Upon checking my bank statements recently, only to find I had depleted $800 in a little over a month, I began to separate my expenses into categories: food, downtown, clothes, electricity, and books. In doing so, a $200 void still remained unaccounted for, I double-checked for more clothes that I would have stealthily purchased via ATM withdrawals to make myself feel better but that too did not account for this absence. Where than did that money go? Credit card theft! Charity! No, a little tradition called Mountain Weekend.
Many schools have traditions from running the quad to walking through a certain gate upon graduating or kissing on a certain bridge, but South Carolina and several other schools in the Bible Belt have taken to the tradition of painting coolers for certain functions.
Mountain Weekend is the anticipated tradition and excuse to depart to Tennessee for a weekend of debauchery in an environment conducive for AM drinking, vandalism, and promiscuity. Along with an invitation to a cabin is an assumption that the girl will than make her “date” a cooler. A cooler so extravagantly painted that you would presume most of these girls are enrolled at SCAD instead of the business school at South Carolina. Emily White, a sophomore from Virginia, had "never heard of it, but that October everyone's room smelled like paint and the tradition produced a comradery amongst the girls in my dorm."
As a naive freshman, I once thought that being asked to a mountain weekend by a fraternity brother was the end-all be all of the year, however, at that time I didn’t have to juggle a senior thesis, a school magazine, and a lower metabolism leaving me hours on end to paint “the cooler”. Thus when asked to mountain weekend as a senior, I didn’t properly recall the hours that were logged detailing a football teams' decal, sketching logos, or utilizing painter's tape.
But just how do you come up with ideas for your cooler?
My friend Allison eloquently stated that painting a cooler is “kind of like having to personalize a stereotype.” The coolers that stood out clearly reflected the tastes of the brother as more ingenuity like a certain album cover made for a breath of fresh air amongst the Coors Light and Mountain Hardwear renditions.
So just how did I manage to create a respectable cooler when crunched for time, creativity, and limited knowledge of my date? I didn’t really. I did manage to paint an abstract of lake my date lives on, but ended up putting the wrong abbreviations on it. Oops.
So, in retrospect, what is the secret to painting a great cooler? Carson, a second-year Tri-Delta, says “Paint pens.” Her cooler is detailed in lyrics with a preciseness that would make an engineer jealous which made this unique to her date. Elsewhere, one could use the paint pens to write rules that her less than sober self should follow later, like “Nap at 3pm” and “Shower.” Elise Bebko states that wine is her secret to a painting her cooler as it is "a cool refreshing pat on the back and the more I drink the more productive I feel on my cooler."
And just how do the boys of mountain weekend feel in regards to the tradition of cooler painting? Taft, a freshman, says that coolers add to the anticipation of mountain weekend because you don't know what your date has painted. It's nice to have it, even if it doesn't last forever, or even through the weekend." Will Elliot, a junior, also stated that he liked the tradition but mainly looked forward to what was inside of the cooler, "I see Patagonia all the time, so I don't have to see my name in that pattern on my cooler to make the weekend."
While the tradition, may not exactly reflect the academic or romantic merits the founders had in mind, it is creative concept that most everyone has begrudingly come to value.
And that’s when my bank statement finally made sense, I had invested not in paint pens, sealant, my time, or stencils when creating his cooler, I had invested in a sickening amount of alcohol to make up for the fact that my cooler was the runt of the litter. Luckily(or unluckily), my depleted account and a few cameras had remembered the weekend that my date and I failed to.