Becoming an ANT

Courtney is trying to please his father and grandfather by following in their footsteps and becoming a member of the Alpha Nu Tau fraternity. Unfortunately, a few of the current members have other ideas.

Becoming an ANT
By Angela Rasch

“I’m not a frat boy,” I said aloud to myself, while I drove to my pledge father’s off-campus apartment. Although I don’t mind an occasional beer, I prefer a glass of wine to relax. I don’t enjoy or understand sports; and I’m not looking to make business connections for later in life. I thought.

There was only one reason I had pledged Alpha Nu Theta.

My grandfather had been an ANT. My father had been an ANT. They both expected that I would become an ANT, even if I saw little value in doing it. They both had fond memories of their college days and believed what they learned as ANTs help make them successful.

“I’ve been such a damned disappointment to my father and grandfather; the least I can do is become a fraternity brother to them.” Even though I don’t really fit in.

“My pledge brothers are on average a foot taller than me and over one hundred pounds heavier.” I looked in the rearview mirror at my one hundred and twenty pound frame and thought about the pillow I had to sit on to drive. Cars aren’t built for drivers who are barely 5’2”.

I pulled into the parking lot behind the eight-plex apartment were my pledge father lived. “He’s more like my ‘pledge grandfather’.” I laughed ruefully. He was twenty-eight, a fifth year industrial engineering student who had done a tour in Iraq before going to college on Uncle Sam’s tab. A bunch of the other pledges told me they were jealous of who I got for a pledge father.

His face beamed when he opened the door. “I’m glad you could make it on a Saturday morning. It’s about time you and I had some getting-to-know-each-other time. I’ve got a few mugs in the freezer. Have you ever drank a brewski out of a frosted mug?”

I shook my head.

Much to my surprise the “brewski” he served me was a craft brew.

“Thank you. Gee, Tom,” I said, accepting the offered beer, “you reached way up to the top shelf.” Craft brews cost about double the price of regular beer.

He smiled. “I don’t drink more than two or three beers at a sitting. I prefer quality.”

I took a sip of the amber liquid, and then smiled. “If all beer tasted this good, I’d weigh twice as much and have a forty-inch waist.”

He laughed one of those rolling delightful chuckles that start near the solar plexus, and then take several seconds to rumble out through the mouth.

Tom had a reputation for bringing the best-looking girls on campus to our parties. He had the rugged handsomeness to attract any girl he wanted.

“How’s school going for you?” He asked, with what seemed to be real concern. “I saw that you made the Dean’s List for your first semester. That’s not a bad start.”

“I noticed you’re also on the Dean’s List.”

“It’s a lot easier for a fifth-year student to make it than it is for a freshman.” He opened a new can of Planter’s peanuts, and then put them in a cheerfully painted bowl. He placed them on a coffee-table that was close to both my over-stuffed chair and his couch.

I glanced around and noted that his living space looked much more like the house I grew up in than it did like the normal college crib. “Nice place you have.”

“Thanks. The hardest part is finding a place that isn’t furnished,” he said. “The thought of using someone’s used mattress make me want to scream.” He shuddered.

I laughed. “Did you ever have to stay in a dorm?”

He shook his head. “I did my stretch of living-like-an-animal, before I came to college.”

There was nothing in his apartment that would suggest that he’d been in the military. There was a rumor around the fraternity that he’d been highly decorated, but it was also known that he preferred to let that all stay in his past.

He stretched and yawned. “I was up all night finishing a project. Some of the theoretical stuff they put you through in the fifth-year courses is intriguing. If real business is anything like that, I’m eager to get started. What do you want to do when you graduate?”

“I’m sort of expected to take over the family business,” I said. My dad had been telling me for years that I had a long ways to go to grow into the job. He said that I would need a strong tolerance for risk, an ability to learn from the mistakes I allowed myself to make, and the personal strength not to be intimidated. All of which, he said I lacked.

“What business is your family in?”

“It’s a widget plant,” I explained. “We build machines for people that they then use to build their products.”

“Sounds interesting,” he said.

“It puts bread on the table for about four hundred families in my hometown.” I’m not sure I want that kind of responsibility, if my family ever decides I’m cut out for the top management position.

“Are you in line to run the business some day?”

