Friday, June 8, 2012


Excavating a 21st-Century Working-Class Female's Workplace

"And now, you will read this narrative without any view of inserting it in your history, of which it is not in the least worthy; and indeed you must put it down to your own request if it should appear not worth even the trouble of a letter" 
—Pliny the Younger, on the destruction of Pompeii 

EXHIBIT ONE: The upper echelons of this financially minded community were provided with access to the modern equivalent of the 'super computer.' But the working classes, permanently indentured servants1, conducted their work upon this smaller device. Hunched backs and poor eyesight were only a handful of the ailments it caused. The device issued forth a thin, laminated ream of paper, commonly traded for dry goods, tinctures, and monthly visits to the less prestigious pleasure houses.

1 Archibald Spaulding, 'On The Masses', Pub. Hop Bravely & Moynihan, 3022 AD, pages 86-87 -'easily identified by the neutral tones, synthetic fabrics and telling pairing of hosiery with athletic footwear, mandatory dictums issued by their higher-ups.'

EXHIBIT TWO: The working class female ate a drastically different diet from others in her community2, even within her own class. While her male counterparts lunched on meals comprised of quail and lower calorie discount inebriates, during the daylight hours the female limited herself to imbibing liquid meals comprised of finely ground cow bones and cocoa powder. These medicinals were then blended with a carbonated, Aspartame-based solution. The blending took place in a transparent mixing vessel which doubled as drinking container. These “shakes” were costly investments for the females, as even weekly allotments procured from the local apothecary could cost them a month’s worth of laminated tape. Curiously, this meal seems to have been more symbolic than practical, as recent research also shows that during the nighttime hours the female could consume as many as “all of the cakes that there are.” 3

2 Titus Harken, ‘I Couldn’t Eat Another Bite: Diet, Poverty, And Self-Esteem in the 21st Century’, Pub. Tickles & Sons, 3014 AD, Page 10: “Demurral, denial, and self-deprecation were more than status-quo among certain women of the 21st century. To partake in popular confectionary offerings of the day was to invite ritualized hazing, not limited to beating, severing of digits, and burning of the central orifices."

3 Journal of an Unidentified Lower Class Female:2012’, Shale Carnivale, Editor, Pub. Lincolnshire Bacon Press, 3020 AD, Page 706.

EXHIBIT THREE: Curios such as this small “heart-shaped” box were often exchanged among working class females to mark special ceremonial occasions. These included the day commemorating the anniversary of one’s birth, the resurrection of Santa Claus, and the monthly onset of menses. Although the boxes were typically small and plain, the more ornate boxes served dual purposes: the aforementioned socially constructed notion of the giving of expected gifts on proscribed occasions, and the symbolic assertion of superiority within the caste.4 Ostensibly useless, gifts of this nature were often the defining feature of the lower class female’s workplace. Displayed on her desk, they ultimately served as a way of marking both the amount of time each woman had spent in a given company’s employ and her position in the intrapersonal strata of professional life.

4 Leonine Ned, ‘Miami, Maui, But Never Prague: Vacation Days in Ancient Times’, Pub. Saratoga Interruption Inc., 3001 AD, Pg. 101 “ It is believed the famous Shell Heart Box discovered at the Manhattan excavation is covered with the leavings from an expensive seafood dinner the giver had been taken to by a well-to-do sexual partner or potential partner. The message is clear: ‘I give you this gift, but also call into question your desirability and ability to procreate successfully while reminding you that these are not concerns I share’ A stunning display of mental calisthenics.”

EXHIBIT FOUR: Although the great internet fire of 20135 destroyed most records, the media that remains point to a burgeoning global vampirism epidemic whose central locus was the United States. Working class females seem to have been the individuals most likely to be stricken with this illness. To prevent infection, most used some form of the disposable cleaning rag, which is likely what was contained in the recently excavated cylinder. While also used to prevent person-to-person bacterial contamination, the central ingredient, ‘bleach,' was revered, its powers summoned through an incantation whose meaning has since become lost.6 It was said to contain ‘majical’ powers, believed to prevent attacks from the undead.

5 Woodward Clemence, ‘Let It Burn: Fueling The Fire: Pearls Before Swine: Burnin’ Down The Web’ Pub. Pope Frank Publications, 3099, Page 70 “And verily was each FTP destroyed in a searing blue flame. No LOLS survived.”

6 Jolie Kerr, ‘Ask A Clean Person’, 2012, “<3 u bleachie”

Previously: The History of the Cell Phone.

Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn. She's an editor at Fempop, and spends a large amount of her time pretending to be a mildly evil cat on the internet.

75 Comments / Post A Comment

Girl Named Jack

I love me some triple-colon action. And footnotes. Verily, I am sated.



Heat Signature

OMG THIS IS BRILLIANT!!!!! It also reminds me of a book I read in middle school wherein archaeologists from "the future" looked at the contents of a hotel room and described "ceremonial platforms" (beds), and "ceremonial chest plates" (bras). Seriously, though, this post was a SHEER DELIGHT.

