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The worst kept secret of Greek life is that our propensity for some amazingly terrible health decisions that usually result in glory, can cause us to have to have some opponents. Without fail, we will always have several people in our lives who are shocked or disgusted by the idea of getting so drunk that we attempt to re-enact Steven Seagal movie fight scenes in the middle of the quad at noon on a Tuesday. Generally, the person most disgusted by your habits will be your doctor, as he is legally obligated to tell you you’re having too much fun. There are other people who will fear for your life. Your dad will probably have some PTSD-style flashbacks to his own college years that cause him to question your life. Your mom will likely begin to fear having to add columns to the family budget entitled “Foreign Bribes” and “Domestic Bail.” Your friends will probably start to tire of hearing about why there’s a warrant out for your arrest in Gary, Indiana. And, of course, there are always the geeds on campus who will try their damnedest to outlaw fun and sunshine in lieu of living in the library and majoring in things like engineering. Here’s a cheat sheet to quelling the unwashed masses.
He is legally bound to tell you the risks of snorting an Addy, downing a bottle of the Admiral, attempting to challenge your rival school’s mascot to fisticuffs, and having to be repeatedly hit with a taser to prevent said fisticuffs. Don’t hate him for wanting to keep his job. He makes great money and probably has a sick car, and he probably wants to keep those, so don’t bother arguing over your tin/pack a day tobacco habit with him. Just smile, nod, and remember this dude has to grab your junk for a living.
Depending on if your parents were Greek or not, there are different approaches to this. If your dad was Greek, he’s likely not going to have a problem with it once you’re done pledging. This is normal. He remembers those days like an Iraqi does Desert Storm. If your mom was Greek, she’s probably just worried you’re going to catch Super AIDS from that Delta that was eyeing you all Tuesday night at the bar. Remind your mom that she signed the permission slip so that you could learn what condoms were, and this should be fine.
Now, if your parents weren’t Greek, it’ll be more like this. Your dad will need to be reminded of all the benefits fraternity men have after college such as networking and the best stories to tell at weddings. You have to focus any conversation on the future with him. Your mom is a more difficult sell, because she probably has seen every chain email about hazing, binge drinking, smoking, dipping, and sex in existence, and will constantly fear that her poor, sweet child is being corrupted. This will pretty much amount to you having to learn to talk about absolutely nothing for extended periods of time and learn a trick called ‘selective description.’ You can mention that you went bowling with your brothers, just leave out the part about the pitchers of beer and wager of a naked lap for the last place finisher. You can mention your philanthropy whiffle ball tournament, but you shouldn’t mention playing after a pregame you refer to as Rum-springa, much less the concussion you got from attempting to truck the first baseman only to get thrown on your ass, because you have the coordination of Michael J. Fox. It’s about giving her enough information to feel safe, and that’s it.
Just go easy on the fraternity terminology in your stories for them. Tell them about the time you banged twins on consecutive nights, but try to take it easy on the nicknames and whatnot. You can tell them any story you want as long as you don’t wear out the word “slam.” Basically, think about that one brother you have who consistently tells the best stories. It’s not that he consistently has better nights than you have; it’s that he describes them a hell of a lot better than you do. He’s probably got the biggest vocabulary in the frat and avoids repeating one word too many times. Be that guy. Use a lot of words.
If they’re the type liable to whine about the “dangerous” culture of Greek life, then it’s worth noting that every study out there is concluding that we’re better off academically and in life from the skills you learn in Greek life. It isn’t all binge-drinking and sex after all. Running philanthropy and promoting organizational values are skills that translate exceedingly well to the work world. Being Greek is often like adding a school-year internship in that regard.
As for the geeds who whine about you not taking college seriously, don’t even attempt diplomacy. If they’re seriously going to argue that their mechanical engineering degree defines them more than having a degree and having letters defines you, then they fail to understand life. A degree is a piece of paper that says you know a lot about something. They range from ‘very easy’ to ‘example pledge’ levels of difficulty in attaining. Generally speaking, your letters indicate you cared enough about something to go through hell and back to earn it. There are not a whole lot of chapters out there that will just hand you letters. They have to be earned, just like any degree.
The difference you will have to articulate is simple. That engineering degree will help them get one job or two out of college, and then it’s a matter of work history on their resumes for the rest of their lives. Their degree gives them a start then becomes irrelevant after enough time in a field. By contrast, your letters will never mean any less for the rest of your life. There will always be members of your fraternity out there in every place and time imaginable. There are a lot of engineers and scientists out there. But do they share the same bond that you do with all the members of your organization past, present, and future? No. Either a person understands the weight of that, or they don’t. So, while the hard science majors of the world punish themselves with all-nighters in the library, remember that you put in just as much time as they did to aspects of your life, and those will pay off down the road. Is an engineer really better off than an economics major with a massive alumni and job network? I highly doubt it.