Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College

Campus Life

A Tattoo is a Lifetime Commitment

Posted on March 6, 2012

March 6, 2012

Spring Break is fast approaching, and along with it, for some of you at least, a week’s worth of downtime and memorable activities, maybe even a vacation in an exotic location.  Perhaps you’ll be tempted to tattoo something onto your skin to commemorate the trip, or a romantic interest, or something along those lines.  To you I say, remember this:  a tattoo is a fashion statement.  No disrespect to those of you who have them, but tattoos are the accessories of this era.  To put it in its proper context, think about an item of clothing that you bought three years ago and thought was absolutely the baddest thing out there.  But you don’t wear it anymore, because you don’t want to look dated and uncool and clueless about fashion (like I do when I use words like “baddest”).  What if you had to wear that item, though?  Every day?  For the rest of your life?  Gladiator sandals?  Crocs?  White-framed sunglasses?  Diesel jeans?  Or try this:  Look at your mother’s high school senior portrait and the hairstyle she was sportin’.   Does she wear her hair that way today?  What if it was a permanent style, instead of just a perm?  I’m just saying.  So go ahead and pierce every appendage you can find, but think twice before you get a tattoo.  As a former department chair of mine used to say about faculty tenure, “It’s more permanent than marriage.  Just look at the statistics.”  [Update:  Some of you have rightly pointed out that my comments about tattoos are unfair to those who make thoughtful decisions to enter into this lifetime commitment and who treasure your tattoos for one reason or another.  Sorry!  You were fair to take me to task on this, and I do apologize for being dismissive.  Thanks for your respectful challenges to my assertions.]

But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your time off from classes, whether it’s spent lounging poolside, working extra hours at Bertucci’s, obsessing over your honors thesis, or enjoying some home cooking and playing Bananagrams with your little sister.  Relax and have at least some good downtime.

I’ve been having a good time lately, and it isn’t even break yet.  I saw a great performance of The Vagina Monologues in the Chapel last Thursday.  Special kudos to Madeleine Goldsmith and Laura Goldstein, who made me cry and laugh, and many thanks to all the great performers and tech crew.

A week earlier, I went to the TRYBE Gala and was, as always, blown away by the work that must go into learning about 30 different dances.  The Gala is one of my favorite Wheaton events for both the performances and the crowd, which is quite different from the crowd at, say, a performance by a classical cellist like Alisa Weilerstein (a can’t-miss event as well, on March 28).  Similar levels of appreciation for the artistry, very different expressions of that appreciation.

It is pretty amazing here to stop and look around at the activities available to students, staff and faculty willing to look up from their books or iPads.  Want to be intellectual?  Check out WheaTalks on March 26.  Artsy?  Ten-Minute Plays Festival on March 25.  Crazy?  Safari Dance on March 23.  Hipster and mellow?  The Lyons Den just about any night.  Rabid fan-like?  The baseball, softball, men’s and women’s lacrosse , men’s tennis and track and field teams all open their seasons in a flurry (hopefully not the snow kind) in the next few weeks.  It’s an absolutely crazy time, packed with numerous activities, obligations and panic.  While the stretch between the start of spring semester and spring break always feels to me like it lasts about five months, the eight-week period after break feels like it goes by in a flash—like we’re all in a little red wagon that’s screaming downhill with no breaks until we crash in a heap in the middle of May, just in time for finals.   Know what I mean?

Other stuff:  As I always do on Monday morning, I looked at the weekend’s incident reports, and saw that there were several thefts on campus this past week—cash from an unlocked locker in the fitness center, an iPhone that had been left on the GATRA bus, a laptop from the library, a bike.  All but the last one was a fairly easy pick.  Look—as much as you want to believe we all live in a happy little place here, I can assure you (because I read reports like this every week) that we have people among us who steal.  Some may be students, some may be visitors.  It doesn’t really matter if it’s your stuff that’s stolen.  So please keep your belongings close by or locked up, please report anything you see that looks out of the ordinary, and please make sure your computers, iPads and phones have some sort of find-me apps on them (that’s what allowed Public Safety to find and return the missing iPhone to its relieved owner).

Sadly, I also read about two incidents of vandalism in this week’s incident reports:  broken windows in Metcalf and Everett.  Stupid, stupid stuff, folks.  Money wasted, housekeeping staff given more work to do, and other students frustrated, including one who wrote to me:

“As I was walking downstairs this morning I encountered two shattered windows and a few glass bottles shattered on the floor. I am very frustrated that every weekend my peers choose to disrespect our building by vandalizing it. I am also upset that the housekeeping staff has to deal with the aftermath. As I was walking back into the dorm, I saw a janitor sweeping up the glass, and I went to apologize that he had to clean up other people's messes. He replied to me by saying it was alright because the students had to vent somehow. I am upset that this janitor expects to come to work on Sunday to clean up everyone else's mess. I'm also embarrassed to wake up and see so much property destroyed every weekend. I'm wondering if you have any suggestions about how I can make a positive change that will reduce either the amount of vandalism or increase people's respect for our school's property.”

Many of you wrote to me after the troubling incident that occurred last semester, and it seems to me that there are a lot of you who are frustrated by this continued behavior that negatively impacts everyone on campus.  What would you think of me convening a group of students, faculty and staff to create something of a task force or working committee to take back the campus from those who continue to damage it?  To figure out a campaign that empowers students like the one who wrote to me this weekend and all of those who’ve shared with me your continued frustration with the damage done by an inconsiderate few?  If you like this idea and would like to be part of it, let me know and I’ll get working on it.  Maybe we can brainstorm some ideas this spring and really launch something great when school starts in the fall.

This past weekend, I hosted four of my brothers and sisters here in Norton, and took them on a walking tour of campus.  We stopped on the footbridge and I pointed out Cowduck, who was sitting alone on his rock, looking imperious.  “That’s Cowduck,” I said.

CowduckMy brother asked, “What is a Cowduck?”  I explained it’s a duck that has the coloring and, if we’re being perfectly honest, the exciting personality, of a cow. I was puzzled as to why my older brother could be so baffled.

“What does it do?” my sister asked.

“You’re looking at it.”  They stood and stared for a moment, without comment.  And then we moved on, ostensibly to things that made more sense to those unfortunate folks who live beyond the Wheaton bubble.

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