Heat Signature

@Heat Signature I should probably add that I routinely pretend to be a future-based archaeologist and come up with different descriptions of common items, only without footnotes because of how it's in my mind.


@Heat Signature That book was my first thought as well! I think a "ceremonial headdress" was the toilet seat and lid? With the lid as a kind of halo and the seat as a necklace? These sorts of things make me so happy! Yay material culture!

Also, this speaks to my hobby of creating the titles to fake academic theses: “I did it all for the Nookie:” The Late 90’s Rise of Masculinist Rap-Rock Amongst Rural and Suburban Male Adolescents.
It's a good party game

maybe partying will help


Best party game.

Also I would read that thesis.

Genghis Khat

@WhiskeySour Yes, I read that as well! Definitely the toilet seat and lid was a thing.

I always thought in the 90s about what future archaeologists would think of aol CDs. Devotional objects like rosaries? I mean, there were many in every home.


@Genghis Khat It was David McCauley's "Motel of Mysteries" and it was awesome.


@WhiskeySour "I had just been dismissed from University after delivering a brilliant lecture on the aggressive influence of German philosophy on rock 'n' roll entitled 'You, Kant, Always Get What You Want.'"

Heat Signature

@WhiskeySour I think we might be twins? Because I do this a lot as well. Sample: "Horses, Hard Cheese, and Holy Men: Depictions of Medieval Life as Reflected in Modern Literature, and Implications Thereof"

Heat Signature

@tussock Oh, thank you! I could not for the life of me recall the title (in my defense, I read it over 20 years ago).


@tussock My mom has this on her bookshelf. I thought it was hilarious.

Katrina Hall@twitter

@anachronistique You are making me giggle right now and probably for the rest of the day. And I have no idea how I will possibly explain my giggling to my coworkers.

Veronica Mars is smarter than me

@Genghis Khat Ancient peoples used a crude form of technology sharing, called "the inter-network." This network was contained on discs like the one you see before you.


@tussock YES. loved that book.


@narwhalsandwich Fantasy archaeology!! It's on my bookshelf now! *looks around at stacks of books all over the living room* Well, it WILL be when I get one.


@narwhalsandwich That was one of my grandma's favorites, and I now have her copy. I loved the museum store "catalog" feature at the end of the book, where they were selling reproductions of the formica countertops and toilet seats and ceiling tiles, and everything was, like, 24k gold and marble, instead of the original plastic. hee!


So wait, if I say "<3 u bleachie" thirteen times into a mirror, will Jolie appear and clean my bathroom with a scouring flame?


I wish I got Menses Gifts. (Then again, I work in an office of ~15 women, and even discounting the post-menopausal ones, if I had to get Menses Gifts for everybody...)


@frigwiggin Chances are they've synced up, so you only have to buy one big communal one.


@frigwiggin I did once receive a tiny beaded purse full of condoms from my secret santa, does that count?


@Megano! So that's what the donut holes in the break room are for.

@thisisunclear Definitely counts.


I just love you.

Pound of Salt

‘Let It Burn: Fueling The Fire: Pearls Before Swine: Burnin’ Down The Web’ !!!

This made me remember how much I loved Motel of the Mysteries when I was a kid.


This. This is why I read thehairpin. FOOTNOTES!



shivveriest of shivvery shivvers from this slimy-slithery-thing-ophobe.


Guys, I'm really worried about this Internet fire.


@charmcity Next year? Stokes, what did you see


I'm pretty sure "working class" doesn't mean what this fictional excavator thinks it means.


@RK I'm pretty sure that's kind of the point.


@stonefruit I wasn't being snarky! I was/am actually genuinely confused about that. I guess I fail at getting sarcasm?


*clears throat, pushes up glasses* I think you'll find it's Pliny the Younger who wrote the above quote, seeing as Pliny the Elder, his uncle, died in the course of the eruption.
...I'm sorry. Loved the article itself, though! I just...have to use this degree somewhere.

Rebecca Stokes@facebook

@hodgmina oh snap! Nice catch - thanks!


@hodgmina Yes Pliny the Elder's last known quotation was 'Hey, what's this giant ash cloud heading towards me and why are my toes so hot?'


@Rebecca Stokes@facebook Either way, when I hear a Pliny, I think beer.

Rebecca Stokes@facebook

@FickleMoon scholars often argue as it whether it was that or "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH"


@hodgmina Chilling on the beach with a pillow on your head: not a bad way to face imminent death, all things considered.

Edith Zimmerman

@hodgmina Updated!


@ginalouise Is 11am too early to head to the Toronado?


@riotnrrd NEVER! There are beers for all times of day. Of course Toronado is prob not open before 3ish.


Demurral, denial, and self-deprecation were more than status-quo among certain women of the 21st century" OK, so on my desk I usually have chocolate in a bowl because you know...available chocolate. And everytime a woman takes one I have to listen to, "Oh I don't really need this" or "I guess I'll have to work this off later" and stuff like that. I finally told one of the co-workers I'm closer too, "Look, take a miniature dark chocolate and enjoy it or don't take one at all! There is much more to worry about in the world than this."


