Fear and Loathing at the Freshman Formal

When I heard about the Freshman Formal my mind immediately flipped to “Prom: The College Edition.” At first I didn’t even plan on going to the Formal. After all, who wants to go to a party with no alcohol? I can’t socialize without ethanol in my system, so why bother? However, after picking up this past week’s Rolling Stone, I changed my mind.

Surprisingly enough, the preparation for the night took almost as long as the night itself. What started off as a just “put some nice clothes on—let’s go” night turned into a lengthy “Hold up dude—lemme finish—I only need 24 more kills” ordeal. Not only were we delayed by Halo 2, but also by indecisive dressers, a sudden disappearance of the shotglasses (they always disappear when you need them the most), and finally with a frantic search for the appropriate substances for the night. Besides these dilemmas, we also hit a somewhat minor snag with the smoke alarm. Apparently, large quantities of smoke set it off, although this was the first time it had ever happened. Then, shortly after the loud noise gives everyone heart attacks, a Public Safety officer comes by to make sure there’s no fire. However, after making sure there was no fire, he quickly departed, although not before sending a roommate into hyperventilation (everyone is so worried about their future political careers here).

We decided to arrive fashionably late to the Formal. So, to bide some time, we stopped by this wild Brazilian club first. Unlike prior experiences at this wild Brazilian club— though I don’t think it’s always been Brazilian; I’ve definitely seen it in its Arabic, Persian and Sex-Worker phases, too— this one was very loud, crowded, and sweaty. There was no convenient way to smoke and look Hunter S. Thompson-esque and even less room to move. So, after listening to loud wailings, smelling sweaty bodies, and just generally being uncomfortable, we quickly made our exit.

The next stop we made was on the corner of the Street. Having been there only once before, I didn’t really know what to expect. I remember from the first time I went that although the beer was good (honey-brown), the place was empty. However, this wasn’t particularly surprising considering the bouncers took an inordinately long time to verify that my PUID was real. About eight people were dancing to a stereo and there were fewer than ten people in the tap room—and half of them were wearing pajamas. Although the beer was good (honey-brown), the entire setup was pretty depressing. However, for the first time in my Princeton career, the club seemed alive. The bass was strong and it sounded like there were lots of people there having a good time, so we decided to try our luck with it. Unfortunately, it was rented out by a private party and the private party was charging for admission. The entire situation was a somewhat strange and ironic phenomenon. I mean, the first time in my memory that this club has ever been close to exciting—and they charge to get in. Add that to the fact that its not actually the club that’s throwing the party and you have an Alanis Morissette song. So, not wanting to be ironic, we left.

By the time we walked out the gate, my “pre-gaming” was starting to catch up with me. Things were getting fuzzy and it wasn’t as cold or wet anymore. Still, on the track that we could be fashionably late, we decided to see what was going on at other places. Heading down the Street, we thought about stopping at Quad, but not really having the motor skills or the inclination to play massive amounts of Beirut we kept on going. Cottage was the next stop and it was here that the Hunter S. Thompson-ness would fully flow.

After fighting our way downstairs, we got a couple of beers and then things started to get a little surreal. I vaguely remember staring at the wall of the taproom for several minutes trying to see if there was a dog in it. After several minutes, I came to realize that someone was talking to me.

“Dude—let’s go upstairs,” my roommate said.

“Ok—let me find the dog first,” I replied, not taking my eyes from the wall.


“The dog—let me find it real quick and then we can go.”

“What the fuck—there is no dog.”


“C’mon. Let’s go—there’s too many people here,” he said pulling me away.

Several minutes later on the stairs back up, I reached the conclusion that my roommate was right—there was no dog in the wall. I was disappointed for several minutes before becoming distracted by the stairs. There were so many of them, and they all led in the same direction: up.

Upon reaching the top of the stairs, I was blindsided by the sound and light. There weren’t this many people here earlier—the music wasn’t playing this loud! I couldn’t really move for several seconds, much to the irritation of those wanting to get downstairs. Finally, though, my roommate broke the reverie and pulled me away from the stairs.

“It’s so loud,” I whispered.

“What?” he said, craning his head to hear me.

“It’s so loud,” I whispered again.

“Dude—stop tripping, its not that loud,” he said.

“Yes it is. Let’s go somewhere quiet,” I said as I began stumbling wide-eyed to the stairs.

Once completing the monumental task of going upstairs (Cottage’s stairs can be tricky at times), we decided to go exploring. Not a regular Cottage-attendee, I wanted to see what the rest of the club looked like.

At first the exploring was fine. The hall and TV-room were normal—several couples in various stages of hooking up were strewn across the couches and floor. However, it wasn’t until we reached the staircase that led to nowhere that I began to worry. Was this some sort of twilight zone? Who has a staircase that leads to a wall? It wasn’t normal.

Walking back through the billiards room I noticed something hanging on the wall—the Club portraits. The format looked like every other club’s portraits except for one thing. Everyone looked the same! All the pictures seemed to blend together. Granted they were all wearing the same clothes and there were a few exceptions, but by and large it seemed like an Invasion of the Pod People. Where were the disaffected Jews? Where were the snobby foreign girls? Where was everyone else? The girls all had straight white teeth and pretty smiles while the guys were all gruff and all-American, athletic-types. I felt that if someone wanted to create a perfect-looking society, they’d want to start at Cottage.

Walking back downstairs after the portraits, I realized that I still hadn’t gone to the Formal. So after several minutes of internal debate on whether or not I should actually go, off we went.

After reaching Colonial and finding it deserted, we realized that in our attempts to be fashionably late, we had actually missed the entire thing. Supremely disappointed, we stumbled home.

The moral of the story: Don’t try to be fashionably late.

Just kidding. There is no moral to this story.