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It’s me manifesto

Andrew Miller | Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How do you sign people’s yearbooks?

Some leave a generic message: “I can’t believe we made it through a whole year! It’s been awesome getting to know you better. I hope you keep in touch.”

Others detest the impersonality of such a message. These protesters demand a higher quality from the yearbook message as an entity and only write in the yearbooks of those for whom they can write a poignant and meaningful note. Yet though the recipient may appreciate this type of message in the end there are costs: primarily the cost of the author having to turn people away when they ask, “Hey! Joe! Sign my yearbook!” As the “no” leaves the lips of the yearbook-idealist, Joe will immediately become the big jerk face who sucks (the lesson being that those who think they should take the message high ground are actually just big jerk faces who suck).

Finally, there are those among us who choose neither the personal nor the impersonal route to the message. The pressure to write in so many books builds and builds to feverish levels. Constant hounding and cajoling wear down the souls of these poor saps, still holding out on putting pen to paper, until finally they have no choice but to take every book they’re handed and write the most superfluous and vacuous four-letter acronym in existence: hags.

So where do we go from here? Let me reformulate my initial statement. Instead of asking you how you sign people’s yearbooks, let me tell you how I sign people’s yearbooks. And to do so, I’ll employ the best kind of evidence – anecdotal evidence.

In late May of my freshman year of high school, as the yearbooks were released, I decided I didn’t want my friends to remember me as the dull guy, the sentimental guy, or the generically complacent guy. I wanted them to remember me as the funny guy – the guy whose message on which they could look back years from now and say, “Gosh darn it! That Andrew Miller sure was one funny son of a gun!”

But how to be the funny guy? How could I write such messages so that a majority of my friends (the total number of my friends at that time being no more than ten, just as a point of reference) would recognize the power of my rapier wit? I realized the only way I could bring about such a reaction would be by making a reference so clever, so hilarious, they would be hard-pressed not to remember me.

So then the issue became what is the perfect reference? It had to be something vaguely recognizable yet obscure enough to be unique. Something outlandishly funny yet with a hint of poignancy. Something ironic yet heart-warming.

I started thinking about end-of-year themed episodes of various programs and I remembered one that I always admired: the two-part Boy Meets World episode that contains the Mr. Feeney retirement flash-forward (“The War/Seven the Hard Way”). In this hour-long episode, the seven principles allow a prank war to escalate to the point where none of them wants to have anything to do with any of the others. During the flash-forward it’s revealed that since the prank war, the only two who have remained in contact are the married Corey and Topanga (and they’re in couples therapy). Eric shows up as his new personality, the reclusive Plays With Squirrels, and shares with everyone his life’s work, a compendium of all his knowledge: Lose one friend, Lose all friends, Lose yourself.

Suddenly it hit me. There it was. Those three lines. That would be my yearbook message. And I wrote those three lines in every single yearbook I signed to friend and foe alike. Lose one friend, Lose all friends, Lose yourself.

Now many people will discount this reference as unimportant and too obscure. The nay-sayers will come at me with comments like: “Boy Meets World stopped being good after everyone started attending college. Those aren’t the classic episodes. Nobody cares about those references.” I fervently disagree. The show became infinitely funnier as the writers allowed the characters to be more absurd, exploring the limits of what could reasonably sustain a show once driven by Ben Savage’s quickly waning cuteness factor. I had the reference and I had the justification.

The owners of some of the yearbooks I signed didn’t get it; to them I explained myself. Others didn’t care. But they probably wouldn’t have cared even if I tried to write a personalized message because they probably had no intention of ever reading the messages they received. But there were a select few who appreciated and admired my comedic sensibility. And in the end, what is the point of a yearbook message if not to glorify and accentuate the ego of the composer.

Since that year I have always tried to employ this method of yearbook signing. Find the reference and all else will fall in place. Avoid the campy, avoid the trite, avoid the real. Go straight for Plays With Squirrels and all problems will be solved.

And that’s how I sign people’s yearbooks.

Andrew Miller is a senior English major. He can be contacted at amille15@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.