A Tale of Two Togas

by Abigail Drachman-Jones | 5/17/02 5:00am

I am 21 years old, and I admit, I still like to play dress-up. When I was little, I would twirl and prance around in ballerina gowns, play princess, pretend to be in fairytales. Now, of course, I do not play at such games, but instead different ones, and I have found that at Dartmouth, I wear (and own) more ridiculous outfits for social events than I ever imagined I would.

There is a cardboard box I found in the hallway of my dorm freshman year that has stayed with me ever since. While the box and its contents, in my three years so far at Dartmouth, have consistently sat beneath my bed collecting dust, there have been those ever-important moments when I dragged it out to transform my friends and myself.

In one sense, this collection traces my own passage through college, Dartmouth style. At a school so riddled with social traditions, it is only natural that its students compile the material items relating to these events. The pile of Mardi Gras beads I "won" at a fraternity party; the angel wings I wore freshman year for Halloween (just to be clear, I was heaven, not an angel like almost every other girl); the clip-on, colored hair strands I wore when I dressed up as Gem; the flamingo cup I used for the Margaritaville semi-formal; the water bottle I drank from during Tubestock; even a ukulele that somehow ended up in my room one Wednesday night -- all evidence of my rites of passage through Dartmouth, all snapshots from memory of the College's major weekends and the sheer, unequivocal fun I had. And now to a new and current moment, another chance for dress-up -- Green Key.

I have had only one Green Key weekend at Dartmouth, as the D-Plan took it away my sophomore spring when I was living and working in Boston on my leave term. My memories of Green Key itself, then, are limited to this freshman-year experience when I ran around with my friends with that scattered mentality to constantly have fun, attend every single party, and drink -- every day, all day and all night. Although I have only experienced this weekend once, it launched me on my collegiate path of dressing up.

Here is what I collected that weekend, what now lies in this box under my bed. A toga -- well actually two, because I could not decide between the shiny pastel pink and the bright turquoise blue when I went to Joanne's Fabrics to purchase my oh-so stylish outfit. Three yards of plastic ivy to wear about my head, most of which still sits in a box since my head is not even one yard around. A "bandana shirt" that my friend got for me to wear to the Country Quenchers party; literally, the sum total of this shirt was a bandana with a string that tied in the back, so it clearly remained on my floor that evening, not on my body. The bright red, 52 ounce X-treme Gulp from 7 Eleven that I clutched all day Friday and all day Saturday, filled to the brim with anything and everything I could find as a young freshman. Three disposable cameras, two of which I lost on two consecutive nights, and the third of which I managed to hang on to all day on Saturday. A picture of me biting into an ear of corn shoved onto a stick. And of course, a sunburn. This was my Green Key, my experience.

During this first Green Key, I played like I thought a freshman should. I took part in all the weekend's festivities; from the toga party, to the "Come As You Are" party, to the daytime parties, to the country party, I was always dressed to code and ready to go. And I remember loving every single minute of it. Despite the fact that I could have fallen asleep on the dance floor by Saturday night, despite the fact that my body was not used to the wear and tear I put it through, I played for three days straight and spent every second with my friends. But still, there was that mentality I had as a freshman -- a mentality I find typical of freshman year in general -- that said I had to partake in every single event, every single moment. Nothing could be missed. Everything had to be experienced. All of it had to be fun. And truthfully, it was. Or most of it, excluding the mornings when I woke up vowing never, ever, ever to drink again.

As I write this piece, there are two days left until Green Key begins. And yes, that box has already been pulled out from under my bed, the contents tossed around, tried on and retried a few more times. My room is now a collage of all these items I have accumulated, an array of decorations and dress-up clothes. The pink toga again? The blue one? Probably neither -- come the day of the party I will most likely want a new one. Because part of Green Key is this process of accumulating all the material items that go along with the weekend; part of it is literally playing dress-up again. Maybe this is more of a female trend, but it exists nonetheless, and I cannot wait to begin. The traditional trip to Joanne's Fabrics (and guys, you know you like that one too) and the millions of safety pins you use in hopes that your piece of cloth will not fall off later that night as my friend's once did; hanging out with friends in those hours before you go out (or go to bed); even the sunblock you use for all those hours you bask in the sun, lounging with everyone you know and having the time of your life.

The list goes on and on. Although I am older and distanced from my first year at Dartmouth, I find something quite remarkable: the unabandoned excitement of Green Key has stayed with me. But why wouldn't it? Even though I am 21 years old, I am a Dartmouth student. Green Key, to me, is about having fun with friends, being outside, letting go. It is about parties and dressing up, about returning to your costume box, finding your favorite or most ridiculous outfit and wearing it because you love it. Whether adult or child, playing dress-up never gets old, at least not at Dartmouth.