Essentially, there is nothing funny about death. Essentially. Then again, you've never been dead in my family. Death in my family is sort of hilarious.
Here is a question with which even the greatest thinkers of our time would struggle in vain: What does it mean to be a Yale woman?
For most boys I know, it means simply not being as attractive as the women at other schools (thanks, guys). For New York Times reporter Louise Story, it means not wanting a career but a white picket fence and 10 million babies. Everyone seems to have his or her own opinion.
This question is not one that has ever concerned me. I am not a feminist, I am not interested in gender studies and I have never set foot inside the Women’s Center, except for one time freshman year when I opened the wrong door on my way to get sour patch watermelon from Durfee’s.
But then I discovered a place that Yale women had made into a forum for discussion, support and debate, one where they aired their deepest secrets, and teetered between smart irony and touching sincerity.
This temple of feminine identity is located in the first bathroom stall in the ladies’ room of Davies Auditorium.
There, on a bathroom break from a lecture, I was amazed to see the walls of the first stall (only the first one) practically covered with lines written in all different inks and all different hands. It was just like that HBO movie starring Cher and Anne Heche, “If These Walls Could Talk.” Except these walls did.
Of course, there was the political: “Abortion tickles,” “Try being the baby,” and “Women have a right to their own bodies.”
And of course there was the ironically meta: “Apparently, bathroom stalls are the places where the best philosophers are created. Bet Plato never had the advantage of flush toilets.”
There was also the less ironic “deep thought,” a particularly popular genre of bathroom wisdom: “The Goal of the College Experience: Learn, Grow, Find Yourself. Live for the nights you don’t remember with the friends you’ll never forget,” “One must open one’s heart to happiness and be prepared to let go and give themselves completely before the love can ever be sought,” and “All this pain is an illusion.”
More surprising was the truly motivational: “Congratulations for being a female engineering major. Don’t give up. Just because the boys talk louder doesn’t make them right.”
There were quotes from Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world” and “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
And quotes, too, from the equally estimable Mariah: “You will always be my baby.”
There were also some confessions worthy of their own Mariah songs: “Is it wrong that all I want is to curl up in your bed?” and “Why do they have to lie to you??? I loved that bastard and now he’s hiding something from me.”
My favorite was the absolutely irreverent: “Two muffins are sitting in an oven. One muffin turns to the other and says, ‘Man, it’s hot in here.’ The other muffin turns to the first and says, ‘Holy crap! A talking muffin!'”
Finally, in all caps, a piece of advice that clearly not everyone took to heart: “WRITE SOMETHING SMART, BATHROOM INK IS ETERNAL.”
But even if not every line was smart, altogether the writing gave an image of Yale females as a group of women who are willing to share their views, no matter how controversial or revealing. Then again, it’s not as if they’re shouting their deepest secrets from the rooftops. All these supposedly empowering writings are confined to the walls of a bathroom stall; no matter how supportive the words, a female engineering major will still have to eventually flush and get back to her seat, probably between two men.
And then, I noticed a line that was hidden between the toilet paper dispenser and the flusher. Written in a small, slanting hand, with faint black ink, was just one statement, no punctuation: “I like sex”
It was this statement more than any other — this obviously joking but at the same time endearingly simple statement — that caught my attention. It wasn’t a cry for help, nor a confession; it was just a fact.
While the other statements — full of triteness, emotional pain, Mariah Carey — are intrinsic to the female undergrad’s experience, these three words were the only truly empowering ones on the wall. They were the ones that transcended the tiled temple of femininity and fueled a positive outlook on sexuality.
And after all, if we’re really talking about equality, “I like sex” is the only phrase that might also appear scrawled above a urinal.
Claire Stanford uses only the finest two-ply tissue.