Jul 30, 2006

Where The Scalpel Touches Skin

Like any lancing of an old, long-infected wound, I'll warn you now that this post:

  • Will not be pretty
  • Will likely not be funny
  • Will probably be painful for at least one of us
  • Will include a certain amount of pus
  • Will make me feel better in the long run
  • And will likely piss some people off
  • And I don't give a fuck if it does

A little 'splaining.

Way back in the day, I was in college. While I was in college, I was a lost, lonely, confused young man. Younger than most, not in physical years but in mental growth. While I was in college, I was approached by several guys who were members of one of the only two frats in that tiny, private, ingrown college. And yes, I said "frats." I was told that since I never call my country a "cunt" then I should never call my fraternity a "frat." Fuck that, fratboy. I don't respect you guys, didn't then, don't now, both as individuals and as a group.

This group called itself TAK, and consisted mainly of the outcasts of this public college--the guys who listened to metal, the ones who didn't cut their hair, the ones who enjoyed being drunk. What they were doing at podunk Louisiana College is beyond me, but I was there too. No accounting for how things run sometime.

So, I was approached, with about six other guys, and we were the pledge class. Within the first few weeks all but two had dropped out, and if I had been smart I would have dropped out, too. But no, me and a really nice guy named Bart were in it for the long haul. I'm not sure why Bart was there, he seemed like he had his shit together, but me, I was there to prove to these bastards that I was tougher than they were.

I got hazed. Surprise there. Nothing physically violent, just riding around the campus in the back of a truck in very cold weather at midnight wearing only underwear and shoes, singing mildly vulgar songs at the top of our lungs. Oh, and wearing a blue and white meshback with the letters "TAK" on it, only each letter was cut in half, longways. See, since we weren't actually brothers, we couldn't wear the 'official' greek, and couldn't say the name, so we were forced to say "Tu Uh Kuh," and shout "We're TAK pledges and we're fired up." This was scheduled to last twelve weeks during the days, one night a week, and then Hell Week.

During the day we had to do the usual pledge things, like call every brother "sir" when we saw them, and do lame things like carry bunches of bananas to class with us. We had to be exactly like each other, Bart and I, something we never failed to fail at. We had to carry little blue notebooks which had to be exact, even if one of the brothers scribbled some crap in it. The point being, we had to have a lot of contact with each other, which never worked, because I had a job and was a commuter, and frankly didn't care that much.

We were forced to eat pledge food on the weekly two to three hour-long midnight endurance trials, being carried here and there blindfolded and wearing only underwear in the back of an old Toyota pickup, the pride of one of the frat boys. We always had plege food on these trips, which was always something nasty, like canned dog food (bland and chunky) or pickled pig's feet (nasty and slimy.) We would be brought to dark places in the woods and left, threatened that we'd be abandoned. We would have to chase ping-pong balls into dark lakes, and be told that we were about to jump blindfolded onto a pile of thumbtacks that were pointed up, spelling out "TAK,' so that we'd have the letters scarred into our soles. We even got to meet UPA, a fat alumni whom they called the Ultimate Pledge Adventure; an older guy who liked leaping about, yelling and slapping his bare chest, being stupid and trying to scare young kids. He grew up (?) later and became a lawyer. Suiting, somehow.

And yes, I was a scared kid. I let it all get to me, or most of it. And some part of me still wanted to be part of that, wanted to dish out that sort of abuse to someone else. And some part of me hated them, and wanted to beat them at their own game. And the last pledge night of twelve, right before what they called "Hell Week" I finally got smart and quit. I wish I had stayed for one reason--Bart got to chase golfballs in front of the girl's dorms wearing a cow suit. THAT looked like a lot of fun, something I would have enjoyed, but no, the rest of the stupid shit had finally gotten my goat so bad I simply tossed it all in.

I knew as well as anyone else that it was a mind fuck. A bad one, a poorly-assembled one performed by about six guys who were as much brothers as two strangers, bound by the tri-fold cord, or whatever the secret thing was. Yawn. They were performing empty annoyances in the hopes of binding Bart and I to each other, and to them, in the ages-old rituals of abuse, hardship, and repressed homosexuality. Why else would we spend one night each week naked except for tighty-whiteys? Our health?

The thing that most gets me? I wanted to be a part of this. I wanted to be liked, wanted to be accepted by strangers, to be brought into a sort of secret boy's club, hang out in the clubhouse, know all the secret handshakes. And yes, they had a secret handshake. They had a meeting place, they had rituals, in short it was everything you do as an 8 year old kid playing with the neighborhood kids, only this was adults. Some part of me wanted to be afraid of doing something so awful I'd be blackballed, which was represented by an 8-ball that someone had likely stolen from the Student Union, and stuck in a whiskey glass with some black silk, so that they could perform the cool parlor trick of pulling the silk so that the ball would float to the top of the glass. And me, the scared kid, wanting to belong, went along.

What brought all this on? What, you ask, makes me suddenly need to pour out my heart to you guys? It's shameful, and this is the part where I get to hurt a bit, to get through to the other side. When I was putting together my MySpace page, which I rarely if ever visit, under the "colleges" part, where it said "Greek," I put TAK. I knew I wasn't a member, knew I had bailed the last week, but still, some part of me, some scarred little bit of me still wanted to belong, still wanted to be accepted by a group of men who were virtual strangers. And naturally there was some part of me that knew I was completely foolish, but I left it there.

And what do you know, one of those cretins who pledged me found the link, and confronted me with legal action if I didn't remove it, which I did, because I remember that UPA is now a small-time lawyer, a small frog in a smaller pond, and it simply wasn't worth teasing the dogs for the barking. And, they had me dead to rights.

But in a way, it was good. It made me face that scar, made me drag out my soul and really give it a good look, specifically at that part of me that wanted to belong, the part of me that still needs to be a part of something larger than myself. Made me drag it out in the light and let it all go.

My only regret? I wish I had joined the armed forces instead of going to college. At least that way I would have been given a professional mind fuck, instead of some grab-astic attempt by a bunch of gits whose frat, as I recall, had their charter pulled by the college the year after that naive, lost pledge woke up.


Caffeinated Mommy said...

what a complete bunch of idiots. why would you want to belong to a bunch like that? just to know you belong somewhere? i understand that feeling, and its sad that those idiots were out taking advantage of people like you.

The Ivory Pen said...

You belong. You have always belonged...

Vulgar Wizard said...

You're part of my world, and although it's not larger than life or than you, it's larger than a gnat, so that's something, right?

Nancy Dancehall said...

Wow. This one hurt. I'm so sorry you had to endure that, and then have it come back so many years later. But it looks like you have a lot of people who care about you now, without the hazing and the dues. That's what counts, my friend.