Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Meditations on 12 Bits of Bathroom Graffiti

When I started grad school a few months ago, I was delighted to find that all the restrooms in the Humanities building have chalkboards in each stall. Presumably it’s a technique intended to cut down on actual graffiti, and it seems to work: Though the chalk is long gone and the messages are mostly in marker, those messages on the chalkboard, and the stalls’ walls, remain pristine (for some definition of the word pristine that includes surfaces sprayed nearly continuously with microscopic drops of toilet water).

Here are a few:

Lady 1: Well-behaved women rarely make history.
Lady 2: self-hatred [with an arrow pointing to the strikeout]
Ah, the eternal struggle between huge jerks and freshman women’s studies majors for dominance of the ladies’ room stalls. Who will emerge victorious?

I believe in Sherlock Holmes
Moriarty is real
This is written in multiple stalls in every single bathroom in the building I’ve been in. I think we found someone’s OTP … and I think Watson is going to be very disappointed.

<3 cupcake  + pancake forever <3 T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E.
It is true that thug life primarily involves the enjoyment of cakes prepared in a variety of different cooking receptacles.

Written around the word “PUSH” printed on a trashcan: Don’t PUSH me, I’m close to the edge.
I relate to this trashcan even more than I relate to most trashcans. 

I wanna be a smuggler. Snuggle by day, drink by night. <3 —Penelope
Penelope, that’s like not even close to what a smuggler does. Like you might want to reevaluate whether this is the career path you truly envision for yourself, because it really doesn’t seem like you have that much potential in the smuggling field based on this graffiti.

Girls suck and are hella dumb, hence everything written on this gay chalkboard.
MAJOR blow to the women’s studies majors. Can they recover??

My man is goreous [sic] and kind. He buys me everything, dicks me down, & eats it like a 4-course meal. Just be patient. Great women deserve and will get great men.
Man, Oprah has really changed since she stopped doing her show.

[blacked out] Obama [blacked out] [blacked out] + [blacked out]
Racist diatribe censored by someone with a black marker and a speck of decency? Or magic witchcraft spell that ensured Obama’s reelection? The answer may surprise you. But it probably won’t.

Lady 1: Fuck Facebook, MySpace forever!!!
Lady 2: Why don’t you write something that matters?
Honestly, Lady 2, MySpace is due for a comeback any day now. Didn’t you hear Justin Timberlake bought it? He’s gonna make a billion more dollars, and then he’s gonna laugh at you, and you’ll be sorry you ever wrote this.

Boys will come and go but your c____[illegible] will always be.
Unfortunately, one of the words in this bit of graffiti has been … rubbed out.

If life gives you a thousand reasons to frown, show that you have a thousand and one reasons to smile.
Oh, fuck off.

(in teeny tiny letters in the very corner of the ledge you put the chalk on) Love the smell of period.
And the winner is women’s studies majors! A stunning comeback! Congratulations to everyone involved.

Previously: The Pub Trivia Bathroom.

Lauren O'Neal is a creative-writing MFA student in San Francisco. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The Rumpus, and Corium Magazine. You can follow her on Twitter here.

85 Comments / Post A Comment


The Sherlock/Moriarty one is actually not about shipping!

I have to go to lunch or I would explain more thoroughly.

Also, no BAD WOLF?


@thatgirl Sure, drop this intriguing claim and vanish off to lunch, leaving us to solve this mystery!
Okay, I'll take up the challenge. Apparently this is the answer:

Also, this was hilarious. I was rooting for the women's studies majors the whole time; so glad they pulled it off at the end.


@Kristen I know, but I really did have to go!

So, I am personally fascinated with the movement of fandom into the Real World in subtle ways. Especially with creators who feed into that with (as the BBC Sherlock team has) websites and other extras, it's easy for fans to take it the extra step.

This isn't cosplaying or wearing a t shirt with a symbol or a character. It's about leaving something fpr those in the know. And I think that's really cool.