“I’m not sure I’ve got widgets in my blood.” I joked. “To tell you the truth, I’d much rather start a daycare center for the workers in our plant. About five percent of the men are single dads, and forty percent of the women have children under five.” I stopped myself when I realized I was sounding too excited.

“Did you conduct a survey?”

I squirmed, not knowing how much of my true self I wanted to expose, but something told me to trust him.

“I worked in the office last summer and had access to the employee records. Then I walked around the grounds and did an informal study. About a fourth of our employees would probably use the service. Daycare in our area runs about eight hundred dollars a month. Our average worker’s take home is about $2,400. I calculated we could charge them less than half what they’re now paying and break even. It would be a big employee benefit. Besides, the workers could spend time during the day with their kids.”

“Would you want to run the daycare . . . be sort of a VP of Diapers?”

I laughed. He’s really funny. “I’d rather just work in the daycare, if you can call taking care of babies ‘work’.”

His smile put out about two hundred watts. “I’ll bet you’re the only ANTs pledge who would admit he loves babies.”

“Ohhhhh, how could anyone not love babies?”

“You’re a legacy, right?”

That’s a strange question. Because my grandfather and father were both members of Alpha Nu Tau, I received an automatic bid to join.
“Uh huh.”

“Being a legacy cuts both ways,” he said. He was gripping the handle of his mug so tightly his knuckles were white. “Because you got in through that door there’s guys who are going to be pretty rough on you during Hell Week.”

Hell Week was the fraternity initiation period. The university claimed to be fairly vigilant about making sure some of the atrocities that have occurred in the past wouldn’t happen again.

“I can take it,” I said. I can handle a little harassment.

He smiled in an easy way that spoke to the confidence of someone who probably thought Hell Week was a pathetic joke after you’ve been through war. “Look, I served with some pretty great guys who were like you.” He went to the refrigerator and got two more beers. “When you’re in the soup, all you care about is whether your buddy has your back. Who they sleep with is of no concern.”

I blinked. “What makes you think I’m a homosexual?”

He frowned. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that; and my choice of words was clumsy. The reason I asked you here today is that I heard some things. There’s some guys who think it’s their ‘duty’ to the fraternity, or some such nonsense, to run you off.”

“There always some guys. . ..”

He held up his hand. “Life is full of small-minded people.”

“Just because I’m small doesn’t mean. . ..”

“You’re effeminate,” he said bluntly. “You say things that would be much more common coming out of a girl’s mouth. You move like a girl. You’ve got a ponytail that hangs down to your waist. There’s a lot more about you that says ‘girl’ than says ‘guy’.”

I set my beer down on a coaster and stood to leave. “I guess I’ve heard enough.”

“Sit down, Courtney, please.” He shook his head. “From what I can tell you’re a quality person, but life isn’t fair. Some guys think that unless the fraternity has exclusive standards there’s no point in being part of it. I somewhat agree,” he said, “unless it starts to hurt someone, and that’s wrong. I joined the fraternity because I wanted to have an average college experience, even though I’m older than the average college student. Being a bit older makes some of this childish horse manure unbearable.” His face had turned red.

My eyes started to mist. “If they don’t want me as a brother, why would I want to belong to their club?” That sounded whiny, but I can’t help it.

“Please sit down,” he said again, quietly. “There are a lot more people who want you as an ANT, than those two or three who don’t. Most of the members think you should be named the most outstanding pledge. But here’s the thing . . . anyone can blackball you. Any one person can say they don’t want you; and you won’t become an ANT.”

“Did the chapter tell you to meet with me to ask me to voluntarily withdraw?”

“Hell no,” he roared. “Courtney, I wouldn’t be part of that kind of bullshit!”

I sat. “So why did you ask me to come here today.”

He poured a second beer for me before refilling his mug. His pour was in the middle of the mug to produce a perfect head of foam. “Like I said, I heard some things. Some guys got a little drunk at the homecoming float-building barn the other night and said some crap. I thought it best if you and I got together and discussed strategy.”

“What did they say?” I already have a good idea what they said, because I heard it every day in high school.

