Saturday, May 8, 2021
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
There's something bittersweet about the end of a school year in college. Most people get four of them- with the last one being final. As a transfer, I got three at PSU. The first three mean a summer apart: from the people and place you love. I desperately missed PSU over the summer. I missed the freedom, the parties, and the people. Yes, I still saw Virginia over the summer, but the relationship was already falling apart.
Penn State was already my home, and my parents' house was a purgatory. I stayed away as much as possible- working two bartending jobs. I was working during my grandfather's funeral that summer. Going back for Arts fest was one of the best weekends of my life, as it reminded me to be grateful for what I had.
What I didn't know is how different the experience would be when I returned in the fall, for so many reasons. That first year at PSU was the best of my time there, but I didn't know that at the time.
Chapter 2.67: Room Pricks
Friday, May 1, 1987 FBI knew of North’s contra work
Suit and tie were required- not just the jacket and tie that allowed many brothers to show up in shorts or whatever. This was a big deal- Senior Dinner, and more important: Room Pricks.
Senior dinner meant that several tables were lined up near the dining room fireplace separate from all the others. These were for the guys graduating that semester. Everyone else sat in their normal spots.
Dinner was very fancy- the seniors had a veal and crab dish that Sparky prepared. The rest of us got catered lasagna which wasn’t bad. When we finished, the Deltas cleared all the plates and shots of good bourbon in nice rocks glasses were set in front of each senior. The rest of us had beer in plastic cups distributed by the pledges.
Maple, the Alpha, raised his glass. “To the class of 1987: you will be missed. Go far, succeed, and always remember you are a SKULL!” Everyone (except the seniors) started to sing.
Hail to thee, loyal Skull House, Sweetheart of my youth,
Crown'd thy brow with fadeless laurels, Pledge we now our troth.
Join in chorus, wake the echoes,
Shout it loyal chaps!
BUMDEBUM BUM BUM
Here's a toast, now drink it hearty,
Hail, all hail Skull House!
With that, the seniors drank their shots while everyone else chugged their beer. Then, one by one each senior threw his glass into the fireplace, shattering it for all time. When all were broken, the brothers surrounded the senior table and the new alumni. There were handshakes, hugs, and maybe a tear or two. After all, this was Goodbye to Big Brothers, Pledge Brothers, or just treasured friends.
The seniors then left for the Adam’s Apple to drink together as was tradition.
The rest of us? It was time for Room Pricks! LPC or pledges set up a keg near the kitchen. Two huge brown papers with a map of the Bone’s third floor on one and second floor on the other were hung on the wall above where the seniors were so recently sitting.
The whole thing was run by the Pi (Academic chairman.) The rules were simple. Oldest pledge class chose first, and then in order as time went by. Within a pledge class, the selection went by GPA: best GPA chooses first. The person can choose any available room, and can also “pull someone in” to his suite as a suite mate (or roommate if desired.) Also, the first person in a suite chose which of the center doors would always be locked, thus assuring that no one would walk through his room to the center (suites were three connected rooms). Got all that?
So, why was it called “Room Pricks?” Often one guy would keep talking for weeks about how he wanted a given room, just to have a guy above him in the picking order take that room on purpose, or pull someone into that room, again just to piss that guy off.
Why? Because it’s Room Pricks! You don’t need a reason!
Anyway, my big question was when would I pick? Would I pick with Spring ‘85, which is when I pledged? Would I pick with the pledge class that was initiated just after I arrived?
Nope. I picked dead last.
Where's Squee? May 1, 1987 Collegian
So after an hour of screaming, yelling, laughing, chugging, and one near fistfight, there was one room left. As last to choose, I was asked if I wanted it and I said “yes.”
The room was on the second floor, front side of the house above the club room. It was very small and it was the first one a person would pass if heading down the hall toward the icebox. The guy in the center room of the suite, Wags, was really cool, so that helped. I didn’t want an asshole marching through my room at all times of the day and night.
I would have a roommate, but I hadn’t met him yet. He was a football player from Penn transferring up next year. I guess the “football player” part allowed him to avoid the bullshit I had to tolerate.
Oh well. I didn’t matter.
I was IN!!!!
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Every fraternity at PSU had a "signature" party in my time. For example: Beta Sig had Regatta, Fiji had the "Islander", and Delta Sig hosted the DG anchor splash, where people chugged goldfish. Skull had Toga. It wasn't the most original idea, but the way it was executed is what made it special.
