I’ve experienced a lot of people who come back from studying abroad and give you secondhand embarrassment by how pretentious they sound. Living in a different country definitely changes how you think and act, but there is a whole genre of Tik Toks that just makes fun of that friend who comes back home from studying abroad. Trying not to be absolutely cringe, I’ve kept the, “WELL IN MADRID” outbursts to a minimum.
There are exactly two things that I will never stop acting pretentious about since I’ve returned back to the States though:
- I fell in love with Paris. I was only there for a weekend, I can’t explain why I liked the city so much, but I’m absolutely in love with Paris. When I told my friend Beckham this, he laughed and said I sound “like a white girl”. I said, “I don’t care, I will be back in Paris soon, just watch.”
- Frats are absolutely horrid, and I miss the clubbing culture of Europe.
Since I’ve already written about my 48 hour trip to Paris about five times, it’s time to talk about clubbing.
This past Friday night I went to my first frat party since being back in Tulsa. I went to a frat party about once every two months last year, and I always had some fun. There was always at least one memorable moment. Of course I knew our frats were astronomically smaller than most colleges but all I needed was a dark room, loud music, and some friends who would dance around with me and I was satisfied. This is no longer the case.
Frat parties are so For the Boys! In the sense of only allowing girls in, and having weird themes like ‘country club’ that forced me to wear a tennis skirt and walk into another room to find a golf game being projected on the wall.
Madrid clubs are so For the Girls! They respect house music, everyone is wearing an impeccable outfit that you can steal inspiration from, and everyone is always looking for more people to sing and dance with. The frat boys are too cool to sing and dance. though. They must instead linger in the back of the room, leaning one shoulder against the wall and suspiciously sipping their expired beer with one hand while the other hand rests strategically in their pocket. As I stood in the dark room that spelt like beer and musk and I realized that they didn’t move the furniture out out this room they simply didn’t have any in the first place and You Belong With Me (not Taylor’s Version) played over the speakers, I found myself dreadfully longing for Alejandro.
One of Lennon’s quoted sayings is, “vibe is such an important word to have in one’s vocabulary.” Lennon would be saddened to know one of her life philosophies is used to describe the difference between frats and Spanish clubs, but it truly does come down to the different vibes. The vibe in Spain is fun and juvenile and infinite while frats give off the vibe of being showcased and eerily watched. In Spain you feel as though you can have fun, at frats you are having fun, but you feel as though you need to keep one eye open, and that inkling is not just an internal feeling but an inherent problem.
In Madrid I never really had to worry about someone spiking my drinks, as it rarely happens at all in the clubs in Madrid. Once a guy bought Nola and I drinks and when we asked him to take a drink of each one (because they won’t drink something they put drugs in) it was clear he had never been asked to do something like this before. He thought we were asking him to try and determine which drink had the most alcohol in it, and after taking two sips of each, admitted to us disappointedly that he couldn’t tell.
I have good friends at this frat and one of them brought me over some kind of fruity drink that came in a can that I didn’t really have any desire to drink. I trusted him, but jokingly told him to take a drink since he had already opened the can and of course he knew exactly why I asked him to do this. He looked at me with a dry-humor look of disappointment before chugging the entire drink, throwing the can on the floor, and crushing it with the bottom of his shoe, “Last time I try to be nice to you.” You’ve got to love frat boys. He knows the rumors and allegations though. Every frat at our school has been accused of spiking drinks and last year the pledges were all required to spike a girl’s drink at a party. Not to do anything to the girls once they were drugged, just prove that they could and leave the girls hurling in their toilets and booking doctor’s appointments. The school hasn’t done anything about it despite girls having doctor’s notes saying they had the drugs in their system.
I also felt a lot safer on the streets of Madrid as well. I became obsessed with running back home from clubs even if it was in the early mornings of the next day. I never had any alterations or scary occurrences even after running for 30 minutes. The only interaction I had was when I passed a man and his group of friends. He made multiple kiss noises in my direction, which caught me so off guard that I snorted and started laughing. You could tell it shot his confidence, all his friends made fun of it for him, and he shook his head which was hanging low, apologizing profusely.
Even though my apartment is less than a quarter of a mile away from frat row, Madelyn, Blakely, and I have had two weird occurrences. Once, a boy who was obviously drunk kept following us and didn’t stop until Madelyn turned around and started squawking like a hawk in his direction (she had a bit too much to drink that night). Our campus used to have the blue light poles that automatically alert the campus police when pushed, but for some reason they were all deactivated last year so the polls are now used to hold a sign which provides the phone number for the police just in case we forget which digit comes after 9-1-.
Madrid, and the other cities I visited around Europe definitely felt safer to me than a lot of the places I’ve been in the US, but I’m not going to come back from only six months abroad to paint the entire continent in a perfect light. A large group of us went out to the famous six story club in Madrid, Kapital, to celebrate Maeve’s 21st birthday. The next morning we read the news to find someone was at Kapital the same night as us with a needle, injecting drugs directly into girls’ thighs without even try8ing to hide it. At least the frat bros have the decency not to stab you. Needless to say, we never went back to any kind of commercial club like that, which was fine with me.
I feel as though I’m all too conscious when I go to frats now too. Like I’m analyzing the differences in spaces, dancing, relations, music, drinks, conversation, and anything else that can be observed by an outsider. I use outsider in the literal and metaphorical sense. I cannot read someone’s thoughts or know the exact reason why they’re doing what they’re doing, and therefore I am an outsider. I get stuck staring at everyone and scanning the room instead of participating because no matter how much I want to be one of those careless dancers, it almost feels impossible and therefore I am an outsider.
It comes back to not wanting to sound pretentious. Not wanting to tell Blakely, “frats seem so comical and desolate after the clubs in Madrid” when she asks if I’m okay. It could relate back to my problem of oftentimes feeling far too big for a lot of the spaces I try to fit into, but also it doesn’t have to be that deep. I mean, I look across the room and see the boy from my Spanish class who hasn’t said a single word to me in person but always slides up when I post on my Instagram story. I see the girl I met from lacrosse who gave Blakely COVID from talking too close to her face and only remembers us when she’s drunk. A girl from my Spanish class is jumping up and down on a platform that looks like it will break at any minute. My school is a wet campus and the frats are technically on-campus which means two campus police officers are standing outside, checking IDs and telling us to “have a good time”. Imagine standing in 20 degree weather wearing a tank top as a security officer grabs your arm to put a red wristband around it since you’re not 21 that the frat boys handing out alcohol are just going to disregard anyways.
At one point my Frat Boy Friend wanted to introduce me to his girlfriend, a strange environment to meet someone for the first time. In the other room they were projecting a live golf game on the wall. I told him that watching golf was very representative of the party. Slow, boring, and both looked like nobody actually wanted to be there.
Madelyn and Blakely are real good about getting me to be less conscious about life and out of my head. They grab my arms and jump up and down, singing (some may call it screaming) as dramatically as possible. They laugh with me and we spin each other around and do the moves we learned in our Zumba fitness class to whatever mumble rap is playing over the speakers.
Maybe the frats aren’t as chic as Spanish clubs, but the Spanish clubs never had a Madelyn or Blakely, so there’s one thing I can get behind frats for.
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