At many places there is a holiday-time practice called “Secret Santa” (sometimes de-Christianized to “Secret Snowflake” or something similar). Everyone participating writes their name on a piece of paper and throws it in a hat. Then you pull a piece of paper out of the hat and, every day for a week, try to do something nice or get a present for that person. At the end of the week your secret santa reveals themselves.

Naturally, this is not how the idea is practiced at Stanford. Here, performed in the midst of “Dead Week” (the last week of classes when all big assignments are due and studying for finals is done), the concept has changed from gestures of good will to yet another display of ritualized sexual tension so blatant it makes one tempted to call an anthropologist.

(Somehow it appears I neglected to write about our scavenger hunt, another interesting dorm event which involved going around San Francisco in various states of undress and taking photos as requested by a sheet of paper given to us.)

Yes, here, instead of getting presents one gets orders; humiliating, embarrassing orders — naturally usually involving nudity. There are three levels — mild to spicy — but these, it was explained, essentially referred to the level of nudity required. (I was unable to attend before tonight; last night, for example, I was working on my project, remember? However, a female classmate assures me that there was “lots of ass…lots of [male] ass”.)

But simple nudity is not enough. That’s boring and repetitive. Instead, intricate minidramas are added on top to make the whole thing more exciting.

The assignments are given out during the day for performance that evening. One, for example, included quarters and cups, and requested the victim build a pyramid out of them which would be knocked down. If the pyramid had more than ten cups in it when it was knocked down, the victim was to hand the person who knocked it down a quarter and say “please sir, can I have some more?” before rebuilding the pyramid again. This seems to accurately capture the spirit of cruelty, subordination, and humiliation involved.

Aaron Swartz: The Stanford Diaries obtained a full copy of another assignment:

Tonight you’re going to be a really really nerdy Stanford student who’s trying to study for their finals but can’t because Secret Snowflake is making too much noise. You’ve to start out polite and understanding in the beginning, but be totally incensed + crazy by the end! You have to make an appearance (as in stand in the middle + plead for quiet) at least every 3 presentations. Try to be totally crazy [double-underlined] by the end…props are permittable and in fact, suggested. I’ll leave the phrasing up to you, but basically you go from timid + just wanting to study…to postal HULK guy ready to kill the next person who makes noise! ENJOY - S.S.

There was also a Secret Snowflake yesterday, but I was unable to attend. However, earlier I was informed that it involved “lots of ass”. Every boy’s ass was showing, I was told. This seems to be only a slight exaggeration.

At 10:00p, the event begins. While most people in the room aren’t participating and are normally dressed, the participants stand out. One man is shirtless wearing candy bar wrappers. Another has duct-taped together a toga. A third wears a paper diaper with a protruding phallic hot dog. Before the main event however, we have some announcements from our president (or some other student gov. official), who looks just like the girl from Election. She introduces two police officers, who address the bizarrely-dressed crowd about theft as if nothing was out of the ordinary.

When the main event finally commences, there is no specified order — people are to just get up and follow their instructions when they feel like it. As my neighbor notes, “this really [seems to only] involve[] a lot of people telling other people to get it over with”.

The first one to go is a woman in a nude suit, with candy for key areas. She requests volunteers to bite the candy off with their teeth. The man with the assignment above (here after Studyman) dutifully requests people to keep it down.

Next, the group begins chanting a girl’s name. The girl concedes and begins “I need three voluntee—” already hands shoot up. The girl recites a speech about how she wishes to perform the “eternally enthralling engagement of making out”. “Let’s Get It On” begins playing. Some shouts (presumably by obligation) “That’s my roommate!” The first guy gets a brief kiss. The second does an impressively passionate face grab, as in a movie where the barrier preventing the two leads from making out is suddenly lifted, but he breaks away as soon as their lips meet.

An interesting thing about the event is how it provides deniability for almost all actions. One can dress in odd ways, say bizarre things, and do outrageous stuff at will, and instead of shunning him for it, people will cheer him on for being brave enough to meet such embarrassing requirements, not knowing that they were not required at all.

Another man, wearing only briefs, asks for volunteers to lick the peanut butter covering his underwear and nipples. Studyman complains more loudly and with swears. A new guy tells the audience he’s been asked to chug a bottle of syrup. The audience chants “chug, chug, chug” at an accelerating pace, and he actually manages to chug the whole bottle in one try.

Another group of people say they must play the grape game, passing a grape around a circle of four through mouth-to-mouth passes. The audience suddenly gets excited only when the pass becomes male-to-male instead of male-to-female and the reverse. A man in a paper diaper pretends to run a marathon. Studyman finally snaps, screaming wildly and overturning tables and chairs.

Another man in a paper diaper but with a packing tube attached says that he is Pinnochio and he must fight a duel. He does, but mostly ends up retreating with the sort of odd one-handed backwards jumping you see on TV when someone inexperienced is taken up on their challenge. A man wearing a dress shows off his padded ass, insisting it is all real, even though it can clearly be heard to be otherwise.

A woman wearing a strapless top and a man in a construction worker outfit carry out a scripted act, complete with cheesy lines. After being invited, the man uses his mouth to pull down the top and lift up the bottom revealing there is nothing underneath either except two pasties. The woman offers to remove them for some sort of donation. Someone in the audience asks if she takes credit cards but she does not.

Another girl asks for a volunteer to hold a hot dog in their mouth which the girl then strokes, kissing at the base. Another man wears a diaper made out of the class schedule and asks girls to highlight classes while holding the highlighter in their mouths. There is more licking and kicking and stripping, in various combinations. According to my notes, at one point someone screams “here’s what happens when you f—- a stranger in the f—-ing a—-, f—-er.”

One girl coyly asks a guy to stand a couple feet away from her. Then, all before he has a chance to react, she shouts “the pain chain’s coming”, runs forward, jumps, and tackles the guy to the ground. The audience goes wild in applause and when the guy stands up he walks clutching his stomach.

For the final act, a whole series of girls in paper bikinis play music chairs, except the chairs are covered with peanut butter which has a tendency to stick to the paper. And of course, when someone else tries to sit on you they get peanut butter all over your legs. Still, everyone survives and the crowd disperses.

posted February 02, 2005 09:26 PM (Education) (0 comments) #


Home: Day 2
Home: Day 3
Keeping Up with the Rosses
Stanford: Monday, November 29
Stanford: Tuesday, November 30
Stanford: Wednesday, December 1
Stanford: Thursday, December 2
Stanford: Friday, December 3
Stanford: Saturday, December 4
Your Congress is a Bunch of Idiots
Stanford: Sunday, December 5


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