Do you remember your “Well, these next ten weeks are really gonna suck” moment after pledgeship began? I bet you do, huh? I sure as shit do. The moment wasn’t even overtly alarming or momentous. It came in the form of simple instructions. “Be at the house tomorrow morning at 8am sharp. Wear jeans, boots, and a white t-shirt you don’t care about.” That’s all it was. My pledge trainer said it matter-of-factly, not meanly or even sternly. It was all I needed, though. All I needed to drive the point home that I was now in his world, and the only way to escape it before my ten-week sentence was up was to bear the shame of independence. No, thanks. I’d endure.
Pledging sucked. And you know, it was the little things of pledging that got to me. The physical hazing stuff wasn’t fun, obviously, but the sessions ended quickly, and afterward my PBs and I would all go somewhere, crack a bronson, and have a laugh about it. It was part of the bonding experience, and we were all better off for it. The little, everyday freedoms that you take for granted, but were no longer allowed, were what got to me.
Here are eight everyday freedoms I took for granted before pledging:
1. Using the front door of the house.
As Townes Prescott III calls it, the “asshole of the house,” also known as the back door, is where you will be entering the fraternity house during your pledgeship. You become a low class citizen, and low class citizens don’t use the front door — they enter through the asshole.
2. Calling the actives by their first names.
I remember receiving calls from unknown numbers and answering with the standard pledge greeting: “Sir, _____ _____ Pledge Roger Dorn…” Of course, most of the time it wasn’t an active, but that’s not a chance I was going to take. Calling 19 to 22-year-old guys “Mr. _____” and using “Sir” sandwiches when addressing them — there’s an overbearing subordinate factor to it that was painful. Dude, you were Scott two days ago. Just Scott. Why can’t I keep calling you Scott? Dick.
3. Dressing casually.
8am class? I’m throwing on the first t-shirt I find, the first pair of shorts, my sandals, and a cap. Not anymore, asshole. As a pledge, you’re now representing every member of the fraternity. Pledge attire, all day, every day. Get used to it. Love it. Keep it ironed. Keep it clean.
4. Sleeping in.
Later, Mom and Dad. You can’t wake me up at 9am on Saturdays anymore to do yard work. I’m in college now. I’ll wake my own damn self up. Think again, dickbag. You wish Mom and Dad were under the same roof as you now. Instead, they’ve been replaced with asshole alcoholics with nothing but time and the uncanny abilities to create chores out of thin air.
(8:05am, front yard of fraternity house)
“Pledge, go move those rocks over there.”
“Sir, where would you like me to put them?”
“Figure it out.”
“Sir, those rocks weigh several hundred pounds each. How do you suggest I move them?”
“Find a way.”
5. General social comfort.
This was a big one for me. It’s something you don’t think about until it’s stripped from you. It’s the “head on a swivel” paranoia affliction. Whenever I was in an environment with actives, I was never comfortable, even if the event/venue was intended to be casual and fun. I would spot an active approaching and think to myself, Here we go. He’s coming over here to ruin my life, isn’t he? This feeling was only exacerbated by the presence of females, because they added an extra element of potential torture. Getting publicly humiliated in front of a bunch of pledge brothers and actives was bad enough. But in front of chicks, too? Forget about it.
6. Watching college football.
I’ve done a poor job of keeping it a secret that I’m a pretty huge Texas Longhorns fan. The first weekend of every October — the Red River Shootout between Texas and OU — is basically a holiday for me. I can still remember the sound of the actives cheering from inside the house while watching that game. Meanwhile, I was in the back yard raking the same spot over and over again near an opened window, trying to hear a score and figure out what the hell was going on with my Horns. Sheer torture. House cleanup was on Saturdays in the falls, every Saturday except for on home games, and it lasted all day long. I missed most of that season.
7. Saying “no.”
From attempting to thwart peer pressure from PBs to being at the actives’ 24/7 beck and call, you won’t use the word “no” much for the entirety of your pledgeship.
8. Being a real person.
Pledges aren’t real people. They are sub-human. They are objects of utility and entertainment.
Despite these sacrifices, it’s one hell of a time.