First, the question:

Auto response from [Josh]: Away message poll
time!  Which item is more important to you, in that it
would be harder to live without:  Kitchen utensils or
The poll will be up until noon EST, 12/9/01.  Vote


For background information on away message polls in general, please read The Shower Poll.

On Friday 12/7/01, I decided that it was time to make a new away message poll, both to celebrate the approximate one-year anniversary of my first Away Message Poll, and because I had an eleven-page paper to write. I didn't want the distraction of talking on IMer while I was writing it, so I put up a poll until I was almost done my paper.

To decide on the topic of the poll, I brainstormed for about a half hour with my roommate Mike and his girlfriend Steph. Thanks, guys. I think we came up with a pretty good one.

The poll was posted at 12:40am EST, 12/08/01. It was up until 12:01pm EST, 12/09/01.


32 votes were recorded in this poll. Of them, 24 were recorded via direct IMs, 6 were recorded via indirect IMs (someone telling me what someone else's vote was), and 2 were in-person votes, which I discourage. Of those votes, 18 were in favor of utensils being more important, 12 favored underwear, and 2 did not express a preference.


I made a mistake in this poll. My original intent was to have "utensils" mean only a fork, spoon, knive, chopsticks, or other eating utensils. Several people, however, took it to mean cooking utensils in addition. When asked, I would respond that I meant both, but primarily the eating ones, since it was too late to change the poll. Based on my original intent, I hypothesized that the results would be about equal.

Given that people included cooking utensils, the results were obviously skewed in favor of utensils' utility. I think that given the small sample size, the large possibility for error, and the miscommunication, that my hypothesis was fairly accurate.

As an aside, several people mentioned that Macaroni and Cheese is one of the only foods that is entirely infeasable to eat with hands. I concur; I can't think of any others right now.

My hypothesis was based on two suppositions. First, that the answer to this might go in stages based on age. Much younger people, say of age 4 and under, seem not to care for underwear or utensils very much at all. Pre-adolescents generally have no opinions on matters of clothing, but also enjoy messiness, as is evidenced by television shows like Double Dare, and things are definitely messy without eating utensils. So this group would favor the importance of underwear. People in the rough age range of 14-28 don't like messiness as much, but do tend to like discussing things like a lack of underwear and other sexually implicit things. This is evidenced by, among other things, the fact that this age group uses several colloquial terms for a lack of underwear, such as "going commando". So this group would choose utensils being more important. And for people older than this, I did not form a hypothesis, but there were no poll respondants in that age range.

The second supposition is that in the pre-adolescent years, boys stereotypically enjoy "messiness" more than girls, and in case there is some carryover to the older group, the results would balance out from a favoring of utensils to a roughly even result, due to a higher percentage of males choosing underwear as more important.

The results do not shed any light on the first supposition, since all respondants are in the 14-28 age group. They do, however shed some light on my second supposition; in particular, that it was dead wrong. Of the 8 male respondants (for some reason, many of the guys who know my screenname opted not to vote), 88% said that utensils were more important. Of the 22 female respondants who expressed an opinion, only 50% favored utensils.

Aside from my miscommunication, I can think of no reason for this.

Areas for further research, and other notes

(Or, in non-academic terms, things I did wrong)


The following quotes were collected on Instant Messanger in response to the poll. In all cases except where requested otherwise by the person quoted, their screenname has been replaced by their first name.

Katie: "We don't wear our Victoria's Secret
panties, our Victoria's Secret panties wear us."
Katie: So in a word: underwear.

Chelsea: who can really tell if i'm not wearing
underware anyway?  it wouldn't be a problem until
someone developes x-ray goggles.

Steve: i would have to go with   kitchen utensils
underwear doesnt do all that much for me anyway    in
fact theres this little thing called "freeball fridays"
where you dont wear underwear on fridays

Navah: no utensils are much
more impt.  how many times have you had no clean
laundry and just gone commando?

Sarah: Underwear. I can always live off of takeout

Jason: Kitchen utensils.  Not having underwear
doesn't leave you having to order out all the time.
Underwear is superfluous.

Kerri: I'll eat with my feet if I have to but I need
a bra


This page and all data contained herein, except as indicated otherwise, are Copyright 2001 Joshua Rosenberg. All rights reserved. All statistics shown as percentages are based on the number of respondants who showed a preference among the choices.

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Page last modified 2006/10/04