Why “Hotmessday” is the Meme We Need — and How it Came to Be

I’d heard this story before, but now it has a sticker, so it’s a real thing

Years ago, “Hot Damn,” a member of the Eggs Bar team, had an epic playa meltdown. Her camp took great care of her, but after it was all over they agreed her punishment was that for the next day her name would be changed to “Hot Mess.”

Later, the day on which that happened became known as “Hot Mess Day.” As in, “was that before or after Hot Mess Day?”

Some time later, one of the crew noticed the degree to which “Hot Mess Day” sounds similar to the traditional Hindu greeting “Namaste” — which roughly translates as “The divinity in me bows to the divinity in you.”

At which point they decided that the world needed a word like “Hotmessday” — the mess in me bows to the mess in you.

It was a private camp joke until, this year, they made stickers and started spreading them around.

“I’m really happy about it, because not only is it hilarious but it represents a time when my camp did take excellent care of me. When they were there for me even when I couldn’t offer them anything, or be there for myself, and that’s a very powerful and happy memory for me,” Hot Damn said.  “A good experience that came out of a horrible time.”

And I don’t know about you, but I feel like “hotmessday” is the greeting we so desperately need. An admission, up front, right at the beginning, that we are a mess and struggling with our stuff, and this is okay. I think Burning Man, and all our lives, are better if we just stop pretending to be so together, and instead we start struggling together.

“Turning it into something we could laugh about together turned this terrible experience for me into something we could talk about together, without shame,” Hot Damn said. “That was a very moving gift to me, and I’m hoping that now other people can have it too.”

Beginning in Burning Man 2019, the mess in me bows to the mess in you.

About the author: Caveat Magister

Caveat is Burning Man's Philosopher Laureate. A founding member of its Philosophical Center, he is the author of The Scene That Became Cities: what Burning Man philosophy can teach us about building better communities, and Turn Your Life Into Art: lessons in Psychologic from the San Francisco Underground. He has also written several books which have nothing to do with Burning Man. He has finally got his email address caveat (at) burningman (dot) org working again. He tweets, occasionally, as @BenjaminWachs

9 Comments on “Why “Hotmessday” is the Meme We Need — and How it Came to Be

  • Koosh says:

    I’ve seen “namascray” used for a similar purpose before. And yes, we must absolutely honor our fucked-up-ness in one another.

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  • Scott Kammerzell says:

    The dumpster fire in me recognizes the dumpster fire in you.
    (G,P&E 2020?)

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  • Wovoka says:

    Thanks a lot for posting this delightful comment on “Hotmessday.” Tomorrow I’ll return to our Buddhist Sangha, and will find a way (regardless of what topic is being discussed) to wheedle in this take on “Namaste.” Will be interested in seeing their response – if any – but am hoping for a thoughtful response.

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  • meme says:

    The left can’t meme because the left is a meme.

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  • Carija Carija says:

    I have shared this many others. I find it altogether perfect. Are buttons available for purchase? Thanks

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  • Robin Alexandra says:

    i am smiling really big because I had my first Hotmessday this year and what you described happened to me (in a smaller fashion, my whole camp was not involved). I hadn’t experienced anything like it and the hottmess in me for sure bows to the hotmess in you!! Thanks for sharing this!

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