Dad and I got in a row about football when I was in junior high and refused to play. He said that sports would teach me what I needed to know to run a company. I said I could learn just as much making cookies with Mom. He said, “Fine, if you want to be a damned girl, that’s what you’ll be. Until you decide to play football, you’ll dress and act like a girl from the time you get home, until it’s time for you to go to school.”

And, that’s what happened. Some might think things got out of hand, and others would say my dad was a stern disciplinarian. Whatever!

Every evening I would come home and change into a dress and heels with full make-up. He thought I would eventually give in; and I was just as determined that I wouldn’t. He piled it on making sure that Mom had me in the frilliest clothing. He had Mom hire a cosmetologist to come to our house to help me “look my prettiest”. She styled my hair so that I could pass as a boy at school, but look completely like a girl at home.

But, I couldn’t really pass for a boy at school. When you wear a dress or a nightgown sixteen hours a day during the week and full-time on weekends it’s hard to re-teach your body every day that you’re really a boy.

Frankly, I didn’t mind being my mother’s daughter. She was always kind and considerate, and we enjoyed each others' company. The things we did together were always interesting and compassionate. We spent two evenings a week working in a soup kitchen, where everyone thought ‘Courtney’ was a girl. A unisex name can come in handy.

Dad finally gave up when I was a sophomore, but by that time I was firmly entrenched on the feminine side in a thousand little ways. I continued to wear female clothing when I was with my mother, because I liked them. Mom had laid down the law with Dad. I would never be forced to do anything again as long as she lived in the house, so Dad didn’t object to my skirts.

I acted like a girl more than I acted like a boy, and some of the boys in high school couldn’t deal with it.

“A couple of them are going to be real tools during Hell Week,” Tom said. “They’ve sworn that you’ll walk away.”

“Good luck to them.” If Dad couldn’t break me, they sure as heck won’t.

He laughed. “Listen, Courtney. I’ve given it some thought, and if you’ll let me help you, I think we can beat them.”

“ 'We',” I asked.

“You’re a good guy, and you’re my pledge son, and they’re dicks. I think you need to ‘own it’ when they come at you about being feminine. If you readily admit that you are, what more have they got?”

I nodded. “But are the other ANTs willing to have an effeminate brother?”

“Of course. Did you ever see the movie Animal House?”

“Uh huh. Too bad that John Belushi died. He was ultra-funny.”

“Uh huh. Well, Alpha Nu Tau isn’t Animal House. That kind of thing went away thirty years ago. I’ve done my job as your pledge father and checked to see what the brothers think of you. Outside of a couple of idiots, the consensus is you’re a really smart dude who has a great sense of humor. In a world where shrewdness, selfishness, and narcissism triumphs over compassion, empathy, and inner beauty you somehow come out on top. People enjoy being around you. The word used most often to describe you is ‘sweet’.”

“ ‘Sweet’! Should a guy really be described as ‘sweet’?”

“You are ‘sweet’; and you’re a guy. So own it!”

“How do I ‘own it’?”

“Let’s define the beast.” He rose and pulled a small book off his shelf. “This is the student handbook. It says, ‘Hazing is any act committed against someone joining or becoming a member or maintaining membership in any organization that is humiliating, intimidating, or demeaning, or endangers the health and safety of the person. Hazing includes active or passive participation in such acts and occurs regardless of the willingness to participate in the activities. This may include activities that are a violation of international organizational polices related to hazing. Hazing creates an environment/climate in which dignity and respect are absent.”

“I read that before pledging,” I admitted.

“Too bad they don’t enforce their own rules.” He grimaced. “Those zeros want to attack your dignity, which is hazing and a violation . . . but they’ll get away with it, because that’s how the world works. I think if you report to Hell Week in a dress you’ll be in a good position to stop what they have planned.”

“What?”

“Think of it. They’re planning on getting in your face and accusing you of being a pansy.”

I nodded. “I suppose that’s what they will do.”

“If you deny it, they’ll just keep at it, because frankly, you are a pansy.”

“Whose side are you on?”

“Yours. Ours. The only way you can fight them is by being yourself, your real self, which is on the feminine side. You show up in a dress, and you’ll take the wind out of their sails. You’ll ‘own it’ so that they can’t try to embarrass you by calling you a pansy. When they start with their nonsense, you’ll readily admit your feminine side.”

