Monday, March 1, 2010

Drinking Societies

A major part of a student’s social life revolves around drinking. Not all students of course - some people are engineers. I do have friends who are tee-total, just for the sake of it, and I respect that. I tried to quit drinking once. It was the longest day of my life.

To celebrate our love of drinking we have drinking societies. The drinking society system is different at each university in terms of how the societies are formed, but in the end it’s just a bunch of people getting together to drink and pull. At Oxford, the societies are generally formed from sports teams. Hence, team-dates, or crew-dates if you’re a boat club. At Cambridge, the societies are sometimes sports-specific, but more often than not they’re to do with your college (where you live). Some of the societies are less exclusive than others, but it’s quite common that you have to be shoulder-tapped for an invite to be in one. The drinking societies are either entirely female or entirely male, with the idea that you go out with a drinking society of the opposite sex on a massive blind date hoping to pair off and pull.

A typical evening with your drinking society and your male counterparts will usually begin with going out for a meal. Generally this date is at a cheap restaurant that allows you to bring your own drinks, or which will sell you cheap wine. Or sometimes you go for a meal at your college’s hall. Typically everyone will have their own bottle of wine (white for me … I can’t quite pull off that rouge-tinted lips and teeth look). It’s best to ensure that you have a small wine glass, as over the course of the evening you will most likely be forced to down your entire drink more than once. This happens if someone stands up and declares a fine, for example “I fine anyone who is wearing a dress.” In which case all the ladies wearing a dress (so, all the ladies) will stand up and drink the contents of their glass.

Drinking a glass full of wine in one go is not what I’d call a pleasant experience. In fact it’s pretty awful really. But as it is the “rules” of your date, a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do. The most common way to get someone to drink is a game called “pennying” which often results in a war of retribution, with people pennying each other back and fourth, forcing them to consume glasses of wine en masse. Pennying is pretty much exactly how it sounds … you drop a penny into someone’s drink and then they must drink whatever is in the glass. It’s best, then, to strategically wait until someone has just finished pouring themselves a nice glass of vino and then casually lean over to drop the penny in their drink. If their hand is on the drink you can’t penny them, and if there is already a penny in their drink that is considered “double-pennying” – both of which are punishable by death. And by death I mean you must consume your drink. The idea behind pennying is that you wouldn’t want dear Elizabeth to die a terrible grape induced death. “The Queen is drowning!” “God save the Queen!” is often shouted as you attempt to consume your drink in one go. My, we are a patriotic bunch. Anything for Elizabeth of Windsor! Not logical really, as you just scoop her out of the bottom of your glass and throw her into another one.

As you can imagine, after downing a bottle of wine at dinner, possibly after having pre-drinks before dinner, everybody is quite tipsy and standards are lowering by the minute. The focus then shifts from drinking to pulling. Conveniently, you are often sat boy-girl-boy-girl at dinner, to ensure that everyone is given ample opportunity to meet the boy/girl of their dreams, or of their evening.

On one particular occasion, my drinking society was on a date at the college of another drinking society. After a lovely debauched meal in their grand hall we proceeded to the college bar to see just how much we could punish our livers. I had been sat next to a boy I’d known for a while through mutual friends and such, and when we got to the bar he offered to buy me a drink.

“That would be great, but could you tell me where the toilet is first?” Apparently to Swap Boy this translated to “I would like to have sex with you.” Which I did, but after a bottle of wine I desperately needed the loo as well.

“Sure thing, let me just show you where it is,” he said, escorting me out of the bar and into the hallway. Once out of sight he pulled me towards him and started kissing me.

Ways to handle this awkward situation, of me about to wet myself, and him about to drop his trousers, raced through my mind. There was really only one way forward so I locked my fingers through the belt loops on his hips, gently pushed him away and said, “That’s very nice of you and I would very much like to continue this conversation elsewhere … as soon as I’ve used the loo.” Then pressed my lips to his just to emphasise the hidden “wait here” message in my sentence, and swiftly made my move towards the ladies.

Not just a pretty face, Swap Boy got the message and was eagerly awaiting my return once I emerged back into the hallway. The trick to pulling whilst out with your drinking society is to do it at the end of the night when people are too drunk to notice who you leave with, or have left already with someone themselves. If you are like me and don’t like waiting, then the exchange often has to be swift and probably in public. Hence this being my only story of pulling while actually out with the drinking society. Too much trouble, and I like beds, not floors.

You aren’t fooling anyone if you disappear for half an hour with someone and emerge back in the group at roughly the same time as your missing counterpart. Drunkenly, you certainly like to feel that you’ve got away with something, but really the next day everybody knows what you did. I somehow managed to pull off a James Bond that night, as no one knows this story. Until now.

Before I could say “Hello,” Swap Boy was kissing me and pushing me towards a stairwell. We took a moment to come up for air and he grabbed my hand and pulled me up the stairs. It’s still a bit hazy to me exactly where it is we went. Possibly a common room, maybe a dining room, a library maybe? I don’t know, but the floor had carpeting which meant it was an acceptable makeshift bed.

When having sex somewhere you can potentially be caught it’s best to keep as much clothing on as possible, which is what we did. Pants off, and placed strategically close to where I could grab them, dress on. The excitement of having sex a floor above a group of your mates who have no idea what is going on probably made the sex seem a bit better than it was – which in the end was basically sex on the floor with most of our clothes on. Certainly better than any drunken sex we would have had hours later, if he would even have been able to have sex at that point, and so getting it out of the way early was ideal really. Almost like drinking a red bull, it gets you excited and all revved up and ready to go dancing. Which we did, and then drunkenly kissed goodbye around three in the morning before staggering home to our respective beds.

Not all people on these dates, or swaps, are out on the pull. One guy actually walked out during dinner once, declaring that the entire thing was “childish.” On the whole, however, they are immensely entertaining. As long as you remember to bring pennies.

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