Only the Names Have Changed

To borrow a line from Jon Bon Jovi: “It’s all the same, only the names have changed…”

This weekend I was back at my old high school to attend a play with which my niece and nephew were both involved. Going back there is always like traveling back in time. Looking around at the familiar speckled floors, weathered wood and red and gray painted cinderblock, I can’t help but remember what it was like to inhabit this space on a daily basis 18 years ago.

In the bathroom at intermission I found myself alone, gazing into an all-too-familiar mirror. The face in the reflection was the same yet different. I squinted at the glass trying to remember what I looked like all those years ago. A million stories have now been written in the laugh lines and worries have a funny way of hiding in the crows feet. If I had known then all that I know now… would my life be any different?

I ducked into a stall and that’s when the real fun began. Reading the graffiti on the walls reminded me that although life has a tendency to rush past us at an alarming pace, much of it stays exactly the same. Though the walls had been painted over and over again—layers of industrial gray paint attempting to hide years and years worth of crude comments, jokes and etchings—the messages still remained.

It was then that my thoughts turned from deep introspection to the much more entertaining realization that there are four kinds of graffiti artists in women’s bathrooms. They are, in no particular order: The Insulter, The Defender, The Editor and The Random Messenger.

The Insulter needs no introduction or explanation. They are the voice of the accuser… The nasty novelist, the crass critic… the bitchy biographer. They pen their dirty, little messages in this place for all to see. Hurtling insults at the speed of a flush.

But Insulters, usually blind with hatred or bent on revenge, tend not to be the sharpest Sharpies in the backpack. And this is usually where the Editor steps in. The Editor feels the need not to correct the sentiment or the morality of the statement being made… but rather the grammar and spelling with which the acrid accusation was crafted.

Inevitably, the Defender WILL step in. Usually a friend of the Insulted… they feel compelled to set the record straight. This might be done by lodging a similar and equally ugly complaint about the Insulter or simply saying something kind about their friend. Sadly, the impotent Defender typically does nothing more than toss additional fuel on the fire.

And the Random Messenger? Let’s not leave them out. For they are a vital, albeit random, part of this primitive femme culture too. They’re the ones responsible for drawing the peace signs and daisies, quoting song lyrics and writing poems. They are the peace keepers. The hippies of high-school toilet hieroglyphics. The members of the why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along crowd. And you gotta love ’em… because they mean well… And they entertain us.

As I left the stall (I know, it seems like I was in there a long time, doesn’t it?) Anyway… as I left the stall I had forgotten about the laugh lines and the haunting memories of days gone by… and I was laughing at the thought of this graffiti and how it hadn’t … in 18 years … changed one bit.

It was then that I ran into a former school mate. We briefly exchanged pleasantries and I remarked about the graffiti and how it is probably exactly the same as it was when we were here. She laughed and said: “Yep. Only the names have changed.”

To which I countered: “I know… According to the third stall… some poor girl named Courtney is the one to call for a good time this year.”