The few times I see brothers from my time, the stories almost always go back to Toga, and each year they get more legendary, exaggerated, and distant. Parties like Toga (and the Islander and a few others) could never happen today. Everybody records everything and there's so much money to be made in litigation, etc. The fact that it can't happen is not a bad thing. As I re-read this chapter, I was struck by the privileged misogyny of it all: how casually some of the brothers regarded women. Not all- some. But the problem was that they were typical guys of the times. They wanted to revel in their youth and enjoy themselves- we were all still kids playing grown up. Most of us had no idea of the consequences of our actions, and we didn't really care. All I wanted to do was be a part of it. I was complicit.
There are many stories that the brothers of my time don't want told publically as we age, and they usually involve Toga. I occasionally will soften something in the book or remove something by request, yet part of me wonders: why should I? Why should I when 90% of the brothers treated me like dirt? My answer is always the same: because they are my brothers.
Toga was about letting loose. It was about proving manhood to each other- outdrink, outfight, outlast. Dates were a secondary thought to many- and the women tended to hang with each other anyway, watching either in drunken amusement or horror at the antics- and each year, we kept trying to outdo the year before.
Reading it now, the tone shocks me. This was one of the first chapters I wrote for the PSU part of the book. I sense the anger and frustration in my words. I attended three Togas as a student (87-89) and three as an alumnae (90-92.) I didn't attend Toga 93 because that's the weekend I married my Wife. Also, I no longer wished to attend parties where I was at best tolerated, not wanted.
Now, living here in State College, I visit the house occasionally. The current brothers have no idea that I was a transfer- now I'm avoided because I'm transgender. Same old song with a few new lines, really.
Chapter 66: Toga ‘87
Saturday, April 25, 1987 Dollar plunges to record low, driving stocks down, interest up
All I’d heard was all year was about one event- one party that dwarfed all others. Reputations, nicknames, and legends were made all on that one day. Skulls spoke of it like little kids talked about Christmas: TOGA.
case you’re from Mars, or Amish, or just returned from a deep space mission,
I’ll explain this. A Toga party is
simply a party in which everyone dresses in togas (usually bed sheets.) A toga is a thing that was supposedly worn in
Toga '88: the chariot approaches
Skull Toga was the biggest party of the year- the one where we pulled out all the stops. Toga was always the Saturday before the last week of classes: the end of Greek Week. As this was Skull’s biggest event, sorority girls would kill, die, spread, or do lesbian scenes to be invited. Of course the girls from the sorority doing Greek Week with us were in prime position for invitations.
It went without saying: a brother bringing a date was going to fuck her. Sex was the Price of Admission.
Greek Week flew by with the necessary participation. We were doing it with Pi Phi and they were much more into it than us. Oh we won our share of events, but overall the brothers didn’t give a damn. Was it that the brothers thought they were above all that rah-rah shit? Or were they saving their energy?
Friday morning the pledges were at the house early. When I arrived for lunch, they already had half the house spotless. This was also an “all hands on deck” thing. If a brother didn’t have a class he was expected to help. After all, the alumni were coming. Most pitched in. Most.
Friday night was “Pre-Toga.” Fancy name, isn’t it? This was a private party for brothers, alumni, and girlfriends. (No mere “date” rated an invite to this as a date was just a fuck and nothing more.) The bar was top shelf- just like Homecoming.
course I brought
Just like Homecoming, the alums tended to stay with others from their time. The current brothers were all getting wasted, some of them announcing that that they would drink all night and through the next day. Whatever.
I saw only two pledges and they were outside on the covered part of the porch watching a pig roast on a very large contraption. The pig (which they named “Tri Delt”) would be ready around noon the next day.
drank Absolut screwdrivers.
Maple staggered over to me, well maybe staggered is a little harsh. He was listing hard to starboard as he drank directly from a full pitcher of beer.
“Hey Lancer!” he said, and then burped. “You’re in the house this fall. Congratulations.” He shook my hand, spilling beer from his pitcher.
The news took a second to sink in as I shook his hand.
“Room picks are next Friday after senior dinner. Suit and tie. Be here...” BURP! “…by six. Drink!”
handed me the pitcher. I handed my
screwdriver to a smiling
“Chug motherfucker!” he shouted.
I drank as much as I could then handed him back the pitcher.
He nodded and said “Remember: six o’clock” and staggered away.
I smiled and we toasted.
night danced forward. I figured I’d
finish my drink then take
“Hey Lancer! Bet I can out-chug ya!” he said, thrusting the bottle into my hands.
Hell, even I knew that this was serious misuse of good vodka, but he was offering so…
I drank some. He drank more. We both grimaced. Double D shook his head like a dog shaking off the rain.
I smiled. She knew exactly how to get what she wanted from a guy.