@sovereignann@twitter I would like to know what the fictional future archeologists will discover about this phenomenon.


@sovereignann@twitter This is one of the reasons I'm glad I don't work the front desk anymore. Good god, y'all, that got OLD QUICK. "Tee hee, I'm being so bad! Why do you do this to me, it's all your fault!"


@frigwiggin UGH! Iiiii know, right?!? And don't even get me started on a day where there is cake for someone's birthday! I mean, cake! Effen enjoy the best food evah and shut the hell up! Apologies, that might read more forcefully than intended but yeesh.


@sovereignann@twitter You're more patient than I am. I'd look Little Miss "I Don't Really Need This" square in the eye and tell her, "Put it back, then."

I brought a fudge cake into our program office a while back and then had to listen to a skinny woman whine in her very best put-upon voice, "Ohhh, why did you bring thiiiiis; now I have to eat iiiiiiit. Welllll, I'll just have a little slice, then." She then proceeded to cut herself a standard-sized slice, then cut that in half, eat one of the halves, and come back 10 minutes later for the other half. I wanted to snap at her to just eat the entire slice at once and do it unapologetically or I'd cram the remaining half up her nostril.


@Xanthophyllippa Ooo, that looks like I'm anti-skinny woman. I'm not. Well, I mean, I am, because I am a woman who is not skinny, but I'm not, like, a hater of skinny women. I am, however, a hater of people who act like it's some big secret that they like treats and who giggle and carry on about how naughty they are. I'm not into the food-based self-shaming, especially since it catches those of us who enjoy food without apology in the shaming crossfire.


My desk watering can, rubber duck and bowl of dry rice used as a pen pot is really going to fuck the archaeologists up.


@FickleMoon When in doubt, they'll go with 'objects for a fertility ritual.' They usually do.


@FickleMoon or how about exercise balls used as desk chairs? minds will be blown!


@FickleMoon I have a taxidermied trout covered in rabbit fur above my desk. Good luck with that one, archeologists.


@MilesofMountains And this is why you can spend an entire conference session arguing about one wall.


@FickleMoon ooh. sweet idea with the dried rice bowl for pens. That sounds like a satisfying thing to have.


On another note, did anyone else try to leave bits of their DNA in unset concrete so future generations could resurrect them?


@FickleMoon I never did this, though it sounds intriguing, but when I was younger I was terrified of my a strand of hair of mine being picked up by some scientist and used for cloning purposes, so I always had to collect anything I shed and flush it down the toilet


@curiouscamel I have a friend who grew up in Louisiana and she will collect her hair after a haircut and take it with her because, you know...voodoo.


@sovereignann@twitter Relatedly, you can also put those trimmings in your garden to keep rabbits away from the seedlings. Two birds, one stone!


Yesssss! <3 Can I just put my archaeologist hat on for a moment (yes, it's a fedora) and draw people's attention to the existence of actual archaeological reports "The Archaeology of Alienation: A late 20th Century British Council Flat" by Gavin Lucas and Victor Buchli, and also, "Wharram Percy Memorial Stones: An Anthropological View from Mars" by Rilip Phatz (actually eminent archaeologist Philip Rahtz pretending to be a Martian)? What I'm saying is, modern and theoretical archaeology is cool and sometimes hilarious.


@glitterary I might need the titles of a few modern and theoretical archaeology scholarly journals now, they sound amazing.


I just want to join the chorus of FOOTNOTES! Loved this.


@mouthalmighty I loved the footnotes. That with the mention of "mental calisthenics" really reminded me of David Foster Wallace. (is that a juicebox thing to say? ahhhh)


I used to think it was fun to imagine what archaeologists and/or the cast of CSI would think of the contents of my room but that was before I became so Goddamn disgusting


Ok everyone go read about Elmo the mildly evil cat, because Rebecca, you so crazy!


@mouthalmighty Go get "The Devil's Details: A History of Footnotes"!!


@Amphora It's a real book! I kinda want to read it.


@hodgmina If you thought the OED guys in "The Professor and the Madman" were grammar and style Nazis, you haven't seen anything yet.


@Amphora I haven't read that either! Sigh...another book for my ever-expanding reading list.


Footnote #5 is my all-time favorite! also, elmo! i love him--his twitter is brilliant.


The only thing this post needs is a ruler in every photo for scale.


Nitpick: I'm thinking the writer meant "prescribed" (recommended) instead of "PROscribed" (forbidden) in the "Exhibit Three" paragraph. Love this post though!


@D.@twitter I scrolled thru the comments hoping for a "comprised of?!" pedant. Guess that pedant'll have to be me.


@Nutmeg Sometimes when the depression grabs me I worry that something will happen and the police will have to come in for some reason and I'll have to tell them robbers trashed the place AND ate a copious amount of fast food, leaving the bags all around the place.


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