The anthropology of fratting
A less-than-academic look at a Friday night tragedy
A land of distinction, college requires class and regulation in the courting process. At a party, one must formally ask for a dance, at which point the couple dances the twist on the dance floor while Otis Day and the Knights play “Shout.” Right?
Turns out, a lot has changed since “Animal House.” And although I may have only been briefly exposed to the infamous first-year first month “slop-fest,” the courting seems more barbaric than dignified. Let’s put it this way: 10,000 years from now, if alien anthropologists were to travel back in time and visit a frat party, I’m confident they would find themselves helplessly confused trying to understand the bizarre mating rituals they would observe. Perhaps though, they will find this column and we can help walk them through what they witnessed.
Here’s a story – fictitious, but by all accounts a fair narrative of courting culture at Mr. Jefferson’s University.
Not yet acquainted, two students, Brad and Chelsea, have both made plans to go out tonight with their respective groups of friends. By 11 p.m., Brad and his hallmates have been turned down from every late night gathering on Rugby Road. Frustrated, the crew can’t fathom why a group of 12 first-year dudes would be turned down from anywhere. Meanwhile, Chelsea and her band of girls still can’t grasp how accommodating everyone at the University appears. Welcomed through every door as if they were the fraternity’s very own prodigal children, the girls have enjoyed the pick of the litter of activities up until now.
The clock strikes 12. Brad and his friends try one last party. Swept up in the crowd, Chelsea has already arrived at the same party, her pack swiftly ushered in. Shockingly, the self-proclaimed sausage-fest manages to slide behind the doorman, successfully gaining entrance for the first time tonight.
Once inside, Brad eagerly plays catch-up. An hour later, he emerges from his labors ready to dive headfirst into the bass and the lights. He staggers into the next room, surrounded by his peers but looking for familiar faces hidden in the dark. Searching, he locks eyes with Chelsea and presents himself to her with an idiotic tilt back of the head. Inebriated and bored by the current all-girl-circle-dancing, Chelsea holds Brad’s gaze.
This phenomenon — the initial meeting of the eyes — is what romantics believe inevitably leads to couple’s first kiss. We’re all familiar with how the Arctic Monkeys begin one of their most popular tunes: “Stop making the eyes at me / I’ll stop making the eyes at you.” But it can’t be done. Once Brad’s and Chelsea’s eyes lock, their fates are sealed.
Meeting at the center of the dance floor, Brad and Chelsea wrap each other’s arms around one another and take part in a beautifully romantic dance — or not quite. Brad, being the smooth man he is, hits Chelsea with three of the most pointed and original questions he can think of: what’s her name, where is she from, and — the dagger, to let her know he truly cares — where is she living this year? Chelsea, not to be outdone, notes how much they have in common and their dire need to exchange numbers. She can’t believe she went to camp with someone’s sister who had a friend who used to go to middle school with Brad.
Soon enough, the DJ switches songs. Chelsea screams that she loves this song; Brad agrees that no one could dislike Levels and suggests that they dance. What follows is a traditional motion so hideous and disjointed that it remains a miracle people perform such an act in public, let alone in an attempt to indicate intimacy and attraction. While doing what he would later describe as “getting his grind on,” Brad sights a friend, nods over the top of Chelsea’s head and raises his eyebrows twice.
Becoming increasingly more aware of Brad’s shaky movements and sweaty hands, Chelsea gets the attention of one of her friends and mouths, “Is he cute?” In an act of charity, Chelsea’s friend adamantly shakes her head and runs to the rescue, pulling Chelsea away from Brad while saying that she “has to go.” Brad would later describe Chelsea’s friend as a certain type of male-chicken-block.
As Chelsea exits, Brad squeezes in an “I’ll text you!” Embarrassed, Chelsea gives one last wave, incredulous at what’s happened, but glad that, in a school of thousands of people, she’ll clearly never see him again.
If only. A week later, Brad and Chelsea participated in an incredibly awkward attempt at conversation upon the horrifying discovery they were locked next to each other in the massive line outside Newcomb. Later, to his friends, Brad reported she totally wanted more.