From Here To
(Bantam Books)Comes now From Here to Fraternity. I would guess that the joke quoted at the beginning of this article sums up the world of college fraternities, their humor, their traditions, their spirit, and, most of all, the spirit and thrust of this pissy little book.
The world of the Greeks is one of achingly funny tricks and jokes --- a college "cool" where one is permitted to do almost anything to show your brothers that you are a man, and a harsh one at that. The world of the Greeks is a world where the kids who are too different, or not handsome enough, or who are a bit strange, get brutalised (the non-Greeks in this book are known as "Independents"). Their difference becomes a flag --- something that allows the Greeks to mock the Geeks. And in the ultimate world, the world of sex, the fraternity system penalizes the women who, by mistake, or innocence, might believe what that big Sigma Nu is telling her:
Q: How many frat boys does it take to satisfy a house queen?
A: Five. Four to commit unnatural acts and the other to give her his pin.
In the world of fraternities and sororities, there is beauty and muscle and conforming. There is the ability to down grand quantities of alcohol. There is always the public, the very public announcing, of the most private (and what should be the most loving) act:
THE BIG DONG
With the assumption that good news should travel fast, one mountain state frat has a tradition whereby any member who 'scores' must ring the fifty-pound ship's bell on the house roof.
How is the innocent girl to respond to the tolling of the bell? Do not ask for whom the bells toll...
As I write this, I am thinking "I'm being too serious about this. They are funny --- aren't they?" For instance, the present volume sports a whole section on mooning, complete with pix, subtitled "Asses to asses, dusk to dusk," with photos of "Your Basic," "Pressed Ham," and "All Hams on Deck (Group Mooning)."
Then in the narrative:
That's the good thing about moons. They're good for all occasions. And that's why odes have been dedicated to them through the ages. Who can forget those inspiring classics, 'Blue Moon' ('I saw you standing alone/without a moon of your own,') 'Moon River,' and 'Moonlight Serenade'; that agrarian standard 'Harvest Moon.' And who is there among us that does not appreciate the great contributions to our culture of Moon Mullins, Moon Zappa, and more significantly, the Reverend 'Flash' Moon, who gave the world the Moonie.
The damage they do to the world, and to do to each other --- it is funny, isn't it?
While a brother is away for a weekend be sure to stuff the end of his toothpaste tube with raisins and put food coloring in his shampoo bottle...pour Kool-Aid powder onto his sheets, so that when he sweats, he will assume the bright color of your favorite flavor...
It is fun, and laughable, isn't it? Like the "Food Nicknames:"
- Roast beast (roast beef)
- Beef stool (beef stew)
- Pigmy dicks (miniature carrots)
- Corn dorks (hot dogs)
- Elephant scabs (breaded veal cutlets)
And the saying Greeks will eat anything with hair on it.
§ § §
It is funny, isn't it? And anyone who says no is a spoil-sport. And yet...in a society where women are seen as just so much meat to conquer (and men brag to each other about the act of 'conquering') --- is it possible that the whole blasted point is a spin off of something else, a bit more ominous? I think Dostoyevsky told it better than anyone else, in his Notes From the Underground. The "hero" spends hours trying to convince a whore that he loves her. His words are eloquent, his imagery is exquisite and this woman who has been so used by so many men in the alleys of Moscow --- at last --- comes to believe that she is not only beautiful, and virginal (despite the men who have possessed her), but that, at last, there is a man who is tender enough, and kind enough, to love her.
She gives him a present --- what for her is the only present. After hours and hours of his vivid rhetoric, his confession of the deepest affection, she gives him her love, and, of course, her body.
And the hero leaves, leaves her slumbering, her face young and new and gentle. He leaves, goes next door to watch her awaken. He watches through a crack in the wall. He wants to see her reaction when she awakens and finds...
...the money he has left for her on the bedtable.
He is the ultimate fraternity man, no? With that knowing and calculated cruelty-to-the-innocent. It's the essence of the fraternity world view. Cruel and bestial "jokes" which are not jokes, really, but a vengeance bestowed by the knowing on the naïve.
This book, with its jokes and lines and stories (all of them glorifying fraternity life) leaves us with the feeling of a particularly repulsive sordidness that rides just below the surface. Under these young men's clean and rosy-cheeked visages, under the surface of those who are supposed to be civilized and educated, are hiding diabolical taunters, ones who use the weakness (read: love or fear or gentleness) of others for their own yucks, for their own delectation, for their own vicious amusement.
--- Andy White III