Chapter 17 Summary

The seventeenth chapter, "Waxing Lyrical," begins with Callie learning that she has started to develop a moustache. Cal explains that there is a "hair belt" that stretches from Spain, across southern Europe, and through Turkey. The women within that belt are prone to unwanted hair, and now Callie has joined them. Tessie sets up an appointment for Callie with Sophie Sassoon, whose salon is frequented by women who want their bodies waxed. During one such session, Tessie explains that Chapter Eleven will be bringing a girlfriend with him when he returns home from college for Christmas.

After his first visit, the family discovered that Chapter Eleven had begun to change. Cal points out that her family has a special gift for transformation. When he left for college, Chapter Eleven had been a science geek with plans of majoring in engineering, which Milton approved of. When Chapter Eleven returns, he looks like John Lennon. Cal explains that up until this point, neither Callie nor Chapter Eleven had ever been able to beat Milton at ping-pong. However, Chapter Eleven finally manages it, and he afterwards explains that he is high on LSD, which makes everything seem slow. When he next returns, he has changed his major from engineering to anthropology and he studies the family's "rituals of kin bonding." He even claims to understand the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Chapter Eleven's girlfriend is Meg Zemka, who is short, thin, and a Marxist who is majoring in political science. She is also a vegetarian. When she meets Milton, she refuses to try a Hercules Hot Dog and she argues that he is exploiting his workers. It does not take long before all of Chapter Eleven's lifestyle changes lead to a conflict with Milton. When Milton suggests that the family travel to Greece during the summer, Chapter Eleven rejects the idea because travel is just a form of "colonialism." Father and son begin to argue, and Chapter Eleven finally admits that he disagrees with his father's materialism and explains that he does not want to live like Milton. Both men are furious, and Chapter Eleven leaves with Meg on his motorcycle.

When Cal considers this fight, she suggests that Chapter Eleven's decisions may have had more to do with his hopes that he might escape the "lottery." Cal explains:

It appeared that Chapter Eleven, taking chemical trips of his own, was trying to escape what he had dimly perceived while wrapped in an afghan: the possibility that not only his draft number was decided by lottery, but that everything was. Chapter Eleven was hiding from this discovery.