@thatgirl I have been kind of resisting the rest of the Sherlock fandom, because I am strangely susceptible to that one. Like, I have given in and totally have an OTP (dude, Johnlock, what else?) and read fanfic, and have been amazed to find that much of the fanfic I've read has been stunningly well-written. Like, better than some of the novels I've read recently. So I don't know that I can handle even more obsession on my obsession, you know?


@AmandathePanda I am completely fandom obsessed, so I may not be the best person to dissuade you!


@thatgirl Someone on campus wrote the Sherlock slogans in chalk around on the pavement. I took a couple of pictures, of course. There was also one that said "221-B(elieve).


this must be good if your high. lol@y

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

"Girls suck and are hella dumb, hence everything written on this gay chalkboard."

What are the odds this was written by a dude in the bathroom hoping for some filthy graffiti and all he got was mention of periods and Sherlock Holmes?


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose And smuggling. Don't forget the smuggling.


This is fantastic. The Oprah bit made me wish I were in the ladies room.

Cause I peed a little, if that wasn't clear.


Unfortunately, one of the words in this bit of graffiti has been … [SUNGLASSES] rubbed out.



Omg. Love all of these.

Also-- "dicks me down"=added to my vocabulary of euphemisms for fucking that sounds dirtier than just saying "fucking".

Hot Doom

@fabel I just imagine a lady-tent who is stuck further and further into the ground with the help of a dick and a small hammer. That sounds a lot more sinister than I imagine, actually. She's like the lady-tent version of Cat Bus from 'My Friend Totoro' and she is very friendly and lets people camp in her and she'll not even blow away in a mighty gust because her 'goreous' man has dicked her down so well. Everyone's happy!


@fabel I read that and immediately flexed my brain for maximum remembrance capacity. I am stealing that so hard.


@Hot Doom My Neighbor Totoro

Hot Doom

@Megano! Ah! I was wondering whether it was friend or neighbor and went with the wrong one! I did the quick google check where it autofills and it came up with 'my friend' first and I've had one martini too many. NEIGHBOR. neighbor. Mea culpa.


@Hot Doom I always make that mistake and my husband corrects me with alarming condescension


That PUSH graffiti has programmed the song that'll be in my head for the rest of the day. Bathrooms: they're like a jungle, sometimes they make me wonder how I keep from going under.

Reginal T. Squirge


Lily Rowan

@nowwhat I'm seriously buying a Sharpie so I can start doing that, because who DOESN'T want to have The Message in their head?


My favorite bathroom graffiti is: "T E Lawrence <3 Robert Graves OXFORD ADULTEROUS ROMANCE! (discuss)"
Someone else: YES


@Lucienne Those people and I are clearly kindred spirits.


My favourite pieces of Dublin toilet cubicle graffiti in order;

3. "Toy Story 2 was OK" in Pantibar (this used to be my absolute favourite, until somebody told me it was a Demetri Martin joke. I still like it, but it's not as impressively irrelevant as I thought it was.)
2. "Your mom goes to college" in the Dark Horse Inn
1. "When you're alone and life is making you lonely / you can always go / downtown" and a little drawing of Petula Clark, in Grogans


@Decca And Lauren, this article was really funny!

fondue with cheddar

@Decca It never occurred to me until this very moment that "Downtown" could easily be about masturbation. Well, except for the part about the movie shows.

dracula's ghost

@Decca Oh man I had no idea! "Toy Story 2 was OK" is my favorite graffiti in Portland, it's in the Fresh Pot on Mississippi. I am now sad that it is non original, alas

Dirty Hands

@fondue with cheddar YOU HAVE OPENED TO ME A NEW WORLD


@fondue with cheddar I thought it was about cunnilingus! Masturbation makes more sense, though. (My friends and I always sing it with much exaggerated winking and pointing at crotches.)

fondue with cheddar

@Verity Yeah, you can't really do it "when you're alone" unless you're really flexible. And if you are, can I watch? Also, I like you and your friends.

My tired morning fingers just made the weirdest typo ever. Instead of "flexible" I typed "fleximable". WTF is that, brain?


