Mostly rambles, few brambles
I Pledged A Frat At The Barber College
“Wow,” I said to myself, gazing out my dorm window with a contented sigh. “Snip State.”
“Quit daydreaming, Freshman,” Kenny, my roommate, said, slapping me on the back. He hadn’t unpacked any of his mirrors or blow dryers yet. “It’s Welcome Week — we should be drunk by now.” I couldn’t argue: TV, movies, and my high-school friends with better grades had all concluded that college was for boozing, co-ed fraternizing, and standing up to snooty deans for the right to party.
Kenny said his cousin’s frat was throwing a rager tonight. “Yeah,” he said, grinning at a question I hadn’t yet asked. “There’ll be girls there.”
We arrived at the Tau Beta Trim mansion and, as we crossed a lawn covered in empty cans and broken combs, Kenny assured me that no one, ever, went harder than these particular aspiring stylists. The gigantic front door swung open and the sounds of scissors and binge drinking spilled out. Kenny and I stood there awed as a brother welcomed us in, handed us two red cups, and directed us to the keg positioned beneath two looming oil paintings of their most distinguished alumni: Regis and Fantastic Sam.
“Kenny,” a voice rang out as a tall, visored man with a popped collar wove his way through the sea of blades and barber bunnies. He introduced himself as Max, Chapter President, right as a passing woman kissed him on the cheek and shot him a coy wave. Just like in the movies, I thought. Max smirked, confident, and asked if Kenny and I really wanted to party. “Yes; oh golly-gee, yeah,” I probably said, in a failed attempt to be cool, as Max led us back to his room where he said he had some Barbicide.
I woke up the next morning in a pile of hair sweepings, more hungover than I had ever been in my entire life. My face had been written on with Sharpie and my mop top had been perfectly coiffed into a playful pompadour. A whistle sounded and I realized I was back in the main room of the mansion. Max and the other brothers rushed in stomping, ordering me and some other hungover masses into a line. “Welcome,” Max said after a few more whistles. “By showing up today, you are all accepted as new pledges into Tau Beta Trim. Welcome to Hell Week. We have a lot to squeeze in over the next twelve hours. We move quick here, because, as you know, Snip State is only a twelve-week barber program.”
Immediately I noticed Kenny and he gave me a little nod. We were pledge brothers now: the strongest bond found in nature. We were each handed a pair of clippers and started on something they called “endurance buzzing,” which consists of shearing a seemingly endless stack of carpet samples. Every so often one of our pledge brothers would drop to their knees, screeching in agony at his over-cramped wrist, and would be shown the door.
Max relished all of this. Legend was that he had failed his finals last time just so he could come back to scream and throw beer on new crops of pledges. I collapsed when the final whistle for endurance buzzing sounded, but we were whisked off to scrub toilets and sort bags of corpse hair into “unacceptable” and “wig-worthy.”
After power-funneling so much Barbicide, my hangover has subsided into a bleary, vaguely poisonous haze. As a kid, I always thought Barbicide looked like it would taste like blue raspberry, and, after enough of it, it kind of does. By mid-afternoon, I was mentally broken down into almost nothing and I mistakenly used the front door: a privilege forbidden to pledges. As penance, I was forced to strip down, cover my naked body in Dove Men samples, and jump into the hair dumpster. Now, as a gorilla, I had to chase my fellow pledges all over the front lawn until I caught one of them. I stumbled and staggered until Kenny, mercifully, stopped. The game was over, and I was required to reward him with a goo-heavy, thorough, gorilla hug.
That night, beside the roaring hearth, I was paddled thrice with an old issue of Golf Digest and the top of my buttcheek was branded with a hot comb. It’s pretty smudged, but I like to think it says “brotherhood.” Everyone cheered. I was one of them now.
I may have missed the entire first day of classes and will never be able to identify criminal skull shapes or cut bangs that would satisfy any customer, but it was worth it.
Tau Beta Trim forever.