The Jell-O Slip ‘N Slide By @abbycohenwl


I took your suggestion. I told him about my college experience. You were right! And now I realize that what I told him, the event—it’s exactly the kind of thing I was looking for when I went to college.

This was at the University of California at Santa Cruz, at a party that was dubbed The End of the World. Everyone was all into “Apocalypse Now,” and that Doors’ song “The End” that plays as Martin Sheen rises from the swamp to kill big ol’ Marlon Brando. So when we heard that the Student Council was throwing what they billed The Party to End All Parties, we thought, “Whoa! When did we get a Student Council?” Who knows if they ever did anything besides finance this event. But then, who knows if Einstein ever did anything besides the theory of relativity (I guess some people know; I wasn’t a science major).

Anyway, there was going to be food—sustenance for the end of days. And beer, because college. And they’d set up four different live music stages, along with a couple smoke machines for an extra death-y atmosphere. Of course I had to go, ‘cause it was free. That’s a law if you’re in college.

On that mild spring evening, I came out of the dorm and there were a couple hundred kids walking around on the quad. The festivities started with a bang— some joker was projecting Swedish Erotica on an outside wall. Sorry, I shouldn’t talk about this part, but in those pre-internet days, I’d never seen porn before! And here they were: a feather-haired girl walking into a living room with a dude sporting an 80’s ‘stache, befitting the times. He’s got a baseball mitt on one hand, tossing a ball into it with the other as they sit on the couch. She kisses him. He keeps on tossing that ball into the mitt until she grabs his—okay, I’ve strayed from my topic.

There was so much going on, and so many people, no one even noticed the Swedes scruvning right there on the wall. Except one chick who was feeling no pain, laughing her crazy head off—okay, it was me. But in my defense, well. I’m just going to say it: The quality of the local LSD was a point of pride on campus in those days, and it was just kicking in. The sky had acquired that faint swimming doily pattern. And the trees were up to something. Ever do acid? Never mind.

Some activity to the left drew my attention from the Scandinavians’ pale könsorganen. And there, on the 20’ by 20’ square lawn in front of the cafeteria, I saw it: plastic sheeting covering the grass, and loads of cherry Jell-O smeared across that. Holy hell, it was the Jell-O Slip ‘N Slide! Upper classmen had told of it forever but I always thought they were making stuff up in their old age. Now here it was, complete with a dozen bare-ass college kids, running and diving onto it like flesh-colored penguins flying across ice floes of red.

I bolted over there—an idea every person in that zip code had at the same moment. And the penguins were super unhappy about it. In fact, the bigger the crowd grew, the more agitated they got.

One particularly buxom lass named Jen, whom I knew from more fully clothed times, was especially animated as she ran over, waved her fists and everything else at us, and screamed “STOP! LOOKING! AT! MEEEEEEE!”

I’d never seen a nude body coated in Jell-O angrily jiggling every god-damned part of it at me before. Let alone 12 of them. And I learned something in that moment, a lesson that has stayed with me to this day: if you want people to stop looking at you, that is the LAST way to get it.

If those kids were still in that Jell-O, I’d still be looking at them.

Another highlight of the party was the massive crayon coloring session at dawn. When my boyfriend and I figured out that the owl we’d been watching on the Chancellor’s roof for an hour was a decoy—that was really good, too.

Anyway, thanks for the suggestion, Ms. Valdez. Telling my kid about my own experience really did pique his interest in going to college. Honestly, you’re so much better than the guidance counselor I had in high school.

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