It's kind of immature and needlessly antagonistic, but part of me really likes the bathroom graffiti at my neighborhood's hipster-attracting local dive that says "If you had to drive here, you don't belong here."

Heat Signature

@Emby JUST LIKE WHITNEY CUMMINGS' CAREER...oh, wait a minute.


@Heat Signature I couldn't understand why you kept doing that, and the I saw the banner ads! Carry on, sorry for earlier snark!

Heat Signature

@Emby Oh I know, I was just teasing you. Also my goal today is to work in a Whitney Cummings mention in every comment thread, because seriously enough with the banner ads already.


@Heat Signature Ughhh because the ad only goes down like a quarter of the page I've inadvertently clicked it no less than 10 times already today. Hate you, mean it.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Heat Signature But she's so fresh and edgy! Look at how she sits on the desk! She doesn't even use a chair! (The amount of times I've accidentally clicked on the hidden part of the ad and the resulting frustration has cemented my resolve to never watch her show.)


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Oh, she's a pretty girl who's rough around the edges! A true original--I bet she even burps and cusses! She might even be feisty!

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Hellcat Do you think she farts? I don't think she farts. Oh man, what if she does and then talks to a man about it? AHHHHHH


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose I bet she does... then probably dares to call him "a lady-sissy-girly-man" when he implies he's not interested in any of that. Brazen, I tell you, and a real trailblazer!

fondue with cheddar

I love the concept of a chalkboard in a bathroom but I COULD NEVER TOUCH THE CHALK.


@fondue with cheddar THIS is the first thing I thought as well! Followed by "Guess I'd have to carry my own chalk in my bag."


These could all have been recorded on the bathroom next to my college's coffee shop, once voted "grossest bathroom on campus" (yes, that was an actual poll). I may or may not have contributed to the Women's Studies side of things in my time there.

The Frozen Head of Dorothy Zbornak

This is at SF State, right?? I loved keeping up with the graffiti wars in the humanities building bathrooms. Thanks for keeping me updated after graduation!


@The Frozen Head of Dorothy Zbornak Holy crap, I'm going to have to leave the Biology building at some point and check this out!


In a bar I frequented in college there was "DON'T FUCK LARS. HE IS DIRTY." and someone else wrote "really" above DIRTY and then added "and he lies!" below. Went there for years, never met Lars

oh! valencia

@BuffyBot I think you mean :D


@BuffyBot Where is this? Why on earth do I feel like I have seen this? Can it be? Maybe I am just having a weird deja vu or something?


@Hellcat http://imgur.com/54DCF
That's the best picture I have of it but the bottom graffiti is cut off. It's the Ivy Inn in Princeton, NJ.


@BuffyBot I think I have been there and that I even noticed Lars (the scribble, not the guy) maybe! That would have been a long time ago though--like close to 10 years, so I could be full of baloney.


@Hellcat To be honest I think I post this whenever I get the chance, so maybe I have before and it resonated with you? ((giving myself way too much credit))
Other graffiti I enjoyed was "You are so fucking beautiful, probably." In Red Bank, NJ.


@BuffyBot It could be... but I also have an ex that lived in the area and now I am just not sure! It seems so familiar!

tea for all

thug life
thug life


@tea for all Well, hello new fantasy life.


@tea for all No one man should have all that flour.


My favorite graffiti was in a bathroom at the SMFA in Boston:
"I can't stop listening to Prince", followed by an encouraging "That's ok."


@LoCalCalzoneZone Fellow SMFAer?!! I actually took multiple photos of the stalls at the SMFA. Looooved the back-and-forth.


@BoozinSusan Yes, I took some classes there. The back-and-forth on the stalls was always delightful.

Queen Elisatits

My favorite graffiti was on one of those back of the door ads in a stall. It as a add for Tampax Pearl that read "Upgrade your G.P.A., Flirt with your T.A." and then something about upgrading tampons. Someone started with "This ad is some sexist bullshit" and evolved from there with everyone hating on it. Pretty great stuff.

