The idea of joining a college sorority never crossed my mind. In fact, it was pretty much the last thing on earth I’d ever be caught dead doing. I was the girl who got into baseball as a kid and then punk rock as a teenager – and mass amounts of cynicism before, after, and presently. So I scoffed pure vitriol at anyone who asked me if I was going to rush. And as it turns out, a lot of people asked me that — because I was a freshman at USC, a rich kid school where Greek life basically is the point of college.
If you think it was rude of me to scoff at my classmates, you’re right. I was a real arrogant asshole that first year of college. USC was an odd fit for me – I went because of the film school (shut up), but the rest of the college felt very conservative and dull. I’d grown in in Los Angeles, so there was no new geography for me to investigate – I was just living in a shittier, more boring part of a city I already knew like the back of my hand (the one with “pick up laundry” scrawled in blue pen). Plus, that summer I’d started dating a 25-year-old dude in a band, and that clearly made me Too Cool for College.
While my hallmates were off attending ice cream socials and playing midnight rounds of “I’ve never,” I was holed up in a hotel in San Diego with my older band guy, smoking cigarettes and eating shitty Chinese food. I passed games of ultimate Frisbee on the quad on my way to have drinks at somebody’s friend’s loft. All the while, my band dude was getting really into speed. He called me up and told me, mouth moving a mile a minute, that he’d never been so happy with a relationship in his entire life. Then he went to New York for “a couple days” and I didn’t see him again for six months.
Suddenly, I found myself alone at a new school, behind on everything and completely bewildered. I’d missed the period when everyone was out rabidly making friends. Classes had started and I didn’t know anyone but hallmates. (If I recall correctly, I was one of three girls not rushing a sorority. One of them was a Christian virgin saving herself for marriage and the other one had never kissed a boy.) So, after 10 nights of sitting around reading Crime and Punishment in my dorm room while everyone else went out, I finally consented to join my hallmates for a night on “The Row.”
One of the frat brothers acted as a bouncer. His job was to let all the girls in and turn all the boys away; luckily for him there wasn’t a whole lot of androgyny going on that night. Once inside, I remember a shitty basement and loud music and lots of girls stuffed into dresses a size too small. I remember guys in dress button-down shirts dancing. I remember taking a bright red mixed drink. And then I remember wandering the streets of downtown Los Angeles by myself, stumbling into trees and street signs.
In retrospect, I can piece together what I think happened that night. I think there was a pill in that one drink I consumed. I believe I was feeling really fucked up and already having a terrible time, and I guess I tried to walk back to my room. Because the girls I came with are good people, even though I was an asshole sometimes, they noticed I was missing and went looking for me. One of them had driven and she spotted me stumbling around on the side of the road. She picked me up and deposited me back at the dorms, where I slept for a million hours.
So what’s the moral of my college tale? I’m not sure if it’s “don’t go to frat parties” or “don’t date shitheads in bands.” Probably both. But really, I suppose the thing I took away is that I was arrogant and shitty to a bunch of people who ended up ostensibly saving me from a whole lot of pain and trouble.
And that, my friends, is the story of how I hazed myself.