Is he trying to set me up? Is the entire fraternity in on an elaborate scheme to make a joke of me? Or, is he the really nice guy I think he is, and is really trying to help me. I nodded slowly. “It might be that I don’t drink much . . . and this is my second beer . . . but you’re starting to make some sense.”

“Exactly,” he said. “We better get going. It’s already 1:00 and we’ve got some shopping to do. Hell week starts Monday.”

I had actually barely touched the second beer and felt horrible just leaving it, but Tom was insistent. The next thing I knew he and I were in his Porsche Boxster heading for the mall.

My hand caressed the leather upholstery. “Tom, how much did the military pay you?”

“I was a boot lewy and they don’t get much.” He laughed. “What does every house need?”

“A loving family,” I guessed.

“That would be good, but what I meant was . . . paint. My family makes house paint. One out of every five hundred homes in the United States is covered by one of our paints.”

Wow. “Why didn’t you major in polymers?”

He pushed the Boxster through its six gears as if he and the car were one. “Our family business got too big and went public. I’m prevented from going into the business by agreements made in the public offering. Besides, I just don’t have latex running through my veins.”

He grinned.

I laughed at how he’d turned my joke on me.

“What kind of dress do you think I should buy?” I asked hesitantly. I’m still not sure if this is a scam, or not.

He thought for a moment without taking his eyes off the road.

I feel totally safe riding with him.

“A blue one,” he offered.

He obviously is totally oblivious to the world of women’s clothing. “What store should we go to?”

“There must be a store that sells dresses at the mall. We’re about a click away from there.”

“I suppose I should probably buy something that a girl my age would wear for college.”

“Uh huh. There’s a store in the mall called Sidelines Sweetie. I’ll bet they have blue dresses there.”

“Why blue?” I asked.

“To match your eyes,” he said without stopping to think.

“Oh. . ..” I hope he doesn’t notice my blush.

“Maybe I’ll need more than one dress,” I suggested. “Hell Week does last five days.”

“I never thought of that. Yep . . . you should wear a different dress every day. That will shut them up.”

We pulled to a stop in the mall parking lot. He turned toward me. “I was an officer in the military. I just expect people will do what I ask them to, but I want you to be perfectly sure we’re doing the right thing. I don’t want to talk you into anything.”

He thinks I’m ‘sweet’ and he’s really the sweet one. “I’m sure, but it might be easier for both of us if I just let people think I’m a girl.” I pulled the binder out of my ponytail and let me hair hang straight down. I wish I had a purse with a hairbrush and make-up.

Tom stared at me for several minutes. “Oorah, Courtney. That really makes a difference. You look. . .. If I saw you on campus I’d. . ..”

“Let’s go,” I said impatiently, and then immediately regretted not letting him finish that sentence.

“Definitely blue,” he said. “The color blue . . . like the most expensive properties in Monopoly. You’re classy, at least as classy as Park Place and Boardwalk. We call it 5PB in the paint business.”

Huh? “I’m going to need a few things,” I warned. “I have to have some undergarments. If I’m going to shop, I’ll have to try on some things. I don’t want people to see me in my tightie-whities or they’ll know I’m a guy. We’ll need to stop first at Victoria’s Secret. Then, before we start shopping for a dress, I need to visit the cosmetics counter in Macy’s. I think they have someone there who will put make-up on me.”

“Are you sure you want to go through all that?” He stammered. “I'm thinking that if you wear a dress that will be enough.”

“I was taught if you’re going to do something, you should do it right.”

He slapped his forehead. “Outstanding, sir! Absolutely! What the heck was I thinking of. The more stunning you look, the better.”

“ ‘Stunning’?” I asked coyly. “Do you think I’ll look ‘stunning’?”

“You already do,” he said, and then looked at something far away on the other side of the mall.

When we got to Victoria’s Secret Tom suggested that he sit on the bench outside the store and gave me his credit card. “I should pay for everything,” he insisted.

My mother would have no problem covering my purchases, but I don’t want to argue with Tom.

With him on the bench I had complete freedom to select exactly what I wanted. I quickly found the “B” cup enhancers I normally used and bras and panties to last a week.

