Every year, sandwiched in between the last day of classes and the first day of finals, we get an extra day. I think the administration calls this a reading day, but students think of it as stress relief day, a day to do crazy things to relieve the stress of the semester before beginning those final papers and studying for those final exams. We have a student group who plans activities for this day, and often other student groups will join in with fund-raisers for worthwhile causes.
One year students could pay money to throw a pie plate of whipped cream at a professor.
Naturally, students coerced me into participating. I'd like to think that they extended me the invitation because they think I’m a good sport, but I think it's more likely they chose the faculty member who could be counted on to wear jeans and an old sweatshirt to campus that day. Determined not to face the plates of whipped cream alone, I dragged my colleague PoetFriend from his office and made him come with me.
I thought the students might hesitate to toss whipped cream at the person who would be grading their portfolios but I could not have been more wrong. Within minutes, both PoetFriend and I were covered from head to toe with whipped cream. I had so much whipped cream in my hair that I could pull it up and arrange it into all kinds of weird sculptures on my head. Since I never wear my hair pulled up, students kept stopping to comment on the hairstyle. "Hey, your hair looks nice like that," they would say sincerely, before winging another plate of white stuff right at me.
Because a photographer from a local news station showed up at the event, many of the suits from the administration appeared, although they hung near the edge of the room, not wanting to get any whipped cream onto their clothes. Covered by then with layers and swirls of sticky whiteness, I kept walking over and threatening to hug people -- many of them people who do not normally get a friendly hug from me -- and they kept backing away nervously. It was such a feeling of power.
My students love whipped cream fights, snowball wars, dunking booths, water fights -- anything that is messy and fun, and gives them a chance to work off some of their pent-up stress. I admit that I love this kind of thing too. Up at camp in the summer, my extended family sometimes gets into playful battles in which we hurl water, mud, and weeds at each other. I am quite good at balancing on an inner tube while tossing a handful of weeds and muck at someone. Always, that kind of energy release feels good. I think we could all use more mudfights in our lives.