Double D smiled and handed her the bottle. As I said, this was one of the big bottles: better than a foot high, maybe four inches in diameter, of red label hundred proof hard core goodness. Maybe a third of the bottle was left.
Finished the bottle! The whole fucking bottle!
Did she puke? Did she wince? Nope. Just wiped her mouth with the back of her left hand as she handed the empty bottle to Double D with her right. Double D and I looked at each other, wide eyed, then at Virginia- a fragile looking girl- who looked at us.
“What?” she asked.
I started to laugh as Double D stumbled away with his now empty bottle.
he’ll ever… offer me a drink again?”
“No, I can’t s-say that he…he will.” Whoa! Tongue not working.
stayed a little while longer. Finished
my drink. By then
next day was typical
showered, ate a little breakfast and called
“She’s really sick” Judy said.
“Yes. She won’t be able to go to Toga with you today.” Judy’s tone was flat- emotionless. I was getting used to hearing it that way. For a moment, I thought about inviting her. She’d look awesome in a Toga. She may enjoy it. Maybe even have a few drinks and loosen up and…
Stop! That’s dangerous thinking. Fucking a roommate got me into enough trouble already.
But you’re still fucking her. Every day and night. So it turned out ok didn’t it?
Yes it did, and I don’t want to screw it up.
But it’s Judy!
Yes. Yes it is.
I’ll invite her as friends.
Because it’s Judy.
“Ok” I said into the phone. “I’ll stop by later.”
“She’ll be here but I won’t. Richard and I have plans,” Judy said.
Tying a toga is easy if you know how. Unfortunately I didn’t know how. I figured out something using my unwashed bed sheet, five safety pins, and a string. I wore sneakers, the toga and that was all. I’d been told by many people that no one wears anything under their togas!
I walked up
“Want a date babe?”
I arrived at the Bone at eleven. The pledges had been busy. First, the wooden hurricane fences surrounded the property, keeping the unwashed plebian hoards out. In the front yard to the right of the path as I headed up toward the house was a log held maybe four feet off the ground by specially made supports. Old mattresses covered the ground under and around it, as did some muddy pillows. So there we had drunk guys standing on a log beating the shit out of each other with pillows until one fell off. Welcome to Toga!
On the left side of the top of the stone steps a tall pole made from broomsticks taped together rose from the bushes. Atop this pole was a roll of toilet paper. Really.
The real work happened inside. Almost every stick of furniture on the first floor was gone (upstairs in the hallways and in the basement if you must know.) The walls all over the first floor, except for windows and fireplaces, were covered floor to ceiling with brown paper, like the stuff grocery bags are made of. Brothers wrote all kinds of insults all over the paper with markers that were scattered all over the floor. I looked around a bit and found some directed at me. “Lance- no one likes you! Go away!” “Lance! GTFO! (Get the Fuck Out!)” and that sort of thing. Apparently this was a brother’s chance to cut loose on another brother without fear of reprisal (aside from other’s could write about him!)
The dining room was empty except for the old mattresses all over the floor.
In the club room a large painting of a classical Greek/ Roman village hung over the back windows. It was maybe twenty feet long and maybe five feet wide. God only knows how old it was. In the middle of the empty Club room was a stand holding a large brass fountain, the top of which was taller than me. Bubbling a shooting from the fountain was a red liquid with ice and fruit in the bowl below. This fountain contained French 75s: a powerful drink with vodka, champagne and other nastiness. Sure we had beer, but Toga meant French 75s.
Surrounding everything: the abuse walls, the windows, the stairs, everywhere, was layered with Laurel Vines. The pledges gathered them the night before at a state park not too far away.
This was Toga- half the Hood was Drunk, high, or both already (still?) The only thing missing was the dates. They were being gathered.
One of the brothers drove a truck with a rented flatbed trailer, like the type used to pull the homecoming float. He went around the dorms to pick up the sorority girls (apartment girls had to walk) at various pick up points. (I always wondered what the waiting girls talked about…) Someone put a rail around it to keep people from falling out and labeled it with a large sign “SKULL TOGA PIG CART.” Yeah, I know- and the girls got aboard anyway. Such was the power of Toga.
Me? I drank and watched. Watched as more brothers beat the shit out of each other on the log. King was especially good at it. Some of the brothers dragged a small plastic kiddie pool onto the front lawn, filled it, and sat in the pool drinking. Many brothers lost their footing and toppled off the porch into the bushes, laughing. The pig continued roasting on the side porch, but the brothers were circling (especially the stoners.) What’s a little disease between brothers anyway? And over it all, the Grateful Dead blasting from the ubiquitous window speakers.
