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I graduated high school thinking I owned the world. I was an arrogant little shit kicker who thought playing on the football team, going to parties and having sex in the back of my car once meant that there should be fucking rose petals dropped on the ground I walked on. In my tiny ass suburban fish bowl, I was the king, and I went out of my way to make sure everyone knew it.
When I moved into my dorm freshman year, I had the pleasure of meeting the kings of other suburban shitholes. We came from different backgrounds, but bonded over our shared douchebaggery. We chatted about our sports heroics (there were some) and about our conquests of the opposite sex (there were few.) I knew that I belonged there, on the floor of that dorm, surrounded by assholes acting just like I did.
Now, I had the privilege of attending a southern state school, and as anyone who has ever attended a southern state school will tell you: you aren’t shit if you don’t go Greek. So, I decided to rush. I admit that at the time my knowledge of fraternities came from gems like “Animal House” and “Old School,” classics that highlighted the partying and mayhem aspects of brotherhood. I figured I already had a whole year of drinking under my belt; this fraternity shit would be a walk in the park for me. Thus, I went to Row and talked to some brothers about my useless high school accomplishments and bragged incessantly about my 40-time and the size of my dick. I give credit to those poor bastards for not vomiting all over my one pair of slacks and dumbass American Eagle polo while I took them on the tour of my life.
Somehow, I managed to fool one of the Fraternities into thinking I was worth a bid. To this day, I’m not sure what they saw in me that convinced them I was worth their energy, but I thank them that they took the time to help a taint licker like myself. I accepted my bid on a Thursday, taking my first official step into pledgehood. I didn’t understand what pledging was; I believed that rush was pretty much the end of the process; they decided they liked me, and now I got to party with them. I chalked pledging up as a formality defined by occasionally cleaning the house and waiting in the back of the line for dinner. I had no fucking idea what was coming.
My first pledge meeting was like a lightning strike to the nutsack. I was hissed at, berated, and told I was a worth less than a pile of dog-shit on a highway. I was given a set of rules by which to live my life: no shorts, no “high school brands” and no social media presence. There were to be pledge drivers Monday through Friday between the hours of 10pm and 3am, there were not to be pledges in the chapter room or in the bedrooms unless invited, the list went on and on.
No one had ever tried to control my life to such a degree before. At first, I was angry at the brotherhood for shackling me with such Draconian regulations. I was angry that pledging wasn’t all fun and games. I, a shit gurgling waste of space, had the audacity to be angry at how the group I was trying to become a part of ran their membership process. How fucking entitled is that? How bad was my attitude that I thought I had the right to bitch about how the pledgeship was set up? I feel like going back in time and kicking my own ass.
What I didn’t understand then, was that pledging was designed to knock this attitude of inflated self-worth the fuck out of me. I thought I was hot shit, until it was very clearly shown to me that I wasn’t. I needed the wisdom and experience that pledging brings in order to evolve as a human being, to forge forth into the world as a man and not as an entitled little parasite. That’s what pledging is for; to show the coddled, sheltered high schooler that the real world doesn’t give half a shit about his feelings or desires. Pledging is tough because life is tough.
So what the hell are we doing now? I have watched as the pledge process has been maimed across the entire country. We have four weeklong pledge periods (I don’t even know all the fucking pledges’ names after four weeks) and safe-ride has been purged from the pledge handbook. There are pledges that are initiated without knowing the entire history of the chapter, and pledges that don’t know the fear inspired by a long line-up. It is no great wonder that as a society, we are no longer able to take criticism or respect ideas that contrast our own. We have attempted to extract the obstacles out of life, and we are angry that we are failing.
Part of me misses pledging. Not the 4 a.m. roll calls or the constant state of illness, but the wisdom that was buried beneath all of that. I miss the shared experiences that made my pledge class and I brothers, the understanding that is gained by putting oneself on the line for another human and the humility at the end of a good ass kicking session. Those are the true lessons of pledging, lessons that seem to be under fire in modern civilization. I count myself as lucky that I was able experience pledging before it was replaced by whatever the hell everyone has now, because lord knows, I needed it..