Fraternity formals not necessarily peaceful vacation

Chloe Schmergel, Contributing Writer

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

To those who did not receive an invitation to a fraternity formal this year, it’s perhaps a stroke of luck rather than an unfortunate situation. The following is an honest account from someone who has attended a few formals. It is why you should find not only solace, but relief in missing these events. There’s a common misconception that frat formals are essentially a free beach weekend getaway for dates, but this is not the case. 

First, there is not any free lunch. Dates are expected to make and stock coolers for their dates.  At first glance, they seem like a crafty little thank you gift and a small price to pay. In reality, they are quite pricey in both financial and opportunity costs.  The coolers themselves cost between $20 and $40. Decorating materials such as brushes, primer, paint, finish and sanding tools usually double that figure.  Even worse, they aren’t easy to make. They take at least a week due to the drying required for each layer of paint and usually necessitate a certain level of creativity and skill, which tack on another few hours of planning and painting. 

This is keeping in mind that “formal season” coincides with school picking up and finals nearing.  Furthermore, the price of alcohol, chasers, cups and snacks far exceeds the initial cost of the cooler. Finally, while the hotel and transportation prices (unless you’re chipping in on gas money) are usually covered by the fraternity, the bill for all of your meals besides the banquet dinner is still outstanding. Because these events usually take place in hotels and small resort towns, choices for food are typically far and few between, as well as pricey. While attending a formal as a date is cheaper than attending as a brother, it’s far from free.

Despite what many think, it’s not a beach weekend. It’s a beach day and it’s probably going to rain. Most frats leave on Friday or Saturday for the beach, which means driving from 4 to 8 hours to get to the destination. This drive is then repeated on Sunday. Unless the group is hitting the road at the crack of dawn, you’re probably not going to get more than a day to a day and a half on the beach.  Also, let’s not forget that it’s April.  Summer is around the corner, but April is known as the rainy month for a reason.  Of the three formals that I’ve been to, not one has been rain free and despite my best efforts, I came nowhere near close to getting a tan.

Additionally, unless you are great friends with the brothers, it’s not a weekend getaway with your friends. Again to shatter the image of a free beach vacation, this is a fraternity formal.  The company and activities of the weekend revolve around the fraternity members.  You will probably not be choosing your roommates.  You are probably not choosing your schedule each day.  You are not choosing which of your friends, if any, are coming.  And you will probably be obliged to attend a long and fraternity oriented ceremony while you are there. 

Of course, any one attending one of these events should not feel that they need to have sex with their date.  Regardless of whether your date is a friend, an acquaintance, a stranger or a boyfriend, “owing” sex in return for an invitation would be ludicrous. What is actually happening is that in exchange for their invitation, you are giving them the opportunity to share your company and potentially woo your affections. Unfortunately, there will most likely be insinuations made by brothers to other brothers about their dates. These might be unfounded expectations from brothers and undoubtedly an inquiry or two as to whether your date has gotten lucky. This pressure can make for a very uncomfortable situation.

If you really want a trip to the beach, go with your own friends, stay more than 48 hours and do what you want to do. The payoff, in terms of both money and satisfaction, will be more personally rewarding than what any fraternity can offer.