Sugar Magnolia blossoms booming Head’s all empty and I don’t care.
Drivers honked their horns as they drove by. Toga-ed alumni arrived from nearby hotels. Flounder fell hard on his back from the log after King clocked him hard in the head with a pillow.
Then a cheer from the assembled brothers- the Pig Cart arrived! It pulled in front of the steps where the squealing girls bounced off the trailer and up the steps. They took much more care in tying their togas- more to cover. All of them wore crisp clean white sheets. For that matter, so did most of the brothers. The pledges “borrowed” sheets from a nearby hotel’s laundry room. We returned them on Monday- really! Muddy and abused, but we did return them! The girls’ arrival marked the unofficial beginning of Toga. The official beginning?
At 12:15, the pledges disappeared. The Deltas (kitchen bros, remember?) took over serving the hopefully now-finished roast pig. LPC took over security at the steps back and sides. Where were the pledges?
At 12:30, Detour shouted “Chariot!” Turning the corner from
Toga had officially begun!
The whole house became a whirl of drunken activity. Dancing, chugging, flirting, pissing, here we go falling backwards into the bushes. I tried the pillow fight log and Veal knocked me halfway to Beaver Avenue! It didn’t hurt- French 75s are a great anesthetic.
Went inside to take a leak. Up to the second floor where I was greeted by the familiar pot smell, but stronger. It seemed to come from everywhere. I half expected to see clouds whisping out from under doors.
Goodbye Mama and Papa! Goodbye Jack and Jill! The grass ain’t greener, the wine ain’t sweeter either side of the hill.
After an hour or day or something I was out front again when Beef and a few other brothers stumbled out the front door. They all had headbands made of torn white sheet decorated with a large red spot and some black characters- their attempt at Japanese I guess. Drawn all over their bodies with red magic marker were more attempts at Oriental lettering.
They were the “Samurai:” a little club they put together that added members each Toga. Actually, I think it only existed at Toga. They liked it- it’d been happening at least five years at that point. So why? Well, it was a chance to “initiate” someone by getting them incredibly drunk and high. That was it as far as I know- I wasn’t Samurai. Just another way to exclude others I guess.
Anyway, the Samurai were silent, grunted only to each other and drank a hell of a lot. Real positive fucking additions to the party.
New Samurai: Toga '90 (I think)
Nine-mile Skid on a ten-mile ride. Hot as a pistol but cool inside.
Toga churned on through the cold afternoon. I was hit several times by thrown pig parts. Brothers passed out from the porch into the bushes that other brothers had been pissing in all day. Of course, having people lying in these bushes didn’t stop other brothers from continuing the public urination. Probably encouraged it.
A huge crash! Dairy knocked over the entire fucking French 75 fountain! He was coated in red liquid and alcohol soaked fruit. Some people laughed, some cursed- I mean the fountain was rented after all.
The chant began quickly “Swirley! Swirley!” and continued louder. “SWIRLEY! SWIRLEY!” Dairy laid on the floor trying to wring the drink from his toga into his mouth. He knew he fucked up and he was prepared to pay the price.
Saint, Veal, and Flounder carried him off to the girls head below the stairs for his well earned swirley. A few other guys fixed the fountain. Within minutes it was refilled with fresh bubbly red goodness.
I don’t know, maybe it was the roses. All I know, I could not leave her there.
Back out on the
lawn, two girls sat in the kiddie pool having a splash fight. People on the
People were beginning to pass out all over the place, especially on the mattresses in the dining room. This meant that there were now dateless girls… It was a great day to be a Skull.
Unless you didn’t have the guts to talk to the now dateless girls. Or if your girlfriend was at her apartment with a hangover.
There I was at the best party I’d ever seen- the event of the year, the gathering that defined us as a house… and I was bored.
Party’s no fun if no one is really talking to you. So, figuring I’d leave soon, I finished my drink and grabbed two more. Chugged down one as I watched two Samurai play tug of war with either end a of laughing girl’s toga. Headed up the Brotherhood steps, avoiding two red puddles of puke, to the bathroom so I could take a leak. Saint was in the shower, water running, banging some chick from behind. Her cries gave me a hard on making it difficult to piss.
But piss I did, and when I finished I had a nasty drunk idea. See, it bears repeating that the plumbing at the Bone was old and that flushing a toilet meant a sudden rush of scalding hot water in the shower. And that motherfucker had done nothing but get on my shit since I met him. Still with me? Right- I quietly washed my hands and took the two steps to the door (the urinal is right next to the door.) Opened the door, flushed the john and got the hell out. As I plunked down the Pledge steps I could hear them.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGHH!!! MOTHER FUCKIN SONUVABITCH!!!”
