March 15, 2007

A Saturday Night Odyssey

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I had been planning this week’s column topic for months. Well, maybe just a week and a half, but a good excuse to foray into the deep, dark recesses of the Cornell Greek system only presented itself when my close friend invited me to her sorority’s Crush party this past weekend. God, alright, turning my Saturday night into something out of Heart of Darkness is incredibly lame, but as a rock ’n roll-obsessed little girl from South Jersey who has few close female friends and a mild insecurity about her thighs, I never quite found myself to be the sorority type. Consequently, I have spent the past four years mechanically passing up invitations to sorority and fraternity events without a second thought, convinced that there was little I was missing out on.

Nonetheless, I have a few friends in sororities and fraternities, acquired gradually — read: hesitantly, skeptically — through mutual acquaintances. My older sister actually joined Alpha Phi (insert secret handshake here) during her undergraduate years at the University of Pennsylvania, although from what I can tell based on time spent at the Philadelphia campus, their Greek life lacks the cohesiveness that accompanies more confined college campuses. However, I treat my Greek friends up here like some sort of rare-animal exhibit at the zoo. If we go out on a weekend night, my curiosity sometimes leads me to simply sit back and observe their actions, wondering if something innate made us drift towards such different social stratospheres. They’re all gorgeous, great to party with, better to dance with and extremely fun to watch, but there is no way in hell I’d ever consider getting in that cage with them. I’ve allowed this part of their lives to remain a mystery to me, hinted at only by vague comments about the occasional social obligation to their sisters and brothers.

And then the invitation came. After being invited to countless parties through mass-emails and Facebook events, how could I possibly pass up on a real-life, physical invitation featuring my very own name and address on the back? Like some sort of socially-defunct magpie, I couldn’t resist the allure of shiny paper. More importantly, however, I could use my secret dreams of being an undercover journalist to justify such a huge step away from my comfort zone. This was to be my grand fish-out-of-water story. With my Moleskine notepad packed securely in my purse, I set out determined to uncover the reality behind those stereotypes of Greek life that I had been inundated with during my undergraduate years.

Against all my usual inclinations, I didn’t want to stand out. I wanted to experience the Greek life as naturally as if I, too, had once been an eager pledge, and was now celebrating the fruits of sisterhood. The theme of the Crush party implied that some form of spring semi-formalwear was required, and I literally spent days scouring both the Commons and the Pyramid Mall, trying to find something appropriate — to no avail, of course, because Ithaca is a mainstream-consumer wasteland. After weighing sexiness against both the twenty-degree weather and the two-mile trek to West campus, I settled on a mid-length brown skirt, cute black top and heels.

People, I looked good. I felt eager, anxious, nervous, excited; I felt as though I would emerge from this night with stories to tell my hipster friends about the sights I had seen, the people I had met and talked to; but most importantly, I felt as though I was about to complete my college experience. It took my roommate and I nearly half an hour to reach the party, complete with a brief stop to remove the stockings that had warmed our legs through the majority of the trip. Now, keeping in mind that I had never been to a fraternity before, believe me when I say that I was awestruck with the sight before me. The house was staffed with bouncers (bouncers!) and featured huge rooms with theme-appropriate décor, a DJ, a dance floor, and literally hundreds of attractive people milling about. Hot pants and mini-skirts showed off gorgeous tanned legs. I might as well have been wearing a burlap sack.

This is when I reveal that all of this back-story has been for naught: I attempted to find the bathroom, got lost, had a mild anxiety attack, and left fifteen minutes later. There is no moral to this story, only a public admittance of my totally mortifying cop-out, and a renewed conviction to avoid further humiliation by staying in my room for the remainder of the semester.