Barry Grant

@Queen Elisatits

There are ads IN THE STALL??? Just shoot me now.


There is a sign hung up in one of our campus bathrooms asking fpr food not to be flushed. (I had no idea this was a problem, but okay)
Things that should also not be flushed according to the sign annotators include eggs, hamsters, pilgrims, and Snooki (although another person did note that it would improve her hair)


@LacunaKale On the same campus as the one in the article, in the student health center, there's a warning not to flush tampons that includes an asterisk directing you to a footnote that says, "Written by a FEMALE student!" Like that is a typed part of the official, photocopied warning.


@Lauren_O'Neal The Hive Vagina kindly requests your compliance.


Bus station bathrooms have pretty epic graffiti too. What is up with all the ones that are about "loving yourself as you are?" I don't think I've ever been in a public bathroom that didn't have this somewhere.

Miss Maszkerádi

New Yorkers - has anyone ever found a bigger clusterfuck of self conscious hipster/freshman graffiti than the bathroom at the Hungarian Pastry Shop?

superfluous consonants

@Countess Maritza i used to live, like, 500 feet from the hungarian pastry shop, and i loved every inch of that bathroom.

Miss Maszkerádi

@superfluous consonants Oh, I love it too. It just most definitely is a (glorious) clusterfuck.


my favorite one got covered up recently. it was at a place where i eat sandwiches / get drunk.... well all the time. it just said "i'd rather be rolling".


did NOT know i could comment via twitter.


@Angelena@twitter sadly, you cannot comment on bathroom stalls via twitter...yet.


Most of the bathrooms on my campus have sayings that play on the word grout written in miniature in between the tiles. Like "grout it out," "Sometimes a Grout Notion," etc.

Also, someone needs to compare the dude's and lady's restrooms! Perfect for a last-minute gendered text project.


@babs Just today my brother mentioned that the toilets in our local university's library have grout-themed graffiti. ("Grout Expectations", for example. I suggested "The Grout Gatsby".)

Miss Maszkerádi

@Verity Notes from the Undergrout.


@Verity Does he go to Portland State?

Groutleby the Scrivener!


@babs Nope - it's the University of Sussex in England.


No other pictures? I am constantly taking pictures with my phone of interesting graffiti.


I took photos of the graffiti in the English Faculty toilets at Oxford, because it was great. Lots of poetry, unsurprisingly; someone added, "Stop squeezing out these pointless words! The loo is for creating turds". There was also "Severus Snape is dishy" and my favourite, "Does anybody else sit here and stare at or play with their vagina?".


I like graffiti that uses pre-existing print (like the PUSH one here). One of my favorites was in a stairwell at my alma mater where each landing had something labelled "STAND PIPE". On each landing, someone wrote: "Get pipe, STAND PIPE" or "STAND PIPE for your rights". Every time I walked up the stairs I would get that song stuck in my head.


@brooklebee My favorite instance of this is at a pizza joint in Brooklyn that makes the Thanks on the garbage can: T.HANKS and there's a picture of Tom Hanks and it makes me laugh on every occasion I've been blessed to be in there. I don't even know anymore if garbage cans usually say thanks, but it's good (albeit probably placed by the management) graffiti.


@Opos That is great! And reminds me of another favorite: someone posted a bunch of crossed-out photos of famous Bills (Nye, Clinton, Murray, etc.) near the "Post No Bills" signs at a local construction site on a major street. So funny!

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@Opos That reminds me of the Tony Danza stickers I used to see around downtown Montreal. It was just a posterized image of Tony Danza (possibly from the Who's The Boss? era) and the initials "TD" printed under it. I have no idea who made those stickers, but I really want to know.

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

I still LOL at the (now-expanded) hockey discussion I found in a ladies' room stall at a pub, and texted my friend jokingly saying "LOL did you write this bit about the Phoenix Coyotes?" and getting a response saying "Oh shit. I completely forgot I did that."


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