When I came out, he insisted on carrying my packages. Maybe he’s reacting to my new curves. I’d used the fitting room to put on a bra. On my small frame a “B” is awfully large.

He sniffed. “You smell heavenly.”

“I should,” I grinned. “That’s the name of the perfume I bought. A little perfume makes the mind see you differently.”

“Very differently,” he said shaking his head. He was openly gawking. “I never met a wookie like you.”

Wookie? Even in my skinny boys’ jeans and button-down collar shirt I’m sure no one would ever take me for a boy.

At Macy’s the cosmetician gave me a makeover using the tones I suggested. When she was done I turned to Tom for his opinion.

“Perfect,” he said. “If you were a recruiter I’d have been a lifer. You should buy those cosmetics. Can you get a book that will tell you how to use them?”

I giggled. I’d almost forgotten how to giggle. “Please give me all the cosmetics you used," I said to the salesperson, "plus brushes and a small purse to hold them. The purse should be ‘blue’.” I smiled at Tom, and then grinned broadly.

“Should we go to Sidelines Sweetie now to get the dresses?” He asked.

Oh my, I almost forgot! I keep my body totally hairless. When I put on a dress, he’ll see my arms and legs. “Maybe we should go to that beauty salon over there and see if I can get a few things done?”

“You’re already beautiful,” he gushed. “What more could they ever do for you?”

He is sweet! “Maybe there’s something they could suggest,” I answered.

The receptionist said that I could get in immediately because they’d just had a cancellation.

“Tom,” I said. “I’m going to be about an hour. Could you stop by a jewelry store and see if you could find some inexpensive rings and bracelets for me? I wear a ring size seven and a size six for my pinkie.”

“Sure,” he said. “I’ll run these bags out to the car, so I can carry more. What about earrings? Wait! Aren’t most earrings made for pierced ears? You don’t want to get your ears pierced, do you?”

They already are. I use a little foundation to hide the holes. “It probably won’t hurt to have them pierced, and they’ll grow shut. Yes, look for some earrings as well.”

I asked the stylist for moderate bangs with a layered cut on the sides. She worked magic, framing my face in beguiling asymmetrical angles. While she did my hair, another lady added extensions to my nails and covered them with a lovely rose. I was done in under an hour.

When Tom returned, I was sitting on a bench window-shopping so I didn’t notice him approaching.

He dropped to one knee in front of me. “The nicest rings they had were all engagement rings. I hope you don’t mind.”

He slid a delicate antique white gold set with what appeared to be a two-carat, oval cut diamond onto my finger.

“Yes,” I said breathlessly. “Yes,” I repeated, perfectly delighted with his choice of rings.

Several people around us started clapping, and then several more joined them. Within a moment about forty people where cheering.

“They think we just got engaged,” he whispered in my ear. “We better kiss, or they’ll go on applauding all day.”

His lips found mine, and he drew me to my feet.

I arched my neck back and strained to meet him. Even though he’s tall, we fit together perfectly, if I remember to always wear heels. “Uhhmmmmm.” We broke our kiss. I hugged him and he returned my embrace. “You’re an amazing kisser,” I whispered in his ear.

Oh my, is that him? I looked down and saw a big tent in his Dockers.

“Stand behind me,” I whispered, while I waved my thanks to all the well-wishers and showed off my ring. “When you’re ready, we can go to the dress shop.”

He took my hand. “I’ve settled down,” he said apologetically. “I’m sorry about that.”

“Oh, don’t be. Your physical reaction makes me believe I’m doing all the right things.”

“It’s not just how you look, and smell, and act,” he said hurriedly. “Like I told you before, you’re a very fun person to be around. Almost everyone likes you, and that includes me.”

We got to Sidelines Sweetie much quicker than what I liked. It would have been great to just let him talk . . .about me. “Let’s look for a blue dress first.”

“Let’s do Boardwalk first, and then Oriental Avenue,” he answered, returning my tease with one of his own.

I swear, had I shopped the entire store, the dress I would have picked would have been the one he found. It was Boardwalk blue, a rayon shift with a bit of spandex, with three-quarter sleeves and a black pattern. Its hem stopped mid-thigh.

“Is it too short?” Tom asked.

