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Charlie Hatton
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#81. I joined a fraternity in college.

Now, before you get the picture of me as the quintessential frat boy jock — which I’m fairly certain would be impossible if you’ve actually read any of my stuff here — let me explain.

I went to school in Kentucky, at a small liberal arts school in a tiny town in the middle of Central Fucking Nowhere. Well, a little south of CFN, actually. So technically, it was South-Central Fucking Nowhere. You know, for you geography types out there. Also, to ice this particular cake, the county housing the school was ‘dry’. If you’re unfamiliar with dry counties, the way they work is this:

First, some asshole gets up at a county meeting and says something like:

Hey, I don’t drink, and I think it’s evil and God doesn’t like it and it’s a sin or something. I think we should outlaw selling alcohol in the whole county. And anyone who disagrees is going straight to Hell!

Now, of course, in most places, the countyfolk would pat the Jesus freak on the head and murmur quietly, and then the council members, or selectpeople, or whoever the hell is running the show, would get on with the business of getting a stop sign for Main Street, or declaring August 12th to be ‘<insert local hero’s name who saved little Timmy from the well> Day’, or whatever. And the Holy Roller type who caused all the fuss would stamp their little feet and storm out of the meeting in a huff.

That’s how it’s supposed to work. However, in a few isolated spots, way back when, just a few counties got just enough like-minded liquor-bashers together and not only took a vote on the issue — they actually passed a frickin’ law outlawing the sale of alcohol! Bastards!

So, my college was smack in the middle of one of these backwards-ass God-fearing no-drinking hellholes. (Which the school does not advertise in the brochure, thank you very fucking little…) All of which is to say, there was precious little for me and my nine hundred or so school chums to do at this place when classes were out. Or when we were skipping classes, for that matter, or blowing off a Wednesday morning chemistry lab.

But, of course, there was one group on campus who always had alcohol, and parties, and people to sit around and play cards and watch TV with on Wednesday mornings. The Greeks — fraternities and sororities. So whereas most schools — of decent size, in real towns, and with readily-available alcohol — might have ten to twenty percent of the student body living la vida Greeka, at our place, it was more like eighty percent, or higher. There was just no other convenient way for burgeoning layabout slackers and apprentice alcoholics to practice their craft. So, like most of the other sheep in my herd, I signed up.

And in retrospect, I have rather mixed feelings about the decision. I like to think I was a little less ‘clique-y’ than most of my ‘brothers’, and so I had some pretty good friends in other houses, and several ‘independents’. Also, as it turned out, quite a few of the guys I was now stuck living with were unmitigated assholes. (Gee, who’d have thought that? You get thirty men together in a three-story house, and some are going to be dickheads? I can almost hear your collective *gasp*.)

Anyway, by my junior year, I really wasn’t enjoying it much anymore. We had Sunday evening meetings, which my like-minded roommate and I would attend just until the Simpsons came on. (Or Herman’s Head, if we could get away that quickly. If we missed meetings altogether, it cost us extra dues, so we at least showed up for roll call.) I went to the parties, and drank the beer, but the novelty was gone, and in the end, I disliked more guys around there than I liked.

On the other hand, the first two years were pretty okay. Sure, there were some assholes then, too, but especially as a wide-eyed freshman, it was pretty cool to belong to something for a while. I don’t make friends terribly quickly, so it was nice to have something in common with a few dozen other people right away. It might have helped my early-college love life if some of them had been chicks, but still, it was probably more of a confidence booster than I normally give it credit for. If only we could have found a way not to boost the assholes’ confidence while we were at it…

So, anyway, I don’t mention the fraternity thing very often. It ended up leaving a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, I’m afraid, and not just from the week-old stockpiled skunky beer that we served at the parties. By the time I greduated, I’d had more than enough of the fraternity life, and was ready to get to grad school. Where, um, I went to class, drank beer, hung out with another grad student who lived in my apartment building, and blew off Wednesday mornings. Ah, but I didn’t have to pay dues for the privilege of doing all that. Oh, and we had a bar right on the corner of our block. So, as you can see, it was way better!

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