The Carpet Bagger's Journal — moving from NYC to Mississippi

January 11, 2011

The Mysteries of Messy Mu

A Messy Mu Mixer circa 1939

I have learned that down South, fraternities generally have arcane and odd rituals related to them.

A year and a half ago, my husband Chuck and I were at a wedding of a friend of his.  The man belonged  to a fraternity that had a series of rituals that they enacted at the reception, including the singing of a lovely song to the bride that doubtless dates back to around the 1930s.

My husband hasn’t fully admitted this — think Skull and Bones — but he surely has every sign of belonging to a secret Southern fraternity — I am convinced he’s a member of the venerable order of Messy Mu Delta.

How do I know?  All his activities point to the initiation rites of the group, as they have been exposed in the media by people who live to tell the tale.

For instance, I go outside in the morning, and I see that Chuck has turned the cushions on our lawn furniture upside down, and on the ground, I find beer cans strewn — were they positioned to spell out an ancient Greek message?  Perhaps, “Clean me up?”

I think so.

Often, he shouts from the next room, “Honey, where’s my other shoe?”

But he knows where it is.  Surely one of his fraternity brothers has taken it as a pledge for him to attend a clandestine meeting where the men swap shoes as a sign of everlasting fidelity to the group.

One day last summer, I saw a heap of clothes near the back door of our house.  I reached down to get them into the laundry, wondering what they were doing there.  A frog hopped out, making me scream in surprise, then laugh hysterically.  Don’t you see?  This is the Messy Mu Delta form of courtship.

I mean my husband is ALWAYS showing me he loves me — he leaves his underwear within three feet of a hamper without picking it up.  That says, “I’m your hunkahunkaburning love” in Messy Mu speak.  I find his smelly socks waiting for me on the kitchen table.  That’s Messy Mu for, “not only do I want you to smell my feet at breakfast — I also want to wake up every morning to your pretty face on the other pillow.”

Isn’t he sweet?

I come home and find the vacuum cleaner is spattered in mud.  When I ask Chuck how that happened, he claims he has no clue.  Surely, this is a sign that he has been promoted in the Messy Mu ranks to grand master mess.  I know he can’t tell me, but I’m so proud of him.

Perhaps your husband is a Messy Mu Delta member, too.

Here are some signs:

  • He loses his shoes, his belt, his pants, and can’t remember where they are even when they were on him only moments ago.
  • He thinks it appropriate to wear nothing but his underwear to the dinner table when a sporting event involving his alma mater is on television.
  • He leaves sweet nothings for you — torn up envelopes, crumpled Kleenex, and peanut shells — everywhere.
  • He uses things for purposes that any non Messy Mu would never use them for — feeding the dog in your wedding china but feeding himself out of his lap, Using your Wusthoffer knife as a screwdriver,  Using his t-shirt as a napkin.
  • And the number one sign your husband is a member of Messy Mu — he is entirely unable to account for his actions, or he offers wholly implausible reasons (e.g.  “I had to use the cat as a car chamois cloth because the gas station is closed.”) for whatever he has done that points to the secret fraternity.

We ought to start a support group for women who know their husbands are part of the secret fraternity but cannot get a confession from them.  Perhaps we could sit around like the female characters in Gone With the Wind while the Yankees wait for our husbands to come home — reading David Copperfield from the beginning as we knit and try not to look nervous.  Perhaps we could find something less ladylike to do — let me know when I can come over.  That way, our husbands can leave us sweet nothings, spell out Greek words in beer cans on the lawn, and engage in acts of brotherly fidelity while we find ways to amuse ourselves.

October 31, 2010

Lady-like Sports?

Here's a woman who plays ball like a lady

Again, I report merely what I have seen — an alien to the milieu in which I am transplanted, as odd a juxtaposition to the culture I have entered, as, I don’t know, a geisha at a bowling alley.

I attended a very lively volleyball game last night — Ole Miss’ women’s volleyball (there is no men’s team) met Florida last night, and although they played their hearts out, they got creamed.

