Mr. HalfFull is back in grad school getting his second Master’s degree. Since he is a student again, we are eligible for great student pricing on flights from STA Travel. Perusing the brochures, it’s obvious their packages are geared toward the younger party crowd. Not wanting to be caught unprepared, we decided cultural immersion training was in order.
As luck would have it, one of my little brother’s best friends from high school is an officer in a fraternity at Mr. HalfFull’s university. This young man has persistently invited my 40-year-old husband to pledge all year. Obviously he’s seen Old School too many times, and wanted a Blue of his own. Serendipitously, we were invited to the fraternity’s last party of the school year, at a time when we needed cultural immersion. Things were falling into place!
Whilst dressing for this workout-themed soirée, I saw Mr. HalfFull donning his beloved Super Chargers headband, and began to have serious reservations. But like usual, I allowed Mr. HalfFull’s enthusiasm and convoluted logic regarding the cultural value of this event to overcome me (much like our wedding, but that’s a story for another day). Somehow, I don’t recall this part of the heroine’s journey.
Shockingly, after 20 years on the party circuit, this was Mr. HalfFull’s first official frat party ever. Somehow he’d never set foot in a fraternity house and was overly excited to finally experience these foreign people with their strange customs and rituals.
At my alma mater, all the fraternities were grouped together along the same street on campus. But this frat house was in a suburban single family neighborhood. Those poor neighbors!
We walked up the cul-de-sac and couldn’t help but notice the house directly across the street from the fraternity. We found ourselves staring into the eyes of the Virgin Mary (well, a statue of her) in the front yard illuminated by multi-color spotlights. Naturally, this statue was pointed directly at the frat house. Mr. HalfFull was excited to experience so much culture before even setting foot in the fraternity!
Upon arrival, my brother’s friend introduced us to royalty — the fraternity president — who had a receiving line in kitchen en route to the thumping basement. Our first cultural activity in the house was a six person beer bong. I quickly realized Mr. HalfFull would not be the only one experiencing a first that night! I found myself flanked by three tall African-American gentlemen, at least one of whom Mr. HalfFull thought he recognized from March Madness. The chugging experience was not particularly to my liking; perhaps further investigation will be necessary in New Zealand or Australia.
Like any good frat house, this one had a game room complete with unfinished basement walls, a shelf full of empty beer and liquor bottles, and two long tables for flip cup and beer pong. Upon entering this sacred chamber, Mr. HalfFull remarked, “I like what you’ve done with the place.” I laughed, but the kids seemed confused. To further class up the establishment, the brothers installed a stripper pole on the dance floor. Guess which one of us nearly tore his bicep spinning around it with reckless abandon?
The sticky, humid, beer-soaked dance floor displayed a wild assortment of movement patterns. Alcohol seemed to increase kinesthetic gyrations while decreasing balance, which may account for the women leaning heavily upon their dance partners. I think the proper dance term is grinding; we witnessed this practice with guy/girl, girl/girl, and even a fair lady sandwiched between two gentlemen (perhaps she had less balance than the others — how noble of them to protect a damsel in distress!). Mr. HalfFull just kept muttering, “That’s someone’s daughter!”
At one point, Mr. HalfFull left to refresh our libations, while I chatted with my little brother. Emotionally scarred by his reserved sister intruding on his stomping grounds, he disappeared; so I went in search of Mr. HalfFull. As I walked across the laser-lit dance floor, a brother asked me to dance. I’m most familiar with the social dance etiquette of swing dancing where you rarely refuse a first dance with any guy. You might not find him appealing, but it’s a friendly culture, and a dance is not so difficult to endure for a few minutes. Plus, he could even turn out to be a good dancer.
Thus, I don’t really have much practice declining offers to dance. But after witnessing the proximate dance technique around me, I knew I couldn’t say yes! So I defensively pointed to my wedding ring and blurted, “I’m married.” The look on this kid’s face was priceless. Scared and confused, his eyes were screaming, “Who let the old people in?” I was thinking, “Where’s my boy Blue?”
Up until this point, Mr. HalfFull was in favor of leaving our wedding rings at home this summer to reduce risk of loss. However, this cultural immersion seems to have changed his mind about the utility of rings. Lesson learned: wedding rings are frat boy kryptonite!
Mr. HalfFull believes that nothing good can come from men dancing over the age of 25, with the exception of your wedding night. But in the heat of all this cultural excitement, I found him grooving to Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream. Not wanting to be left out of the fun, I joined him and practiced our newly acquired dance techniques. Together, we belted, “You and I / We’ll be young forever.” I guess anyone can feel young at a frat party!
Looking back, I learned that attitude can make all the difference when approaching novel situations. Perhaps I need to keep this in mind as we travel the world. But I’m still Ms. HalfEmpty, because someone has to contain Mr. HalfFull! (After all, Blue dies in a pool of K-Y.)
To top off our night with the full cultural experience, Mr. HalfFull and I headed to IHOP. It is international, after all. We needed to debrief, and perhaps Harvest Grain ‘N Nut pancakes would further prepare us for the culinary adventures that lie ahead. (Anthony Bourdain would not approve.) We noticed that the hostess segregated patrons into three sections of the house. For some strange reason, we were seated in what appeared to be the trouble maker section with all the boisterous kids. Perhaps it was the headband.
Are we now prepared to party during our 30/40 World Tour? I don’t know, but at least we got some practice under our belts. Thankfully, the universe thinks I’m ready, and sent me next-day confirmation via fortune cookie:
The night life is for you.
- How old is too old to attend a frat party?
- Have you ever partaken in a beer bong ritual?
- Would you travel around the world with your wedding ring?
- Can anything good come from men dancing over age 25?
- Which part of IHOP is international?
- Do you believe in fortune cookies?