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
Some songs bring back wonderful memories. This chapter is one of those memories. It's also a slice of what a fraternity party was like at that time- in that house. At the time, I felt truly happy: I was young, at Penn State, and dancing with whom I had strong, if conflicted, feelings. The floor was sticky, and the house smelled like stale beer- but for that moment, it was heaven.
Things were looking up for me. When I think back on my time at PSU, this is one of the happiest memories.
Chapter 2.65: Routine
Saturday, April 18, 1987 Sixers and fans salute Dr.J
Midnight and I
left Dave’s dorm room. I walked downhill
on the straight path through campus: past the new bio building that was under
construction, past the HUB, and following as it tailed left by Atherton Hall
toward the Saloon on
As always, the line was very short. The Crow pledges were getting to know me by sight by then, so they just waved me in. I tossed my coat onto the pile behind the DJ area, and headed left through the living room. One of the lil sisters called out a hello, so I smiled and waved. Down the wooden stairs to the basement, down the hall a few yards, and left into the party room. It was crowded, but not packed. I waved at a couple other smiling lil sisters as I dodged my way to the bar.
“Ah Love Rock And Roll, So Put another Dime
in the Jukebox, Baybee!” Joan
screamed from the speakers around the room.
The usual ten or so people were behind the bar, including
From April 17, 1987 Collegian
See, we had an agreement: early Saturday night was Friends time. I’d hang out with Dave or my brothers or whatever (almost always over Dave’s) and she would see her friends wherever. But midnight was the deadline- that’s when I’d head over to Crow, usually arriving around 12:30.
She handed me a beer and smiled.
“Did you have fun?” she asked.
“Yeah. Walt had a case, so we played Ace Face.”
“How about you?” I asked.
“I went over to Mandy’s and we hung out with a couple of the sisters. We had a few kamikazes and got here around 10:30.”
“Skull! Drink!” came a shout from down the bar. Rich Duke had his elbow pointed at me. I took a big gulp and swallowed a burp.
Party room at AXP, taken decades later. Back in the 80s, the bar went all the way across with no access from the front.
“Any rules?” I asked.
“Standard and no cursing” she answered.
“Drink bitch!” Rich pointed at
So we played. An hour maybe, if that.
I broke away from my side of the bar and squeezed through the nearly packed party room.
“Don’t change for you. Don’t change a thing… for me!” INXS pleaded through the speakers.
As I wormed through the crowd, I saw Judy speaking to Michelle and I waved. She waved back unenthusiastically and without smiling, so I didn’t stop.
“I found a love that I had lost. It was gawn for too lon-onnnng!” crooned Michael Hutchence.
She smiled at me and raised her plastic cup to toast. We touched cups and drank.
We sat and talked about nothing for a while. I described the Ace Face game and she updated me with all the new Crow lil sister gossip.
My house was partying that night as well, but going there never crossed my mind.
We finished the
“American Pie” was playing, and everyone was dancing and singing along.
“Bye, bye Miss American Pie. Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry…” Crow played this every party, and everyone always sang along. Loudly.
From April 17, 1987 Collegian
Soon the song
ended, and another began. Synthesizer
and drums: Prince’s “Take me with You.”
Several people were bouncing around to the beat, but
She sang to me- her voice clear and her happy eyes dancing with mine.
“I don’t care if we spend the night in your mansion. I don’t care if we spend the night on the town. All I want is to spend the night together. All I want is to spend the night in your ahhhhrmmms!”
So we swayed and I wished the Moment, the Party, the Night would never ever end.
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
A few weeks ago, my roomie/bestie Linda Lewis and I drove to Saginaw, Michigan. It was such a long drive, and we were exhausted when we arrived. We went to the house where she'd grown up to meet her sister and pick up a few items that belonged to Linda from her youth. You see, Linda's mother died in late January of Covid. Her father, who also had covid but recovered, was moving to assisted living, and wouldn't be coming back to live in the house.
Linda is fairly stoic and guarded with her emotions, and I don't blame her. She's been burned so many times. We've roomed together over six years, and there are still many things she doesn't talk about with me. I understand that, as that's her way. Still, while we were there, she seemed more relaxed then I'd seen her in a long time. I'm guessing that was because she was in a familiar, if painful, place with family.
I'd met her sister, brother-in-law, and niece previously, and they did their utmost to make me feel welcome. They're wonderful people. However, I couldn't help but feel like an intruder. It didn't help that both of Linda's parents were heavy smokers for decades, and the place reeked of cigarettes.