“Let me try it on, and then we’ll see.” I giggled. “It needs the right accessories, but they have everything here including the knee high boots to go with it.” I took a size four and a size six into the fitting room and found the six was perfect. When I came out his eyes told me it was just the right length.

“You’re gorgeous in that dress,” he said.

I pulled back my hair to show off the diamonds he bought to match my ring and spun in front of the wall mirror. “It might be a little tight,” I said, although I didn’t believe a word of it.

“It’s fantastic. You should buy a dozen copies of that dress so you always have one to wear.”

He really is a sweetie!

Sticking to the silly Monopoly theme we soon found dresses in light blue, gold, red, yellow, and green. We didn’t find anything suitable in magenta or brown. His taste was impeccable. I also really liked the red maxi dress he found that would be perfect for the ANTs formal dance at the end of Hell Week.

I decided to wear the blue dress belted at the waist, and the boots. I stuck my boy clothes into a bag for Tom to carry along with all the other purchases, which included a pair of heels for every dress.

He won’t allow me to carry anything!

When we got to his car, he came around to my side. He first stuck everything we got in back and then turned . . . to take me into his arms. Before I knew it we were kissing again.

“Did we just get engaged again,” I asked when I got my breath back.

“I wish,” he answered, looking pensive. “Let’s have dinner.”

We drove to a steakhouse and sat next to each other in a romantic booth. He put his arm around me and I discovered that we fit just as well sitting down as we did standing up. I snuggled in close and enjoyed his warmth: both physical and mental.

His phone buzzed. “Fuck,” he said. “Someone saw us shopping in the mall and took a picture of you. Those creeps just sent a text to me. They said that the only way they won't blackball you, is if you blow each of them.”

“Blow?” My hands flew to cover my mouth. “I’ve never done that! I’ve never had sex with anyone. In fact, your kiss is the sexiest thing I’ve ever experienced.”

He took my hands into his. “Your kiss is the sexiest thing I’ve ever experienced.”

We stared into each others' eyes and saw complete bliss.

“I’m not afraid of sex,” I said, “if it’s with someone I love.”

“If it’s not, it’s rape. That’s enough of that,” he said with surprising anger.

“Don’t you like looking into my eyes?” I asked quietly.

“Courtney, I love looking into your eyes. I’m just angry. Angrier than what I’ve been since I left the Marines. I’m calling a meeting tomorrow before Hell Week starts. If I don’t get a one hundred percent vote of approval for you to go active, I’m turning in my pin.”

“That’s sweet,” I said, “but you don’t have to do that. People don’t have to know about you and me. I’ll drop out of the fraternity, and we can fly under the radar.”

“Could I have my ring back?” He asked.

“Okay,” I said, feeling disappointment. “It's much too expensive. I knew you’d come to your senses.” I handed him the ring and tried to keep the tear from falling that had filled my eyelid.

He stood and asked me to slide over to the end of the booth’s bench, although he blocked me from getting out.

“This time,” he said, while he dropped to one knee, “I want to do it right.”

“What?!!” Is he kidding?

“Courtney,” he said. “You’re the most fantastic person I’ve ever met. You’re sweet, smart, drop-dead gorgeous, and have more guts than anyone ever should have. Will you marry me?”

Until this morning I thought my life would be hell, not just one Hell Week, but an entire life of frustration. “Tom. . ..”

***

I was wearing my lucky blue dress. No one but me knows, but it is the third identical dress I have purchased, and there are six others in storage for when this one wears out. Today is a big day. I’m officiating at the grand opening of the daycare center at our plant.

I had finished my degree after Tom and I got married, but I’d switched majors to child psychology.

Tom had taken a job with Dad and Grandpa and was on course to be CEO in three more years.

Tom told me that first night that he loved me just the way I was, and the sex had been amazing. However, I was taught if you’re going to do something, you should do it right, so I had a few things changed.

Next week, when we go back to college for homecoming I’m going to have to pose for a picture with all the other past worthy-masters of Alpha Nu Tau, with my Dad and Grandfather.

I’ll wear my blue dress! Everyone seems to love me in it.

The End

I’m in the final steps of writing a lengthy story and needed to cleanse my palate. I threw this together without a lot of thought. I hope it doesn’t have too many typos and inconsistencies.



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