I went to a frat party and it gave me a newfound appreciation for Edinburgh’s nightlife
Cowgate > Frat row
As an American, I was always aware that going to university in the UK meant that I would be missing out on an integral part of American college life – the frat party. I was never extremely curious about what went on at these, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see what I was missing, or to see if I was missing anything at all. So one night during winter break I went down to visit my pal at Rutgers University, the largest state university in New Jersey, to sus out if frat parties could be the answer to the never-ending search for the perfect night out.
Pres or “The Pregame”
As I’m under the age of 21 and can’t rock up to the liquor store and buy a bottle of their cheapest wine, I had to undergo the out of body experience that is taking a bottle of wine from my parents’ wine cabinet when they weren’t home, a comforting flashback to when I was 15.
I am also always notoriously late to pres, probably because I spend way too much time casually drinking beforehand. But on this occasion we had to be at the pregame before 9, which meant that I couldn’t take my sweet time sipping on a glass of wine and listening to Britney in my bathrobe – already an indicator that the night was going to be disappointing.
Pres are undoubtedly, the best part of the night. A time where you can catch up with your friends, play stupid drinking games, take total control of the aux cable and start blasting Dido, etc – a beautiful thing, really. But this pregame was unusually tense- probably because it was in halls where you could be penalized for having any alcohol on you whatsoever, so any drinking had to be done extra quietly as to not disturb the all-knowing RA. In my humble opinion, I would rather have a passive aggressive encounter with my neighbor the next morning for being too loud than to be living in constant fear over cracking open a Coors Light.
During the pregame, one of the boys had been receiving texts containing a multitude of addresses for tonight’s parties. Also worth noting that since Rutgers is a campus uni, the idea of ubering or cabbing somewhere was redundant – since everything and everyone was in walking distance. The pregame was also quite cliquey, with groups of girls gossiping on one side and a group of guys rolling joints on the other. Compared to a usual small pres back in Edi, the vibe wasn’t quite there, but it was great to feel the rush of underage drinking again.
The frat party itself
Having already endured two Scottish winters, I’m not above walking for more than 5 minutes in the cold, but that night it was really fucking cold. Having been told to not bring any jacket that I wouldn’t mind losing (Frat parties don’t have coat checks – who knew?) I opted for a raincoat and took to the streets in search of the ever elusive frat party, slowly freezing my buzz off, every moment was becoming less bearable, all I wanted to do was feel the warm embrace of Hive.
We arrived at the frat party at around half past 10, which is about the time that I arrive at pres in Edinburgh (sorry). Immediately the guys in the queue were getting nervous about keeping up with the ratio, every guy had to bring two girls to keep up the ratio of the party – a sexist and rapey quirk which I was too cold and uncomfortable to bitch about at the time. Guys also had to pay a fiver while girls got in for free- kind of like one of those high-end clubs in Manhattan or London, except it was a rotting frat house with a disco ball in the basement in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Right as we entered we were told to go downstairs by the guy collecting the money and checking the ratio (Could you call him a bouncer? He’s probably 18 and spends his summers as a camp counselor upstate). Booze was provided and was served to us in classic red solo cups, you could go for the classic-but-dodgy jungle juice or for a lukewarm can of Bud Light, the music wasn’t remarkable, just slightly remixed top 40 hits. You could see girls in the corner talking about the guys, and vice versa – who was going to get with who that night, etc- and since the basement was lit to the point where you can see people’s faces, it was quite easy to spot guys being predatory. And to be fair, it’s not that different here in Edinburgh- but I guess it’s just easier to compartmentalize the night.
Generally, Americans are really weird about smoking, so the “smoking area” was literally the patch of grass behind the house- a far cry from the heat lamps and cushioned sofas of some of the capital’s best smoking areas.
Satisfactorily drunk off sugary jungle juice, I could feel the night starting to close upon me, which could only call for one thing- food. Seeing how it was only half past midnight the night was still young, which could only mean that the neon glow of the nearest pizzariea was still going strong.
Different strokes for different folks; I’m sure if I went to frat parties as often as I went to WhyNot in first year I would be all about them. I woke up the next morning with money in my wallet and an experience to take back to uni with me. In fairness, frat parties are a very American niche, a solid answer to not being able to legally drink for most of your university years, and probably something that can’t be experienced after university- while clubs, pubs, and bars will still be there past graduation.