s I currently write this article for you dear ’08s, a few semi-naked friends of mine have stopped by my room to say “hi,” and, of course, to borrow some minimal clothing. One bashfully hides behind a pillar while I get them. It seems their crowd has just been out for a healthy streak across the Green, and one of their ilk dropped the after-wear.
Now, this is fairly out of the ordinary—not because there are naked people right outside my bedroom, but because 1) it’s finals period, and 2) they all seem relatively sober. This has me quite puzzled.
You see, freshmen, “rage” at Dartmouth is not so much an activity, or even a state of mind, as a brand name. It’s more like RageTM: The Stress Reliever Dartmouth Students Use Most. Never mind that possible side-effects may include vomiting, mysterious bruises, and waking-up-cuddled-next-to-a-cute-girl-you-don’t-know-and-whose-name-you-have-forgotten-to-ask (and while symptom #3 isn’t so bad, I’ve heard rumors of a dreadful “ugly” version).
Disclaimer: Do not mix RageTM with prescription medication. RageTM may not work for everyone. Before you leave Dartmouth, you will have to figure out, for better or worse, whether RageTM is right for you.
Where can you get RageTM? College students in general are infamous for driving up to Canada, to purchase RageTM in copious amounts at much lower prices. But here at Dartmouth, RageTM is largely distributed to everyone in communist fashion (i.e., for free) by a conservative, multi-house corporation. We call it Frat Row, or sometimes Web Ave. You’ve probably already found it, or rather stumbled into it.
It is actually easier to miss Baker Library and its iconic tower than to ignore Frat Row and the iconic image handed down from “National Lampoon’s Animal House”. Ooooh, just like Robert Duvall loved the smell of napalm in the morning, I love the feast for the senses available on Frat Row: the sticky feel of booze-ooze on smooth concrete, the sounds of pong balls on unvarnished wood to the tune of “Hey Ya” from an unseen speaker system. Then there’s the standard cliques across the basement floor: the gaggle of freshmen who only talk to each other, the essential soused female asking guys to “escort” her home, and the skeevey Fonzie-type, armed to flirt at will, right after he grinds from girl to girl straight across the dance floor. These are the lesser denizens of Frat Row. But the most notorious brand of Frat Row is the shopkeeper, the distributor of free RageTM: the Frat BoyTM.
You’ve no doubt seen the Frat BoyTM brand, he’s to RageTM what the Giant Red Kool-Aid Man is to Kool-Aid. He may be obnoxious as hell sometimes, but his loud holler is inescapable. He’s a conservative fellow, half Ivy League prep and half John Belushi, for whom the height of fashion consists of an upturned collar and a lumpy bicep. He lords over his basement with glee, distributing RageTM to those he favors and not to those he doesn’t (this means you, ’08 males). He inebriates himself as quickly as possible in that particularly American way—so he can do what he’s too cowardly to do sober, and then use alcohol to excuse himself from criticism. And he’s always kind to freshman females, in hopes that he’ll encounter the Insecure Frosh-GirlTM: a light, tasty dish that hooks up early and often to boost her confidence—the higher the class, the better.
That’s not to say that all brothers at fraternities are Frat BoysTM. I know quite a few that aren’t, and I salute them for it. It’s not easy.
Now, in your first year at Dartmouth, you’ll hear many a time that Dartmouth social life revolves around the Frat BoyTM and his natural habitat, and more generally, around RageTM. I certainly believed it. And for many, it certainly does. But if you spend all day watching commercials, then of course you’re going to only know about the big brand names.
For one thing, there are a number of houses that have rejected the Frat BoyTM but kept most of the RageTM, and others that have rejected RageTM entirely. As one friend once gleefully declared, it’s a world that begins with “Atheism,” but starts with P! You’re missing out on Dartmouth if you’ve missed out the frat-less parts of the scene, whether it’s Panarchy’s Great Gatsby party, Amarna’s Wine and Cheese, or Panarchy’s bathroom floor during Gatsby. They’re all particularly good choices, and have received top marks from me in the past.
Then there’s the great, starry expanse of off-campus housing, like the Twilight Zone, where mysterious parties come and go like vapor in the wind. Out there, the rules of pong take a turn for the bizarre (have you ever seen the game played with cups of maple syrup?), tattooed townies mingle with students with purple-hazy ease, and you may very well encounter a stainless steel stripper pole on your travels.
Now, dear ’08s, you WILL Rage at Dartmouth. Oh, the places you’ll go! Oh, the places you’ll boot! And you will have many an experience, from embarrassing hook-ups to nights spent bonding with the linoleum. But stories about RageTM fail to impress me any more than TV commercials impress me. “Oh, wow, a bunch of people drank, lowered their inhibitions, and then did something crazy that they wouldn’t have done otherwise? That takes a real superstar!”
With that in mind, it’s quite a shame that Frat Row is so visible, that many of you have perhaps spent the better part of your orientation cruising the Row. A standard night for you may be: “Let’s pre-game! And then go to Frat X! And then stand around and only talk to other freshmen! And maybe the night will end with a Random Hook-upTM!”
And some fine Spring day you’ll see a sober streaker blaze across the Green, wildly blowing a kazoo, and you’ll suddenly realize just how much more there is to Dartmouth than RageTM, beyond RageTM and FratsTM, a world beyond the Drunken DartmouthTM brand. And hopefully that streaker will stop to say, “I told you so.”