other things, in Philosophy, which meant that my roommate was on the receiving end of some major overly-serious pontification.  My roommate was blonde, tan, and gorgeous, but you couldn’t hate her because she was also really, really nice.  And smart.  She started off as pre-med, ended up spending a year or two wandering around Australia, and then I kind of lost track of her after that.  She ended up being the perfect person to have lengthy late-night conversations with about the meaning of life and assorted related topics.

One such conversation was about the definition of happiness.  I thought there was one universal kind of happiness that we all participated in to a greater or lesser degree.  Her point was that happiness is an emotion that depends in part on the capacity of your brain to process emotions.  I think.  So, she said, while she as a human had the ability to feel all different kinds and degrees of happiness, a frog is pretty much either blissful or dead.  She paused, then concluded, “I really don’t think I’d want to be a frog!”

And they say kids don’t learn anything in school.