That's the background, but not the story.
We arrived on Friday, tired and hungry. The roads were snow covered and full of potholes (so many that it felt like Pennsylvania!). I asked her where she should eat, especially as I wanted a glass of wine. Linda suggested Sullivans Food and Spirits. This is not to be confused with the incredible chain Sullivan's Steakhouse around Philadelphia. This place is completely different.
We arrived as heavy snow flurries fell from the night, and went inside, where a hostess seated us quickly and efficiently. That much went right. She got us both water with lemon. I learned that she was a new employee. Well, she did her part right. As for what happened next, I'll quote what I wrote on their facialbook page.
"waited 20 minutes after being seated for a server to acknowledge us. ordered wine. both glasses had lipstick stains. Mgr was gossiping at other tables and never stopped by.
the server who finally picked up our table after the other flat out refused (was it because I'm transgender?) was very pleasant and efficient.
still, never going back."
I included a picture of my wine glass. Note- I wasn't wearing any makeup.
Wine glass photo
Of course, there was more to the story.
After we were seated, we waited. And waited. A waitress worked on the tables on either side of our booth, including the table behind Linda, who arrived after we did. The place was busy, but not THAT busy. I noticed that the staff, especially the manager, had enough time to enjoy long conversations with the customers.
After a while, I asked Linda how long we'd been waiting. She said "ten minutes." That's when I turned on my stopwatch- which is unfortunately becoming a habit in restaurants.
After ten more minutes, I asked Linda how much longer she wanted to wait. She said "one minute." At this point, a waitress from across the room (call her B) asked the person waiting on the tables around us (call her C) if we'd ordered. C turned and looked at her, after glancing at me again, and said "I'm not waiting on THEM." At this point, B pulled out her order book, and asked what we'd like to order. I immediately turned off the stop watch. We were 35 seconds from walking out. B was friendly and efficient. We both ordered a glass of wine. I ordered a steak. Linda ordered Lake Perch, which is a local specialty that she hadn't had in a long time. (Yellow Perch is native to Lake Michigan.)
The food arrived promptly. My steak was fine (it's hard to screw up steak), but the fish was soggy and "disappointing." We finished eating, and waited a while B came back to drop the check. The manager had visited every table within my sight, usually sitting with them for long conversations, but never stopped by ours. I wanted him to visit us, first to praise B's service, but also to complain about the wait and C's comment.
I wrote a small comment on the check "B's service was the only good thing about this visit." Yes, I tipped. I always tip well. As the manager hadn't visited, that night I left my comment on their facialbook page. I didn't comment on Yelp.
Later that night (9:17 pm) I received a message from Sullivans vs FB messenger, apologizing for the experience. About an hour after that, I received a long message from the Manager on Duty (MOD) that night. I will not quote it, as I don't have permission. It was long, rambling, and full of excuses- some of which were legit. I understand him courting the regulars who wanted to talk. To his credit, he again apologized, and offered me a free dinner if I decided to return. He did not address my comment about the server refusing to serve us at all, which was the heart of the matter.
I did not reply.
Dear reader, this isn't the first time this happened to me in a restaurant as Sophie. It happened a couple of times before transition, and many times since. Once Linda and I were ignored in an Outback Steak House in King of Prussia and were fortunate enough to speak to the owner/manager. We ate and drank for free that night. Many times, I leave and don't bother saying anything, and never return. It just isn't worth the pain and effort sometimes.
Well, Sullivans, you are 478 miles from my apartment- almost an eight hour drive. I don't think I'll take you up on that offer of a free meal. I worked in the service industry for MANY years. I know what good service looks like, and that wasn't it. You had one chance to make an impression on me and blew it. And worse- the Lake perch was soggy, after Linda so looked forward to it.
I would've liked to know why C didn't want to wait on us. I assume it's because I'm visibly transgender. Maybe I shouldn't assume it, but it follows the pattern, and I can't think of any other reason she refused to even acknowledge our presence.
That night, I slept on an extremely uncomfortable couch, surrounded by dozens of dolls on shelves above me. Creepy dolls. I didn't sleep well that night, not the next when I slept on a different couch. I don't know how Linda slept in the tiny room where she slept for years. I was surrounded by creepy dolls, but she was surrounded by memories.
"Join us... play with us..."
I'd rather be surrounded by the dolls.
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
I have conflicted thoughts about this. First off, I know the practice of "poling" goes back decades in fraternities and other male organizations. Poling is a fraternity tradition for when a brother gets engaged. Now, I wonder if it's a punishment for forsaking the company of men (the brothers) for that of a woman (wife.) I couldn't find any reference to where the tradition began.
