Once, in the early ’80s, on a trip from Durham to some beach in North Carolina, we stopped to use the toilets at a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere. In the stall where I sat was a long conversation, in writing, between two squatters debating some major issue of the time. Think of the best back-and-forth you’ve ever read in a comment thread and you’ll get a rough picture of what this was like.
So I sat there, becoming engrossed and amazed at the high quality of the dialog — and the unlikelihood of it happening where it was.
Until I got to the bottom. There, ending the conversation, were the penultimate and ultimate summaries, posed as a question and answer:
Q: Why do people feel compelled to settle their differences on bathroom walls?
A. Because you suck my dick.
That story became legendary in our family and social network, to such a degree that my then-teenage daughter and her girlfriends developed a convention of saying “Because you suck my dick” whenever an argument went on too long and wasn’t going anywhere. This was roughly the same as dropping a cow: a way to end a conversation with an absurdity.
The whole thing came back to me when I read Pro-Trump Chalk Messages Cause Conflicts on College Campuses in the NYTimes today. The story it suggests is that this kind of thing regresses toward a mean that is simply mean. Or stupid. For example,
Wesleyan University issued a moratorium in 2003, after members of the faculty complained that they were being written about in sexually explicit chalk messages.
So I’m thinking we need a name for this, or at least an initialism. So I suggest BYSMD.