Friday, July 24, 2015

Frat Boy: Formal

In high school, except for one exception, I didn’t really like dances, but in college I loved formal dances, which we simply called Formals.

If you want to read about me learning to love dancing in college check out this post.  This story also has a related this related link to a story about a how, a current New Yorker editor helped me learn to embrace what I loved about music and myself. 

In high school, dances consisted of making dinner reservations at some fancy restaurant, somehow making our way to the school, taking a picture, awkwardly standing around for a dance or two and then sometimes going to an after-party. When you were an underclassmen, transportation consisted of parents or older siblings.  When you were older you could drive or because of peer pressure you rented a limo.

I didn’t like dancing and the effort put into being seen and doing things a certain way felt disingenuous and kind of silly.

After the ladies of SAI taught me how to dance and the gentlemen of PMA helped me embrace the fun and silliness of dance parties, I looked forward to any opportunity to dance. It was liberating, fun and one of the best ways to relieve the stress of academics.  In my group of friends there was nothing sketchy about what we were doing on the dance floor and anything that seemed to approach more risqué dancing moves were more silly than sexual.

My frat had a Formal every spring. Our Formals looked like this. We walk over and get our dates (most of which were in SAI) and present a bouquet of flowers (not a corsage).  We would make our way to PMA and all pile into a rented school bus. The bus would take us to some kind of banquet hall in a hotel. Everyone would eat dinner in the room, like in a wedding reception. And after dinner we would dance. Then the formal would end, we would all climb into the school bus, which would drive us back to the frat house.

The guys would suit up and the girls would were nice dresses. However, unlike in high school the girls wouldn’t buy a new dress for each formal. More often than not they would reuse a dress or trade dresses with their sorority sisters for variety.

The school bus seemed weird at first but it was actually a really nice way for us to have some fun on the way to the location and take away the issue of driving. We’d hire a DJ and photographer. There would usually be a cash bar, and the food varied in quality depending on the location. A nice view was a plus, but in general, no one really cared. We just wanted an excuse to dress and get down with our “family.”

That was the main reason that these Formals were so much fun. It really felt like a family event. Most of the people who came were people from marching band, SAI and PMA. These were people we lived with, ate our meals with in Saga and defined the community that made our social group feel like a family.

At Formals we had our traditions. Being a music fraternity we had a way of singing grace and performing as a men’s choir toward the end of the night, which was a highlight for everyone involved. SAI had their formal within a couple weeks of ours and that was also a really fun event that had a similar format and vibe. I loved those events as well.

Formals are really a unique event. Getting together with a large group of friends for the purpose of being together and dancing just doesn’t happen in adulthood past college. The only thing that approaches Formals is wedding receptions. I’ve been to some really fun ones that are really meaningful but they are different. It’s just a different energy with multiple generations and the focus on one couple celebrating their union.

This lack of a focus on celebrating a specific event but rather purely celebrating life is what made these events so wonderful. Formals taught me that its worth putting in time and energy simply for the sake of getting friends together to have a good time. You don’t need a major life event to party; you just need good friends. Th Formals were a reminder of this fact and its something I forget when I feel too tired to call up friends or feel like I need an excuse to have fun.

A Formal may seem like just a bunch of college kids getting their party on, but it's so much more.  It's the feeling of losing yourself in dance, surrounded by friends, feeling no embarrassment, only freedom.  It's a feeling of energy, of love and of life.  It is the expression of the human spirit and most importantly a damn good time.  

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