According to the concepts of cultural anthropology developed by Franz Boas, the best way to understand a people is to live among them. This fieldwork is a fairly simple idea and one that has been applied to groups from South African bushmen to indigenous peoples in the Northwestern United States. However, in my research, I saw that one subset was criminally under-researched — the college fraternity man. Thus, in the name of science, I made it my duty to live among them and view their habits in an objective, unbiased, and definitive fashion.
The first thing that anyone notices about the typical fraternity man is their propensity to travel in groups. Even upon arriving at their mansion, I found myself immediately accosted by a pack of young members adorned in body paint art. The symbols were clearly phallic in nature. One of these young men, denoted “Tongue Punch” by the others, approached me in a manner that was somehow equally laid back and aggressive. His greeting, soon taken up by the others, appeared to be a form of ritual speech. “Who? Who? Who do you know?” he spoke as his fellows continued the call of “Who? Who?” I told them I had a contact named Zeke and had been granted access to their sprawling abode, with a new call of “Oh shit! Oh shit!” echoing in my wake.
The light was blinding and flashed with the might of a thousand dying stars. The number of people wearing their sunglasses indoors seemed to agree, and the intense heat from the sheer mass of bodies had people garbed in what appeared to be bathing suits. Loud, thumping music burst forth from every angle of the enormous community house, and people milled about with various alcoholic beverages. I was offered some of the house’s libations and was immediately taken aback by its potency and flavor.
On one couch, a man who appeared to be an elder enjoyed the company of two females. In another corner, two people wrestled in what must have been a mating ritual for the younger class. When one succeeded in pinning the other, he rose up and let out a war whoop before helping up his compatriot. One of the female onlookers playfully slapped him on the shoulder while informing him that he was “such an idiot.” Per their body language, I believed the two would later engage physically. The adversary, despite his defeat, was still receiving consolation in the form of another, slightly less attractive woman’s doting.
In the back was a sprawling deck overlooking an impressive pit for sand volleyball. The haze of smoke was initially off-putting, but soon put me in a relaxed state of mind. In the pit, to the delight of the audience, another group of body painted youngsters lay buried up to their necks. A scraggly looking member in a Hawaiian shirt oversaw them with a plethora of insults. He appeared to be leading them in some sort of song, but his clear inebriation made it difficult. Finally, the younglings caught on and broke into a stumbling rendition of Ram Jam’s “Black Betty” as their supervisor joined in with every “Bambalam.” This went on for several unproductive, audibly painful minutes before the big man lost interest.
The night wore on. With several more cups of the potentially toxic beverages, research gave way to revelry. A few near confrontations with members of the pack occurred, but always devolved to a response of “just fucking with you” and a firm handshake. The purpose of this joking relationship, a friendly antagonism between both members of the group and outsiders, made one feel welcome — bordering on included. Indeed, there was some outright hostility, but it always found itself deflected by a smarter and less inebriated part of the group. Accountability, respect, and a sense of community permeated the area just as surely as the pounding rhythms and flashing lights.
On the following morn, waking in a dark corner surrounded by empty cups and loose drywall, I took my leave. Thanking unsure people who only addressed me as “champ,” I made my way out of the hallowed bastion of debauchery and fellowship into the morning light. There was a slight pounding in my head, but it paled in comparison to the euphoric sense of life instilled in me from the night prior. In that mass of gyrating and disorientation, there had been existence in its purest form. Research might not have won out, but it was clear that the niches of peoples which dot campuses across the nation had things figured out in a way that outsiders like myself could never comprehend..