Wien: Introducing the Vomlettes

by Elise Wien | 1/11/17 5:00am

This episode of “Two Indians and a Jew” opens with a pan. We see the room, light streaming in from the east-facing windows. Morning sounds carry up from Mass Row, this is prime eavesdropping territory. By the door is a black and white glossy poster of One Direction. Kayuri is a “Directioner.” I remember her saying this early on in our friendship. One of the first text conversations we had, in the summer of 2013 before we even moved in, was about our music tastes. I’m sure I brought it up and I’m sure I was posturing. Kayuri wrote that she loves One Direction, and I remember staring at my phone wondering why she was admitting this. Why wasn’t she posturing? Surely she was aware this was uncool and therefore unacceptable to admit so early on in the relationship.

It turns out that Kayuri is fearless and uninterested in pandering to the snobby elitism that was my 17-year-old music taste. Soon would come the story of how she once drove for eight hours straight from Atlanta, Georgia to North Carolina, tailing the One Direction tour bus. In time, I would learn to get over judging people for their music taste, if not through maturing, then through repeated exposure to 1D’s “Midnight Memories,” which has worn away at me like radiation. Diagonally across from this poster is an autographed, life-sized cardboard cutout of 1D’s Niall Horan. Next to him — I will add — though this is not music-related, is a middle school-era homemade collage of Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s made of 40 (I counted) photos of DiCaprio, printed, arranged on a poster and sealed with transparent packing tape. It clearly took hours to make, but devotion knows no one like it knows a teenage girl. Born under different circumstances, Kayuri might’ve been a monk.

Around the room are Friday Night Rock posters, and against the back wall is a pair of speakers that, most recently, were playing Jamila Woods’ “HEAVN.”

“Make a plug for Jamila Woods’ ‘HEAVN,’ available to stream on SoundCloud,” Corinne said to me last night (I will also mention “The Truth About Dolls,” her spoken-word album, especially the track “Georgia O’Keeffe Explains to Her Husband What a Flower Is,” which I think about fairly often).

Corinne is wearing a dark blue, collared flannel nightgown that hits mid-shin. She looks like the Ghost of Christmas Past until my eyes hit her socks-and-neon-Crocs combination, which is unmistakably Corinne. We are talking about our dream band, The Vomlettes. Vom-lette: the feminized version of a vomlet, that infamous beacon of hazing introduced in the 2012 Rolling Stone article about Dartmouth.

We’ve taken on the subject with a mutual friend, who joined a fraternity at another school and told us about his time as a pledge, which he said included a blur of alcohol, milk, and at least one raw potato. If a pledge refused to perform the prescribed task, the pledge master would punish another pledge. This is like the character who, refusing to talk, has to witness his family member get tortured; it is a special type of psychosocial hell.

We discovered this fraternity accepted a student who was acquitted from a rape trial despite the fact that he admitted to engaging in sexual activity with an unconscious woman.

“He told us about it and said not to do anything stupid,” the friend said.

“You received a consent talk from a rapist,” was Kayuri’s response.

“He was acquitted,” the friend said.

As a room, we tried to explain to him that in addition to participating in a cycle of abuse, when the new pledges came, it would be his turn to torture them — which would be a point-blank moral wrong, though he responded that it was all in the name of “brotherhood.” It is true that being a woman isn’t easy, but masculinity is tragic.

But back to the Vomlettes. As an homage to our origins, maybe we will be an intersectional feminist band with a “consent +” agenda. Consent + is the North Mass 310 notion that sex shouldn’t just involve two consenting parties but two enthusiastic ones who value women’s pleasure. Groundbreaking. We will also have an anti-hazing agenda, wherein we promote gentle hand-holding as a safe alternative to moshing during our more hardcore numbers.

Kayuri contributes that she “played viola in middle school and flute for a hot second in the fifth grade. We were supposed to play ‘Hot Cross Buns’ but I learned ‘Jingle Bells’ so I showed up everyone in my fifth grade class.” Corinne contends that “Jingle Bells” is not much harder, but by this point Kayuri is already in the inner room and on her way to sleep.

Corinne played the trombone, the baritone, and “could probably also do percussion.” She added that she was Dowagiac High School Spirit Club President (“Go Chieftains”). She tells us that her friend was “so jazzed” about Spirit Club elections because she poured so much time into the club, but members found her annoying. So Corinne strolled into the classroom that day,

“And I was like, ‘I guess I’ll run,’ and I won and then my friend unfriended me on Facebook and unfollowed me.”

“So the Vomlettes have enemies?”

“Cool.”

Last week Corinne told me that she got back to the room while Kayuri and I were asleep and I was rapping on the wall with my fist, so I, too, am a possibility for percussion. I hear I am a creepy sleeper, talking and kicking in my slumber. Over the break, while I stayed with my sister, she told me I had been laughing hysterically in my sleep. Freshman year, when I slept on the top bunk, I would kick the duvet off myself and onto the ground. I would wake chilly and confused by the blanket five feet below me, in the middle of the room. Apparently I sleep-mutter “I’m from New York” fairly often, which I understand as a manifestation of suburban insecurities. Point is, I may make a more interesting musician asleep than awake. I have an okay voice and think I might be good at writing lyrics. Freshman year, I auditioned for D-Style, which ended miserably when I said a line about Brooklyn then felt the need to follow it with a line about gentrification, backing myself into a multi-syllabic corner.

So we have Kayuri on the viola, Corinne on the trombone, and me, horizontal and sleep talking into a mic. If we do not succeed at Fem-Punk, we’ll at least be avant-garde.