Group work in college is all the rage. It teaches social interaction and village building. The problem with village building is trying to figure out who is going to be the village idiot.
And so went my group project for the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper.” If you are not familiar with the wildly popular and oft used short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” let me summarize.
Once upon a hateful time, men were dogs who keep their women in rooms with ugly wallpaper. Eventually, the hideous wallpaper makes the women go nuts. It’s a classic tale of women who cannot figure out where the paint department at the Home Depot is located.
Explaining the project to my youngest daughter, I said, “So, to start, we’ve got this guy in the group who’s going to show a YouTube video that makes you see hallucinations. His name is Marcus.”
“Does Marcus do drugs?” she asked.
“Only in class.” I waved away her concerns. “The hallucination video represents how the ugly wallpaper makes the helpless woman in the story see stuff creeping around, under, and in the wallpaper.” I scratched the end of my nose and then added, “I don’t know what she was worrying about. I’ve seen mildew that could form a kick line.”
She shuddered and muttered the word ‘bleach’ under her breath.
“And I’m creating faux nasty wallpaper out of poster board, which I’m making everyone stare at during the entire presentation except when we’re making them have hallucinations. Josef, the foreign exchange member of the group, is happy about that. He doesn’t want anyone looking at him while he’s giving his oral report. I think his student visa has expired.”
“What village is he from?”
“Exactly! Anyway then for the big finish we’re going to do an interpretive dance under a yellow bed sheet.”
“Fitted or flat?”
“Flat,” I snapped. “Who would bring a fitted sheet to an interpretive dance? Anyway we’re going to take turns running around under the sheet like the crazy people the woman sees creeping behind that butt ugly wallpaper.”
She frowned and started to say something else, but I kept going.
“Then I’m going to dance last, and after I run around, I’m going to faint and they’re going to cover me with the yellow sheet in a solemn, artistic, interpretive dance kind of way.”
I twirled for effect.
She sighed and asked, “Mom, have you ever thought about just trying to blend in—for once?”
“Gosh no! Because then The Man would win!” I pumped my clenched fist at the ceiling. I don’t know who this guy is that they call The Man, but all the college kids in my group talk about him like they know him personally.
Mike brought a fitted sheet for the dance. It never occurred to me to tell Mike to bring the flat one. Ever try to cram seven members of a group under a clingy, elasticized sheet?
That’s modern education: group projects, interpretive dancing, and “The Yellow Wallpaper,” a short story that you’ll study ten to twenty-three times, until you figure out that the village idiot might not know the difference between a fitted and a flat sheet.
Linda (Sheet Dancing Queen) Zern