Is a very, very, very, fine house...
--Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
Chi Psi was a fine house at Michigan. (Actually, in Chi Psi tradition, we called it "the lodge" -- not the house.) It was populated, for the most part, by friendly, well-mannered, Midwestern engineering majors. There wasn't a whole lot of diversity; a couple Indian guys, one Latino, a smattering of Jews. But other than that, it was very white-bread. White-bread, but nice.
The guys were not, it should be pointed out, particularly hot. They were not ugly, but nor were they "face-men," as extremely attractive guys were known in fraternity parlance, nor were they very athletic.
It was no accident that I wound up there, my friendship with Steve notwithstanding. When I decided to rush, I checked out a few other houses as well. The men of Sigma Alpha Epsilon -- known as the Sig Eps -- all looked like they had just sprung from an Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue, and this scared the living shit out of me. I knew there was simply no way I was going to be able to keep my gay thoughts at bay amid such masculine perfection.
[This just in: Sig Eps were kicked off of Michigan's campus this year after hazing incidents!]
A good friend from the dorm, Rick, had joined Chi Phi (not to be confused with Chi Psi) the previous semester, so I stopped by there as a courtesy to him. His brothers struck me as loud, dirty animals -- the kind of guys I had always least enjoyed hanging around. When I gave Rick my feedback on them the next day, he got very defensive. ("Good, because they all thought you were a major tool.")
There was one other house I rushed, mostly because it was next door to Chi Psi, so it was easy to hit up both fraternities on a single night. This was Beta Theta Pi. The Betas were very pretty boys, though not as stunning as the Sig Eps. And they liked me a lot, even going so far as to invite me to dinner during one night of rush. They seemed nice enough, and it was somewhat intoxicating being wanted by the same kind of boys who would have shunned me back in high school. But for some reason, they struck me as a little too Hitler Youth-y for my taste. Remember the whole "Thank you, sir, may I have another?" scene from Animal House? I could easily imagine it taking place among the Betas.
Everyone knows that was Kevin Bacon getting paddled, right?
So that left Chi Psi, where Steve was a brother and everyone else seemed to like me well enough. That is, all except one incredibly scorching guy named Will.
I've told this part of the story so many goddamn times -- including on the blog -- that I refuse to get into the details again. If you're not familiar with it, watch these two videos, in which I recount the entire thing:
But aside from Will (to whom I only got "close" after I was no longer in the fraternity), the lodge was Straightsville, USA for me.
I never lived there, choosing instead to remain in the dorm sophomore year and to move off-campus altogether junior year. And in truth, I never ended up spending a whole lot of time in the lodge. I did eat lunch there most days and dinner at least once a week. I also went to all of the Chi Psi parties, which were genuinely fun. (I have a ton of party pictures from those days, but none of them are online. Maybe someday soon I'll scan and post them so you can see see my horrifying early 90s hair.)
So what else went on there? Well, there's a lot of secret stuff I can't talk about. Not because it's in any way scandalous or interesting -- just because I swore my secrecy, and I have no desire to be disloyal to my former brothers. I can tell we had a secret handshake. And secret meeting rituals. And that we drank goat's blood.
No, I'm kidding. Our rituals were all totally innocuous, albeit rather silly. To the fraternity's credit, there was a strictly enforced no-hazing policy, and in fact we had brothers who didn't drink at all. Our initiation process was extremely annoying, but it wasn't dangerous or humiliating in any way. Also, unlike any other fraternity I've ever heard of, Chi Psi made its neophytes (newly affiliated brothers) do all the shitty house chores, rather than the pledges.
I had a big brother (Steve, of course), and in time, I had two little brothers. I am ashamed to admit I no longer recall either of their names. Some big brother I was.
Oh, and I was elected to fraternity office! Was I the president? The rush chairman? The social chair? None of the above.
No, I was elected choregus.
What the fuck is a choregus, you ask? Why, only the person in charge of the fraternity's most important activity: Serenades! Yes, Virginia, college fraternities really do serenade sororities, or at least my fraternity did. About once a month, a large group of us would mosey on over to whichever sorority we were trying to woo and sing our hearts out. We even had our own special house blend, as it were, which went back decades. It was called "Maid of Chi Psi," and I still remember the words by heart:
I dream of your eyes, of your golden hair
Like foam on a wave blown high
I dream of you when I'm all alone
And when there are others nigh
I cannot forget you, my girl of dreams
No matter how I try
I want you! I need you! My wonderful one
You're my dreamgirl, maid of Chi Psi.
Believe it or not, I just found a recording of some little twink performing this on YouTube. Make sure you stick around until he starts singing, at around 1:00.
Not for nothing, but I think I sang it better.
It was at one of these sorority serenades that I met the young lady would become my last girlfriend of all time.
To be continued.
Blogger's note: I picked a really stupid time to get into this saga, because I'm leaving early tomorrow morning for a wedding in San Francisco and probably won't be able to blog again for several days. My apologies, and I wish you all a foamy weekend, my wonderful ones.
Homo serenading. ♥