Brotherly Love or Brotherly Shove: The Eternal Dilemma

Posted: February 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

In an earlier post, I talked a lot about the valuable childhood lesson I learned with regard to racial stereotyping (not all 6’5″ black 6th graders are good at basketball). In college, I learned another valuable lesson on this same subject: fairly flamboyant gay men can proudly be rednecks and members of southern fraternities with reputations for being white trash. I only learned that lesson because at an early-year barbeque sponsored by the Greek Life Office (GLO), I got to talking to my college’s then-brand new Greek Life director and he matched the above description. Other than that unique biographical sketch, he’s only relevant for one reason (and no, he’s not a facebook friend and probably never would be). That reason is a statement he made to me at that barbeque. Amidst our casual and ultimately highly political banter (GLO directors are the people who determine if your house gets taken away when some idiot freshman invariably pre-games too hard and then pukes upon arrival at your kick-off party, so it’s important to be on their good side), I raised the question, “Were you in a fraternity?” The director shot me a rather quizzical glance and quickly responded in a corrective tone, “what fraternity am I in…Brotherhood is eternal.” Yup, he dropped the eternality bomb.

At the time, I recall going back and using that line on my more ironically-inclined friends–fraternity brothers and non-Greeks alike. The remark was just the sort of thing that would have dissuaded me from going Greek at schools whose populations consisted of people whose sense of humor and perspective proved less sophisticated. Indeed, comments resembling the one uttered by the strangely-bearded, woefully-dressed (as I said, my man broke all sorts of stereotypes) residential education professional were the very sorts of things that sensible bros are careful to debunk when presenting the counter-narrative to non-believers in defense of their own, post-modern Greek experience. “We’re like, a frat for guys who wouldn’t join frats anywhere else,” is a common argument employed in the defense of one’s decision to join a house at more intellectually prominent institutions. There’s also the full-throated defense of brotherhood in which you regularly go shirtless and talk overtly and at length about the cruelty and homoerotic nature of your initiation process, but simultaneously use subtle hints and an ironic tone, to ultimately convince your skeptical interlocutor that you understand the sadistic and societally-maligned excesses that have historically been associated with Greek Life in the minds of the broader culture.

Conversations like the one I had that day with the Greek Life Director can be relayed in all sorts of ways as just the nuggets necessary for convincing both yourself and the doubters in your European Intellectual History seminar that you transcend the prototype associated with the average frat bro. Yet, in truth, there are moments in my college experience and in the now nearly three years since graduating that I have wanted to believe in some of those supposed stigmas. I’ve wanted to believe that there was some bond shared with each and every guy I encountered in my time in the frat. I’ve wanted to believe that if I ever ran for political office, 75 of them would show up on the weekend before the primary and hold up lawn signs around the district. I’ve wanted to believe that our times together would have been so formative that thirty years from now my kid would have no problem getting his first job out of college. I’ve wanted to believe, for lack of a more worldly term, that brotherhood was eternal. At the peak of my romanticization, I even wanted to convince myself that I’d help someone who wasn’t associated with my particular chapter of the national organization.

But, let’s be serious. Most of the time, my head inhabits a more realistic and critically-thinking universe and while it is true that an overwhelming majority of my closest college friends came from that fraternity, it is also true that there were individuals associated with the house whom I didn’t hold in the highest regard. The common bond of a pledge process and shared rites of passage on campus made it heard to loathe anyone and if there was a person I genuinely disliked, there’s a good chance I never friended them in the first place. That being said, among the roughly 150-175 brothers I associated with in some capacity in my three years on campus, there were certainly a bare minimum of I’d guess 20-30 who I didn’t consider friends in any way and whom I certainly don’t consider friends now. There were younger pledges who seemed annoying during the three times we spoke. There were older brothers who had essentially disassociated from the house and didn’t seem all that cool to begin with. The list could probably go on at some length.

Overwhelmingly, the house produced quality guys and I don’t regret for a second joining it. It remained perhaps the single most important and positive influence on my college career. It’s for that reason, I suppose, that I was so reluctant throughout the first month of this process to lay the de-friending axe on old-time bros. But now, as I’m on the 30th day of this experiment with 260 or so cuts left to make, hard decisions have to be made. And the reality is that if I was closer with a dude in another frat, he’s sticking around and the one I didn’t have much of a relationship with in my own house is getting thrown off the virtual plank. That may seem obvious to the non-Greeks out there in particular, but for many of the same reasons I’ve discussed in the past, it’s not. I’m biased, but my house in particular attracted an inordinate amount of likely FBT’s and 25 years from now, I suspect I could drop the eternal connection bomb (albeit in different terms) with some success. My hope is that if I do so, they won’t ever have found out about this blog. I will still give bros a close look when making cuts, but I have come to the executive decision that they will not be unequivocally spared from this process and today I cut my first one.

He was two years older than me, not very involved with the house, and frankly lacked the necessary sense of debauchery that I sought in a second semester senior. We did a play together for the carnival that occurred on campus each spring (I believe I’ve referenced this in different posts) and that was my only association with him really. SInce he was the lone senior in the production, he somehow took it upon himself to play hero and police myself and fellow younger brothers who apparently had a bit too much fun and lacked the necessary focus that the director, a senior from our sister sorority, sought to instill during rehearsals. His hero complex in the lead-up to that one act kids show will, unfortunately, go down as his lasting legacy in terms of my memory. Prior to it, he was a perfectly decent, if slightly bland, dude. He might have even stuck around for another couple hundred cuts, but at this point, I need to make hard decisions. My facebook page, like the global economy, has really entered an age of austerity and cuts need to be made. So, heroic amateur actor bro, you’re gone. Oh, and just so no one feels left out, the director of that show, yeah, she got unfriended too.

Cuts (I think): 234. Cuts to Go: 266. Follow along on twitter @500fewerfriends, continue spreading the word, and keep your feedback coming. Many cut descriptions forthcoming. Be on the look out.

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Comments
  1. ya momz says:

    why people don’t read your blog:

    1) your posts are too long
    2) you dont post frequently enough
    2) no one cares
    3) no one cares

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