Memorable Senior Pranks
(Originally appeared on VanityFair.com, May 30 2011)
Hey, high school seniors—it’s that time of the year to pull off one final prank before you graduate! Here are a few classics that will produce lasting memories:
Show up at your least favorite teacher’s house with ten rolls of toilet paper. Wrap the paper around trees, the mailbox, and the house itself. When the teacher steps out in his bathrobe and tiredly asks what you’re doing, respond, “I thought it’d be fun to paper your house.” He’ll question if you know anything about the challenges American homeowners face nowadays. You shake your head, having seen the headlines but not fully paid attention, because the notion of owning a house at your age is too abstract. The teacher explains how real estate has historically been a fail-safe investment, and so, like many members of the aspirational middle class, he took out a mortgage on his home a few years ago. “But hasn’t the value appreciated since then?” you wonder. Unfortunately not, he says; what’s more, he was lured into a subprime mortgage with low interest rates that soon became usurious. “It’s not clear who’s to blame,” he points out. “The deceitful ratings agencies, the predatory lenders, or, yes, even people like me who recklessly rushed into buying.” You both agree that the systemic roots of the problem lie in consumer addiction to easy credit and the U.S.’s diminished manufacturing sector. Clean up the toilet paper with him and resolve to remain a renter when you’re older, except if you can somehow buy a sweet one-bedroom off-campus next year, which is totally doable if you ramp up your student loans just a touch.
Get all your teammates on the football team to wear skirts to school, and no matter what anyone says, act like nothing’s out of the ordinary. People will be so shocked! At the end of the day, in your bedroom adorned with posters of LeBron James and Peyton Manning, contemplate why, exactly, is it so bizarre for men to wear skirts? For the rest of the school year, silently question normative gender roles. Graduate and attend a small, Northeastern liberal arts college on a football scholarship. Freed from your restrictive high school identity, become the one male majoring in Women’s Studies. Quit the team sophomore year when you can no longer stomach your teammates’ sexual politics, and delve deeply into an independent study on poststructural feminist theory with a radical professor who becomes very encouraging of your senior thesis on Helene Cixous’s critique of Derridean phallogocentrism. Then enter the “real world,” where your outspoken third-wave feminism is met with more derision than acceptance. Gradually allow it to recede from your thoughts and practices until, one day, while watching a Kate Hudson romantic comedy on Valentine’s Day with your drug-rep wife from Scarsdale, remember how you pulled a fast one on your high school bros!
Dye in the Pool:
With your pals, sneak into the school’s swimming pool with several gallons of red dye. Empty the dye into the pool; it will turn the water into a brilliant crimson, making the pool look more like a “bloodbath.” Engage in horseplay. Your best friend, Billy, falls into the shallow end. He doesn’t come up, and you notice a new, darker-red plume rising from his motionless body. “What the hell is going on here?” the school janitor yells, having just stepped in with his bucket and mop. “Billy fell in!” you cry, your voice frantically reverberating off the tiled walls. “He’s just playing,” the janitor says, as Billy surfaces with a mischievous grin. “Look, he was hiding another tube of extra-dark red dye. But do you have any idea how long this’ll take to clean? You little bastards treat this school like a garbage can. This is where I work!” When you run into Billy at your twenty-fifth high school reunion, you bond over the swimming-pool prank, forgetting the janitor’s remarks. Then the janitor, pushing seventy, makes a surprise appearance at the reunion, and you both privately think of what he said, and how it’s starting to make more and more sense, as you and Billy are working relatively low-paying jobs in marketing and sales, respectively, while earning little respect from friends and relatives. Stare into your cups of cheap champagne, wracked with guilt and class consciousness.
Steal the Rival’s Mascot:
When no one’s looking at the championship soccer game, grab the archrival’s mascot, a cow, and lead the terrified animal by its leash around the field to the delight of the home crowd. Before you release him, stare into the animal’s eyes and register its adrenal fear. Weeks later, convert to vegetarianism. At Berkeley, join a vegan anarchist group. Despite its stated goal of subverting hierarchy, the group’s efforts will be hamstrung by infighting and power struggles. Moreover, you begin to recognize the futility of effecting change when working so far outside the mainstream. Wind up in animal-rights nonprofits, toiling for years as a glorified copy editor of press releases that no one reads. One night, when you’re stuck working late alone, order a burger, rare, and let its succulent juices stream down your chin. How could you have let your body’s natural desire for this delicious source of protein go unmet all these years? And why kill yourself at a thankless job for $28,000 a year? Leave nonprofits and go into I-banking, where you dine out nightly on steak, and die at fifty-three of a coronary event.
Ask the Homely Girl to Prom:
As the Homecoming King, make a bet with your friends: If you take the most unattractive girl in school to the prom and spend the whole night with her, they each have to pay you a hundred bucks. Okay, they agree, only we get to choose the girl. They select Amanda Walser, and you instantly want to back out. Not Amanda Walser—the quiet bookworm with Coke-bottle glasses whose frizzy hair is always in a tight bun? Your cool friends laugh—you’re trapped! With your buddies snickering from a distance, you ask Amanda, and she stammers yes while fiddling with her Bunsen burner. But when you pick her up on prom night, you hardly recognize her. She’s wearing contacts, her hair is down and straightened; she looks stunning! All these years of her scribbling away in her notebook at the back of the class, and you’ve completely overlooked her beauty—just because of her glasses and bun. You can’t wait to show her off. But she quickly begins complaining about the limo and her corsage, and by the time you arrive at the prom, you’ve discovered that Amanda is actually a horrible person. She’s judgmental, humorless, and, worst of all, prone to sweeping generalizations about various nationalities. No wonder she sits alone. The six hours you’re forced to spend with her are agonizing. At the end of the night, Amanda spots you accepting your money and figures out she was the victim of a prank. She marches up to your group and, addressing each of you in turn, unleashes a hail of ethnic slurs. You can’t bring this up to the school administration, because then you’ll also have to cop to the prank, but in the future, whenever you detect the faintest whiff of stereotyping or racial tension, it makes you deeply uneasy—just like with any hilarious prank!
–With Teddy Wayne