‘I’m Just Like Spider-Man,’ says anonymous columnist

"Oh, I know you! I recognize you from ___."

You fill in the blank.

At a school that seems just small enough that everyone seems to know someone who knows someone else, it’s hard to escape the preconceived image of yourself. Sometimes when I meet someone I would be recognized from bartending, or "the GroupMe," or from Bella Union, or posters from a DSG campaign, or from tabling on BC, but nobody could ever recognize me for being the anonymous columnist.

Oftentimes, I would be finishing a piece at a Saturday night gathering in advance of my Sunday deadline. My friends would be confused as to why I was hiding my laptop. Whenever they got too close, I would quickly switch to porn to avoid arousing any suspicions. Anonymity is hard but important. Monday Monday is where opinions become disconnected from the author. Monday Monday gives a mouthpiece and a pen to the disgruntled frustrations and murmurs that typically die in a conversation with friends or disappear in a few hours off SideChat. 

They say criticism comes from a place of love. Perhaps that is true. How else do I explain the many rants that my friends become begrudging audiences for about another waste of time meeting in DSG, or another frustrating conversation with an administrator, or another sudden and inexplicable closure, construction project or policy shift. But these were just rants, the same rants spouted by thousands of others at Duke. Monday Monday was, hopefully, a means to capture these rants in a way that made people smile a little, to make people feel less alone in their frustrations with the university.

Satire is a tool, not only to criticize but also to organize and inform. Some Monday Mondays of the past bemoan that students don’t really read the column. I disagree. What people don't read is the news. At least, that's what I did. After all, why learn when you can laugh? 

I know people read Monday Monday because people would tell me. More than a handful of times someone would reference a joke I wrote or ask me if I had read the latest article, and I would respond, "Yeah, not funny. Monday Monday sucks, and they're probably stupid and ugly too."

Monday Monday is very special because it is the one column in the Chronicle that is handed off year after year. Often looking for inspiration for an article I would return to the staff page of Monday Monday and read back through 10-to-15-year-old articles that mock a commencement speaker or a silly decision by admin. Like fossils in amber, these satirical pieces preserve the feelings of the time in print, allowing us to look back and compare our own situations today that are, sometimes, not too dissimilar from the frustrations of generations prior. 

My arrival at Duke was marked by masks on faces, cotton swabs up noses and a deep sense of fear and uncertainty. Since then, Duke has changed a lot. SLG, Greek and Independent house seals have disappeared off the sides of West Campus buildings. Curb cuts in front of the Chapel have been removed, making campus more inaccessible. The field in front of Gilbert-Addoms where my classmates once gathered in a desperate cling for social life during a pandemic has been paved over and replaced by a brick plaza that rarely sees use. Swift lost a gym and a pool. We banned nuts. Some things are small. Some things are bigger. But when tuition continues to grow and Duke grows ever more selective, these changes should not be met with a shrug and a sigh, but with skepticism and interrogation.

Call me a romantic. A critic. Nostalgic for some amorphous time “before” — but I think it’s true. Duke has changed. Sometimes for the better, often for the worse. In a way, that made my job easy. There is so much about Duke to mock. There is also much to love, and that is why it is all the more important we push it to be better. 

As I leave Monday Monday, I hope this column brought some solace to your week. I hope you could join me in being angry with Duke, laughing at its absurdity and then demanding it be better. 

Rejected from The Fluke twice, chronic bench napper, DSG expat: My name is Zoe Tishaev (sometimes known as my mobile order name, “Candice Nutzfitinyomouf”), and it has been an honor to serve as your Monday Monday.

Lastly, I must make a few thank yous: 

Thank you to friends who called my articles “not funny” and “very bad” without knowing it was me, because it pushed me to be better.

Thank you to the various Duke administrators — especially Mary Pat McMahon, Gary Bennett, Chris Rossi and Mark Hough, who probably never read Monday Monday, and are frequently the subjects of much criticism but were still always willing to have a conversation and talk through decisions with those who ask. 

Thank you to Kerinna Good, the one friend I told, for being a sounding board for bad jokes and for keeping her lips sealed on my identity. 

Thank you to the previous Monday Mondays for bringing light to this school when it feels like all shadows. I hope I was half as good as the authors who came before me. 

Zoe Tishaev is a Trinity senior and served as Monday Monday, The Chronicle’s long-standing anonymous satirical columnist, for The Chronicle’s 119th volume.


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