You’d think root beer floats would be something we could all agree upon. After a hot stressful day of classes imagine resting with a cool, frosty mug, filled up with quality root beer and topped off with a healthy scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Mira Levitan

And what could possibly be nicer than a root beer float? A free root beer float, of course. It was the second day of classes and we decided to celebrate with floats. And why not buy a little extra and offer them to people passing by our house? Might as well try to spread some good cheer.

And it was a fair success. We set up a little table and about eight of us, guys and girls alike, milled about on the sidewalk. Many of our friends came over and shared an afternoon. As people walked by, we’d ask them in a genial way if they wanted a root beer float. No strings attached. No quartersheets to read, surveys to fill out, rallies to attend or credit cards to apply for. Students stopped, said hello and walked away with a float. People were often a little apprehensive at first, but in the end, we had plenty of happy people and three empty gallons of root beer.

One thing was a little odd though. For all the random people who stopped, not one was a female. For two hours we passed out float after float and not one woman we didn’t know took one. Now, don’t get me wrong, the rejection didn’t really bother us. We weren’t particularly disappointed that these women didn’t want our floats.

It wasn’t that we were turned down, it was who turned us down and the way they did it that was disturbing. Here is a sample dialogue between my housemate Ian and a typical woman:

IAN: “Hello, would you like…”

TYPICAL WOMAN: “No thanks” (Glares through sunglasses).

I: “…a free root beer float?”

TW: (Digs into Prada Bag, pulls out Nokia)

I: “No strings attached.”

TW: (Flips silver braceleted hand disdainfully)

What was so disheartening were their attitudes of indifference and haughtiness and their immediate dismissal of any offer, whatsoever. We could have been giving out $10 bills and the answer would still have been a firm no. And to top it off, often as they passed by, they looked at us, seemingly with pity, as though our efforts were pathetically cute, in that high-school-nerd-asking-out-the-prom-queen sort of way. With every action, thy conveyed the idea that they were too cool for root beer floats, as if to say “can’t you see how lame you are compared to us?”

Now, I know some of you are thinking that girls shouldn’t be accepting drinks from strange guys. Yet I hardly think guys and girls giving out floats, pouring root beer directly from a bottle during a summer day on a busy sidewalk in a friendly neighborhood is at all sketchy. Maybe women should worry at a frat party, but Forest Court?

Last night, the quiet of my street was upset by the piercing cries of “woot” emanating from the rush activities of the nearby sororities. Their squeals of acceptance sounded so happy. Here, no doubt, freshmen were meeting their potential sisters.

A wonderful few years await them, filled with anxiously waiting to be accepted as pledges and then finally sisters. Parties with the rival fraternity. Having your sisters there to hold back your hair. Trips to the Somerset Mall, where you can try out the latest summer fashions. Sharing secrets about cute boys and crushes. Comparing the size of your boyfriends’ sport-utility vehicles. A veritable teen girl squad of fun and meaningful interaction.

But freshmen, be sure of what you are getting into. College is about new experiences, new friends, new ways of thinking. Sorority life isn’t anything new – it’s an extension of high school ruled by the princesses of cool. Sororities are billed as an easy way to make friends, but the friends made are the same ones that no doubt readily acquiesce to the demands of their fraternity counterparts, who actually wear shirts like the one I saw at Festifall proclaiming that “We like ’em shaved.”

There is a direct link between the aura of cool that is imparted on young women by the girls at sororities and the attitudes we saw at our float table. Much like the military, sororities break down individual women and then remake them into girls with the proper shape and attitude.

It wasn’t a disappointment to me that no girls took our floats. I will, however, condescend to say I was disappointed for the girls, who were so caught up in being cool that they were incapable of enjoying a float and could only give a dismissive laugh at our offer. It must really suck being that cool.

Piskor can be reached at jpiskor@umich.edu.





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