Tuesday, December 12, 2006
The Tau Epsilon Phi Debutante Ball
Boys are so weird.

My husband was in a fraternity in college, and for the moment we won't harp on my views of the misogyny and degradation of morality engendered and perpetuated by the Greek system, nor on the more personal realization that Willem's involvement in his fraternity directly led to emotional damage and actual danger of physical harm for me. Because, really, why bother? Old history, water under the bridge, that keg has been tapped.

It's on my radar now because of next year's alumni reunion. It's the 40th anniversary of the founding of the fraternity (I made the mistake of referring to it as "the 40th reunion" to someone at work, and her response was, "My God, I had no idea Willem was that much older than you!") and they're planning a big party. And apparently, party-planning brings out the inner society queen in all of us.

Or, at least, in all of them.

It's been an ongoing issue, resulting in various emails and conference calls and venting sessions, and what it boils down to is that people in this world, whether they're sane, normal people (I hear a rumor that such people exist) or ex-fraternity brothers, fall along a party-throwing dichotomy: either you plan everything and provide games and nametags and a dress code, or you provide the bare essentials with the philosophy of, "If you inebriate it, they will come."

On one side of the camp are several possibly well-intentioned and just as possibly misguided individuals who believe that the basic point of the party is to raise money for... some group, the nature of which I'm not clear on. The Alumni Association? The Board of Trustees? The Party Planners? Something. Whoever. This group wants to schedule the weekend to within an inch of its life, including hiring all four taxis in the godforsaken town where we all went to college as a shuttle service, having the event catered, and inviting three different bands to perform. They want to charge more than I pay in a week for daycare, for two days' worth of testosterone (and this is not counting gas and hotel expenses just for the privilege of being in the same place at the same time). And if financial considerations might prevent people from being able to attend this t-shirted and beer-laden affair, well, sorry guys... save up your money, maybe you can attend the 50th reunion.

On the other side are the more stereotypical guy-party-planners, who are of the notion that as long as you get enough men in the same place with enough beer and enough card tables, and maybe some chips and chicken wings, then they'll all have a fine time and can save their extra money to put toward bail after the Saturday Night Impromptu Buffalo Tipping Contest. Their version of a shuttle service is to make the new members drive them around, or maybe their less-inebriated (and perhaps unimpressed) wives, and they're willing to let the local McDonald's worry about providing fuel.

Somewhere in between the high society, glossy approach and the grunge-and-townies approach lies a happy medium. They have until May to figure out what that might be.

It puts me very much in mind of wedding planning - some people go for the bare bones Justice of the Peace ceremony on lunch break, others go for the black tie, $50-a-plate country clubs. There's not a wrong way to go about it, it's just a matter of philosophy. Are you throwing the party to have a nice-looking affair that will look great in pictures, or are you throwing the party for a chance to hang out with friends and remind yourself why it's a bad idea to do a shot for each letter of the alphabet? Personally, I tend to err on the side of the latter when doing my own planning, but I've also enjoyed attending the more expensive soirees that others put on.

It's all great fun to watch, because whenever someone else is upset about something that you don't feel strongly about you can be smug. Or, of you're sitting in a room with Tom Cruise, you can be glib, because, really, what's a little vocabulary between English speakers?