Published June 13, 2021 by Nan Mykel

While re-organizing “archives” I came across a partial letter I had written to friends and family in 1981, typed on my daughter’s manual typewriter in her dorm room at Oberlin College: “I’ve been pretending to be a student again…went to daughter’s classes all day–Poetry, Biology and Religion….You may note that I’m writing before my sense of humor returns, so bear with me. My daughter is now wearing a different earring in each ear. She trades off with Joe, a friend of hers, who wears a single earring in his single pierced ear. (Actually, he has 2 ears, just one is pierced)….I spent some time today in Mudd Learning Center, the Library. (I wondered earlier what daughter meant when she said she’d been sitting in mud).

“They have a photography exhibit (or ‘photo-documentary’) entitled Stories of the Skin, delineating tattoo parlors and the people who frequent them [well, back then, anyway]. Quote from one habituee: ‘When I got my first tattoo my grandma said to me, If you have a tattoo and you commit a felony they’ll be able to identify you. And I said to grandma, I’m not going to commit a crime, my daddy’s a policeman. And then she says, Well, what if you want to go out into high society? and I said, Grandma, I am high society.

“I’ve even been writing graffiti on the bathroom stalls here. (The college wisely provides computer print-out paper on the walls to encourage creative expression, and Oberlinites are creative all right, at least the visitors to the second from the right stall in the basement of Mudd Learning Center: ‘There’s an old saying a tattoo artist once told me. One tattoo means you’re trying to express yourself, two tattoos means you hate your parents, and 3 or more means you’re crazy.’

“Graffiti from the stall, to give you a “feel” for what the day to day matriculation at Oberlin is like, at least in 1983:

Life is like…

  • a bowl of cheerios
  • the ultimate paradox: the search for the universally infinite through the personally finite (analogy: universe vs. atoms)–neither of which is ever attainable
  • a magazine. How much does it cost? $2.00. I haven’t got $2.00. Well, that’s life
  • paradise when you’re making love, etc.
  • a load of cow shit on a hot humid summer day
  • the feeling you get after you haven’t slept in 4 days, haven’t showered in 5, and have existed on cigarettes and coffee and the whole time you haven’tt brushed your teeth because you have only $5 and you have to have cigs and coffee
  • a cereal. How much does it cost? $1.50. I haven’t got $1.50. Well, that’s life…q

“Julia, a co-worker of mine at Meigs, is mad at her dentist. He let her leave the office the other day with white gunk mixed with blood all over her face, and she went shopping around town for a couple of hours before spying herself in a mirror. She said she’s only non-assertive with dentists and hair dressers.

“Oh yes, I just remembered a bad thing that happened: When my mother and I went to Atlanta we accidentally locked Blackie the cat in the house. By the time Marvin, the next door neighbor, noticed him at the window and let him out, it was WHEW! (Still is, to some extent). Ralph told me about using vinegar, but I didn’t write the mixture proportions down, not knowing I would be needing them within hours…”

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