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It seemed like such a good idea at the time.
I was back home near the end of summer hanging out with one of my pledge brothers from our home town. Like every other trip back home between semesters after pledging, we were quickly bored out of our minds. We were surrounded by the same Hollister-wearing duds from high school who were happily attending the same one-keg party in the backwoods behind the same house of that one kid we all kinda knew. Two days in, we were desperate to leave.
“Why not head back early?”
It made so much sense. Everyone blindly just went home in the dead weeks between the end of summer term and the start of fall. Back at college we’d have the house and the town to ourselves without the pressures of school. No noise at the house, no line at the bars, and no academic responsibilities. We packed our things in record time and were on the road later that day. Halfway to campus, we realized something else.
“Isn’t it Spirit Week?”
Spirit Week. The week-long “celebration of sisterhood” by every sorority on campus. It involved seven days of team-building activities and rush preparation publicly shrouded in the mystique of “Panhellenic Love” and privately broken up by countless angry text messages of girls sick of spending all day, every day with girls who they were beginning to hate out of excessive forced proximity. While we knew the all-consuming pressures of rush week made communication with anyone in a sorority nearly impossible, the week before had to be fair game. The town would only have the university’s football team, marching band camps, and a Greek-system worth of pent-up sorority girls desperate to escape the ever-present essence of estrogen. It would all be ours.
We arrived into town to what looked like the opening scenes of The Walking Dead. The student-targeted strip of businesses looked abandoned; the bars that drew a decent midday crowd were completely empty. It must have been what spring break looked like in a college town.
“Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll fill up tonight. Obviously the girls are busy today.”
The bars were more full than that afternoon; however, not in a good way. Instead of horny sorority girls, they were crawling with the town’s local homeless population
With that we headed to the house to unpack and drink. It wasn’t as easy as we thought. The place was full of old mattresses and leaking mini-fridges that made a maze of the already-cluttered fraternity house. Half of the rooms were still overflowing with shit from the brothers who had lived in our rooms the semester before. There’s a dumpster twenty feet away, assholes. I’d seen the house after some of our biggest, messiest parties, somehow this was by far the worst.
Eventually we got through the labyrinth of garbage and dove into a 24 pack of warm Old Milwaukee we discovered in one of the abandoned refrigerators. The horse piss disguised as beer helped us pass the time, and before we knew it, the sun had set. It was time for the perfect night, full of half-empty bars that would include just us and the school’s most beautiful girls desperate to let loose.
Unfortunately, our perfect night didn’t last long.
The bars were more full than that afternoon; however, not in a good way. Instead of horny sorority girls, they were crawling with the town’s local homeless population. The dingy corners of these run-down college bars seemed awesome when you were drunk and they were full of people. But without a bunch of euphoric 20-year-olds swigging $2 whiskey doubles to distort the views of the holes in the walls and the stench from the bathroom, these bars looked more like shanties and crack dens. It wasn’t just the first or second place we went to that was featuring a hobo happy hour. It was all of them.
We quickly began texting every girl we had ever hooked up with, talked to, seen, or heard of. The responses made us more upset.
“So sorry, were up late again 2day & can’t get out :(“
“Early morning. Can’t. Sorry.”
“Exec will kill me”
“Stop texting me”
We were far from the best looking or most outgoing guys in the Greek system or even our chapter, but we figured that with the current campus ratios (guys at band camp excluded, because of course), we had a chance with someone.
“Damn it. Not even the flute section is out.”
We looked over at the old bearded men sitting at the bar, thought for a second of drowning our sorrows with them, then lowered our heads and turned back to the house to finish the case of Old Milwaukee.
The next day was even worse. The campus was abuzz with whistles from the football fields, drums from the band hall, and waves of cheers from Sorority Row. The girls were in their own version of boot camp. It was a tradition they treated like the U.S. Military’s, but instead of camouflage and boots, it was a blitz of Lilly Pulitzer and varying degrees of high heeled shoes. This was more intense than football practice or band camp or even sorority rush. Between beers, my pledge brother and I, as well as the few other poor souls dumb enough to follow through with our initial idea, realized our chances were not good. Each chapter cheer, each Instagram picture from the front of the house, each new picture in the Facebook photo album titled with a Luke Bryan song lyric and “Spirit Week!! <3” made us realize just how close they were and at the same time, just how far away. We made another half-hearted attempt at the bars that night, but it seemed as if the homeless had somehow multiplied. Were they breeding!?! Our frustration grew. “I know the girls just want to get shitfaced,” one of our brothers said late that night. He was right. They did. Everyone knew it. They just couldn’t. Many chapters forced the girls to sleep in the house for at least part of the week. Those who didn’t usually had a curfew. The more “liberal” of the sororities allowed the girls out within the strict surveillance of the executive board -- and the condition that none of them went to a bar or fraternity house. The most rebellious girls still had to face the sunrise and a house full of girls the next morning as well as a complex list of fines and social probations none of them wanted to incur before the semester had even started. They were required to bond with their sisters, be dressed in their precisely predetermined outfits, learn each and every university approved recruitment nomenclature, and be energetically ready to practice their premeditated conversations with a bunch of freshmen girls that would likely never join their chapter and subsequently they would never see again. We learned that all this also made it impossible for guys with girlfriends or reliable slams. Contrary to the egos of the brothers, even the girls that did escape wanted to do nothing more than sleep with the seven hours and 43 minutes they had each day away from “their beloved sisters.” This left all of us spiraling toward madness. It was one thing to be at home with nothing to do. It was another to be at school with every good-looking 18-22-year-old girl within a 100-mile radius so close to us, but untouchable. “At least football season is getting closer,” one of our brothers said. We were sitting in the bleachers at the practice football field after we were kicked off the sorority row fields for the third time. Even that was taunting us. There were still nearly three weeks until that first sip at the first tailgate, so we decided to do something productive. We knew we weren’t going to clean the house--a new crop of pledges was right around the corner, if anything we were going to make the house worse, because we were frustrated dammit. So we went out, stocked up on booze, "readied" the house for the new pledges, and waited out spirit week, which, by the way, sucks.