During game time, the floor was covered by long-legged, strong young women who could spike a ball through a wall.  They whacked.  They dug.  They slapped.  They grunted.  They broke a sweat that would make the apprentice Geisha in the photograph taken in 1964 to the right of this text melt off all her white make-up and get bruises up and down her large-sleeved arms.

Also on the court during times out were the Reblettes, a junior varsity cheerleading squad, which was all made up, wearing shorts and tight tops, holding pom-poms that I swear look like larger versions of what the geisha in the photo to the right had in her hair.  They were less long-legged, less strong, slightly chubbier than the women on the team.

The house was packed, and most of the attendees were men, young men.  These guys had made an effort of one kind or another regarding their appearance.  I see these men or their counterparts all week on campus, but it was Friday night, the Friday before Halloween, and some of them wore costumes.  However, many of them just looked like men who wanted to make a good impression on young women.  They had shaved.  They had put on clean button-down shirts.  They were wearing more formal clothing than they would wear to class.

They certainly came to cheer on the team.  However, I noticed that they had a little bit more than school spirit.  They seemed to appreciate the spectacle of these beautiful, tall athletes bending over, jumping, stretching.  There was not a man in the stadium who was not paying rapt attention throughout the game.

When there were breaks, and the cheerleaders came out, they gave only a polite level of attention to them.  The young men generally focused more on the athletes than the made-up girls shaking tinsel poufs.

Now, I spoke after the game with the wife of the Ole Miss Volleyball coach, and she explained to me that there had been an effort to invite fraternities to come out and support the team, and they had had an unusual number of attendees.   They had even offered some kind of prize for the fraternity that showed the most volleyball spirit.  That said, I think that the marketing does not entirely explain what I observed.

The Ole Miss team posing with a trophy shaped like a Magnolia -- but make no mistake, they play a hardcore and ass-kicking game -- no ladies allowed

I sensed  that the young men in the stand found the women who were sweating and grunting more attractive than the decorative dancers.  That’s right, women of my generation — young men in their early twenties these  days just might prefer the jocks to the jasmine blossoms.

If I’m right — this represents some progress in gender relations.

I was interested to see that the movements of the Reblettes were subdued.  Hips swayed  but did not shake or jut.  This made more sense when they were dancing to an instrumental of  “Dixie” — a moment of surreal discomfort for me, I admit — but also to Lady Gaga (who is no lady when she dances) and other music that demanded more bootyliciousness.

I guess only non-bougie black girls are supposed to know how to really shake it down South.  Ladies, apparently, don’t know how to bounce.

Meanwhile, the winners of some Magnolia trophy or other in the photo to the left — everything for women down here seems to demand a magnolia blossom somehow —  moved with passion and force.  They were not trying to be cute.  They were trying to win a game.

Honestly, Volleyball Team of Ole Miss:  Florida‘s number 6 was so all-around amazing that unless you had cloroformed her before the game, she might have single-handedly beaten your squad, not because you’re bad — you’re not, but because she seems to have God’s hand on her fist whenever the ball gets near enough for her to spike it.

The young men in the stands were rooting for Ole Miss, but they did not seem to feel their manhood was implicated in the defeat.  Rather, at the end of the game, I saw a crowd of them standing to one side.  Had they chewed on some breath mints?  Had they applied another splash of aftershave?  I think they were waiting to offer shoulders to cry on for any disappointed players.  However, I don’t think these big girls cry all that much.

How did things work out for the fraternity brothers after the game?  I wasn’t invited to the afterparty to be the fly on the wall.

Again, this could all be my interpretation.  I’m a foreigner here.  I find it hard to squat and aim the ball in my kimono.  My obi keeps getting in the way.  If I’m too active in the game, one of my hair ornaments falls out, and the mother of my Okiya would flip out if I lost one — they’re expensive.  I’m glad that not all women are as constricted in their apparel and inner decorum as I am when they play sports.

If anyone has an opinion about what the frat boys were thinking, I would love to read it here.  Send me a comment.

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