This practice makes me wonder why a brother would even get engaged during his college years. The Hood had other traditions in a similar vein, like being swirlied on your birthday. Brothers would keep their birthday a secret for that reason- even their 21st. Yes, I was swirlied for my 20th and 21st birthday, but not for my 22nd due to a swirley" accident in Spring 1988 (my birthday is in September.)
I also know that other houses other than mine practiced this. While we did it on the front yard tree, some houses (like Lambda Chi) used the pole of a basketball net, or did it inside. Some houses, like ΔΣΘ, got into trouble for doing it in early1989, while ΧΦ didn't get punished for doing it in late 1989.
In any case, this happened. Last I heard, the couple was still together. So, she was/IS worth it.
And yes, the statute of limitations is long past.
Chapter 64: Poled
Thursday, April 16, 1987 Shultz trip ends with optimism
I walked over to the Bone for dinner, tired from waking up, student teaching, and using my poor, abused brain.
The whole house was on the front lawn surrounding the large tree between us and Triangle. They were shouting, cheering and hollering “Is she worth it?” I walked up the steps and across the yard and saw Chumpy tied to the tree, stripped to his boxers and covered with all kinds of shit. Eggs were broken in his hair, kitchen grease smeared all over him, I can’t even guess what else (and to this day I don’t want to know!)
Chumpy got engaged to Becky, the Zeta he met at Homecoming. As a result, he was the recipient of a good old fashioned Poling! Lots of houses did it, usually for engagements, but sometimes for royally fucking up.
Flounder stood to the side, supplying Chumpy with beer when he wanted it (or when the Hood demanded he chug) and a bottle of Jack for shots.
I stood near the back and hoped no one would grab me.
From the April 16, 1987 Collegian
The Hood pelted Chumpy with tomatoes, beer, all kinds of various projectiles. Some guys yelled “What were you thinking?” but most chanted “Is she worth it? Is she worth it?” It was a lot of fun to watch, and I chanted along. [To my shame now]
After a while, Becky appeared wearing a nice top and a tan skirt. She thought it was funny too. Chumpy managed to babble “love you” then she leaned in as close as she could without getting shit on her and kissed him. The kiss was the signal for it all to stop, and so it did. A couple of pledges were directed to untie him as the Hood scattered in all directions, each fearing that Chumpy would tackle them.
As soon as he was untied, Chumpy grabbed Becky, gave her a big hug and kissed her. They held each other for a while before Chumpy staggered off looking for vengeance and Becky went looking for a towel.
Sunday, February 28, 2021
I'm very sentimental; sometimes about weird things.
Back in early 1991, I was an emotional wreck. I was still recovering mentally from my first suicide attempt (November 1, 1990), and was lonely as hell. I was seeking connection, feeling- anything (and the massive amounts of alcohol weren't doing the job!) I was dating a girl I waited on at Fridays. She was a student at Immaculata College, and was quite nice.
I decided one night that I wanted to buy a new pillow- one that was so big and soft that my head would sink into it to the point of being swallowed up. This girl came along with me as we searched the King of Prussia mall. As I knew nothing about pillows, she was very helpful. Eventually I settled on one from JC Penny's. The relationship didn't last long, but the pillow lasted.
The pillow followed me into marriage, in moves from apartment to apartment, to Baltimore, to our house, then back to Pennsylvania. Wife would steal it when we went to bed for the night, as I would steal hers, which would end up in pillow fights. My dog Nittany would sleep with her head on it during the day.
And when I was thrown out, the pillow came with me, then from place to place as I bounced between apartments. Many insomniatic nights were spent lying on that pillow, and many tears were spilled into it as my life fell apart.
Now I'm back in State College working on my PhD, and yes, the pillow is here with me. Now, the pillow is quite flat and stained by the tears, blood, and drool of thirty years. It pretty much is useless as a head support. I decided to buy a new one. I still know very little about pillows, but now there are so many types for the different ways people sleep.
So now I have a new pillow. Big deal, right? Yet, the old one and I have been through a lot- it's like part of my soul soaked into it. To others, it's a ratty old pillow, and yes, that's true. To me, it's an old friend.
Some day this week, I will take it out to the dumpster here at the apartment complex, and toss it in. After all, it's already been replaced. Would that it were so easy to dump all the Pain that I shared with it. I'll dump it as I've been dumped by so many people before and especially after transition.
Here I am, waxing nostalgic about a pillow. This is where my life has sunk to, not like my head which has yet to find a pillow that would swallow it whole.
