It's 8 o'clock on Bloor Street and already they're puking. All day I've put up with the overalls, the face paint and the inane chanting. But the chorus of dry heaves, guttural hurls and the pitter-patter of half-digested puke chunks hitting the sidewalk is too much to bear. Across the street there seems to be less chance of being collaterally hit by projectile vomit, but the bestial roar of drunk people getting drunker follows me home. It doesn't help that I live blocks from another favourite frosh haunt, clubland.
My humanism professor taught me that when the universities were first opened in the 14th century, knowledge was seen as key to the exercise of human dignity. Public education was crucial to the republic, since an educated citizenry is necessary for a democracy to function. Today, the start of the school year is synonymous with pub crawls, keggers and a rowdy initiation into anglo-fratboy culture masked as school spirit.
Gone are the speeches and lectures for the newcomer entering the rarefied scholastic tower. Instead, the first task of new students is to learn drinking games, stupid chants and how to debase oneself and others with enthusiasm. "It's glorified hazing, a kind of punishment ritual," says Julian, a T.A. in political science at York.
Mandatory fun is the curriculum of the day, taught by some perky, pretty girl in saggy track pants with the school logo emblazoned across her ass. Do not be fooled. She is not your friend. She doesn't like you and won't ever talk to you again once this is over.
The face paint, ugly T-shirts, tug of war games, scavenger hunts and tedious, irrational shouting all serve to create a faux, plastic and manic atmosphere of fun and camaraderie. Janina, a recent grad, says, "It's all so infantile, like you're eight years old and on the playground. But in a way it's good, I guess, because when are you going to get that again?"
The forced socializing is most evident on the trademark frosh week boat cruise. For many, this is the most memorable event. People tell you, "Even if you don't attend anything else, go to the boat cruise." Trapped together like Survivor contestants, we all must make alliances. But let me tell you, friendships based on ennui and alcohol are as fleeting as the buzz from overpriced screw-cap wine.
Frankly, I can't make friends under such conditions, and overt and public humiliation just doesn't appeal to me. I'm not asking for profound philosophic discussions, but is it so absurd to want something classy and intelligent over a nice glass of wine?
Still, frosh week is an excellent way to meet certain types of people. So if you're stuck at a frosh event, seek out others who seem to lack team spirit or who exhibit anti-social behaviour. A shared sense of moral indignation and superiority against a common enemy is an excellent foundation for friendship, mutual respect and long-term political alliances.
Sidle up to them and make disparaging remarks about a) your frosh leader or b) the masses. If they're cool, they'll understand. Anyone else worth knowing is unlikely to be at these events. If you missed frosh, good for you. You'll find your people sitting at the back of class, coming in late, leaving early or outside having a smoke.
Outside my apartment on Richmond West, they're shouting something about artsies and "fucking engineers." I hear beer bottles break and the affectionate hollers of the inebriated as they stumble home. I step away from the window, turn the music a little louder and wait for it to pass.