The one where I go to a frat party for the first time
I’ve never been congratulated more than when I tell people I’m a senior who has never been to a frat party. It’s always been my thing, my fun fact, my icebreaker in conversations with people I just met and want to impress with this pretentious achievement of mine. In turn, I receive genuine quips of admiration that range from, “You’re not missing much” to “Frat parties are the worst,” admittedly not a very wide range.
I decided, though, that this fun fact was wearing out. It was time to try out my first frat party. The way I approached this was akin to a social experiment in which my incognito self would simply go in, inspect the scene and take copious notes of any eccentric and wild behavior I witnessed in order to understand (or not understand) why frat parties are a thing. To my surprise, the answer to this was waiting for me before I could even get inside the frat house.
As I was told by multiple people, you need to be accompanied by freshmen to get into the party without questions. This already was sounding as if I was going to Ibiza, Spain’s most exclusive nightclub. Even more so, I decided to attend one of the hottest frat parties of the year, according to my sources. I immediately imagined an “Animal House” situation, in the same way I imagined a “High School Musical” situation when I moved to the United States. I was wrong in both cases.
I drag along another upperclassman friend who has also never been to a frat party, which makes me feel less alienated. When we arrive to my friends’ dorm on the South 40, they are not particularly excited for this party. They proceed to tell me all of their terrible experiences at frat parties. Somehow, they still go to these parties because they seem to be the only plan around these areas.
“All they do is smoke cigars with their Sperry Docksiders and polo shirts,” one of my friends says about these particular frat boys from the frat whose party we were headed to.
I’m sold. “Bring me to these people,” I say.
Our walk to frat row is fascinating. People seem to be reliving their Halloween weekend, with costumes and face makeup to go along with the undisclosed theme of the party. Halfway through our walk, we see people walking back to their dorms. “They’re not letting anyone in so everyone is leaving.” It is barely 10 p.m. The party is supposed to start at 10 p.m.
When we arrive to the frat house, there is a swarm of about 60 to 70 people crowded in front of the entrance to the house. About three fraternity brothers (my new favorite thing to say) are standing on top of a low concrete fence, imploring people to step back through a megaphone. “We’re at capacity! I need everyone to move back. Move back!” The whole thing is like a patriarchal Black Friday for me. Horrifying. So, naturally, I decide to wait two hours in this crowd until we get into this frat party.
Throughout these two hours, we experience a number of things. For instance, we peek inside a window to see what the party is like. The scene is depressing: Four, perhaps five, people sitting on a couch drinking and talking, while the rest of the house is clearly nowhere near “at capacity,” as the fraternity brothers had just told the crowd. One of them, another fraternity brother, notices us peeking through the window, so he comes over and opens it.
“Venmo me $20, and I’ll let you in through here,” he says to us.
Now, that’s an offer I can resist. Later on, this same fraternity brother says to one of my friends, “It’s Taco Bell, can I take your order?” with what seems to be a poor attempt at a Mexican accent. I find myself relieved by then, because I had been promised hints of racism and sexism at these parties, and here it is. Meanwhile, the crowd is insatiable—they are not giving up until they go in. Some of them brought food from Bear’s Den and eat it while they wait. Others are simply talking amongst each other, commenting on how cold it is.
An hour and 20 minutes after our arrival, the crowd seems to be dying out—there are only 20 people left. I feel like giving up but not until I see some hot fraternity brothers like Zac Efron in “Neighbors” and “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.” So far, I have only dealt with one racist fraternity brother, which is less than what I had initially prepared for.
But, close to two hours later, we make it. A fraternity brother with a clipboard in hand asks for our student IDs and searches for our names on the highly coveted RSVP list. Once he graciously approves our entrance, we step right into 2007, approximately the year I attended my first middle school party. A security guard at the door gives us purple wristbands and says, “Party’s in the basement.” You mean I have to quite literally descend into the pits of—yeah, sure, we’ll go down.
The room is all dark, except for disco lights borrowed straight from the English teacher who organizes the homecoming dance at the Middle-of-Wisconsin High School gym every year. Early 2000s pop songs are playing from one of those Spotify-curated playlists through loud, crappy speakers as people enthusiastically dance, Snapchat and sing along. I walk around this lamentable dance floor and find a row of about six couples lined up against the wall making out, as if they’d just played spin the bottle five minutes ago or spent seven minutes in heaven with their high school crushes. I scurry away and go back upstairs with my friends. We find out there’s some sort of VIP section upstairs, on the second floor. One of my friends attempts to go upstairs, but a security guard lets her know she needs approval from a fraternity brother, presumably to evaluate her level of hotness. We go back to the basement and try to dance to forget the pitiful circumstances of our lives at the moment.
At approximately 12:20 a.m., pop songs are replaced with country music and the lights in the basement come on, signaling that the party’s over. People are confused. Couples who were passionately making out are now quickly leaving, while others stick around. We too leave the party right away, mainly out of fear of listening to one full country song. For all the blandness of this evening, I appreciate the abrupt ending of the party because it’s equally as anticlimactic as the entirety of this event that, once again, promised to be the hottest of the year. Now, I’m yearning for the good old days when not having gone to a frat party made me cool and pretentious.