Thursday, February 11, 2021
In conversation with a closeted transwoman (Terri- I wrote about her on TG Forum HERE), she asked about how it felt when I started Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) back in December 2012. (I wrote about that HERE.)
She wrote "That must have been quite an experience starting hrt." I replied "Anticlimactic. I didn't notice changes but others did. The first "felt" effect was pain in my pectoral areas."
I thought about it, and it's been a while since I wrote about this (HERE for example). Like, many years. I forgot how much of a "Holy Grail" HRT is for so many. Funny what one takes for granted after a long time. Of all things, HRT.
So, what was it like?
As anyone can tell you, it's a slow process. First, the drugs have to build up in your system, then they take effect. Like a cisgender girl, the effect is then gradual. I didn't just wake up one day with big boobs! (That would've been hard to explain!)
The first thing I felt was a sense of calm as the testosterone weakened. My anger flares weren't as constant. I had a haircut for my trial in September, but was letting it grow out since. I'm guessing the hormones were taking effect, as people said I looked different. They asked me if I was losing weight (I was, but not much.) I'm guessing the main reason for their comments were my skin "softening."
Early February 2013, I felt a, well, thickness under my nipples. They began to hurt a little. The pain would become a familiar one. That was my breasts budding. As they grew, it continued to hurt. Not badly, but noticeable. I started wearing t-shirts under the polo shirts I'd wear to work. Soon, they wouldn't be enough either- the nipples were protruding. No one said anything, but I noticed. I invested in some pressure shirts people use for exercising.
May 18, 2013: first time out without forms
Wearing a bra without forms was a watershed moment (wrote about it HERE).
As the date I chose grew closer, I learned that one pressure shirt wasn't doing the job any more- so I started wearing two. Ugh. I also wore baggier shirts when at work to "cover" my breast development. people didn't notice my skin softening. I told people I was growing out my hair to donate it to "Locks of Love."
January 2021. I think the HRT worked!
Now it's been eight years. Having breasts is something I'm used to- but am still thrilled to have! Some people say my face changed a little, but I don't see it. In any case, it's been one hell of a ride!
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
As is the norm, it seems, to this level of classes, the first class or two is all about learning about each other and what we know about the class topic coming in.
This is from a class on Globalization and Lifelong learning, which is a required course in my PhD program, but I would've taken anyway. Most of the class come from other countries, and/or are people of color. The professor grew up in Africa. I will a learn a lot from this class, as they will have very different POV than mine. To my knowledge, I'm the only transgender person in the class. Maybe they can learn something from me?
The first week's reading concerns anti-colonial works of the 50s and 60s African independence movements. I, who claim to love history, know so little of that topic. I'm ashamed.
Pattee library, March 2020
In any case, the professor asked a few questions of us which we were to put into our "reading journals" and also share with the class if we wished. What follows are my answers.
a) Take some time and think about the key theme/s and/or sub-themes of this course (feel free to consider the ones on #2) [globalisation and Lifelong Learning]. Do they trigger any emotions? Do they trigger any thoughts that are of value and/or at least of intellectual interest to you?
Globalization- that which our country ignored for four years. Yes, it triggers emotions. Regret, anger, pain- how could “reasonable” people vote for this? As long as racism exists, there can be no globalization. Lots of other “isms” and “phobias” hold us back as well- sexism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, elitism, and, in so many ways, capitalism. Yet, none hold us back as much as racism- that belief that one group of humans is superior to another group due to skin color or national origin.
Lifelong learning should be a given. Learning never stops, whether one acknowledges it or not. So many people think that when they end their formal education, they can just shut off their minds. That is how we get the ills of the world- we refuse to learn.
b) Your point of departure: where are you, currently, in relation to your knowledge and interest about these (sub)themes?
I am aware of my privilege as a person of northern European descent living in the US, and I know what it means to lose privilege. I’m always ready to learn more about how I can help eliminate that privilege. I think I’ll just be quiet and listen, because as a daughter of colonizers, I have a lot to learn.
c) Your destination: what would you like to hear others say about you, after taking this course, when you produce an academic/professional piece or even an initiative that touches on the issues surrounding these (sub)themes?
I always assume the worse- the reasons are long and tedious. I hope people would say “she tried to make the world a better place for all.” I think they’ll say “she failed.”
That last bit, I didn't share. They don't need to hear me whining.
I'm humbled being in the presence of scholars from around the world. I am in awe of them. For almost all of them, English is not their native tongue, yet they are mastering the material in English. I can barely understand and keep up with the work, and English is my native language! They are all so much smarter than me. In so many ways, they are far wiser as well. They've experienced things and cultures that I never will.
I think that's a good thing- that I understand how much I don't know.