Dirty Rush

As a Dartmouth fraternity pledge, Snowden Wright ran a debauched gauntlet, withstanding booze-fueled indignities at the hands of his brothers-to-be. Almost 10 years later, he’s glad he did.

♦◊♦

At this moment, sitting at a desk void of empty beer cans, thinking with a head clear of any hangover, I am looking at a picture of my friends and me from the night we were accepted into Dartmouth’s Kappa Omega Kappa fraternity. It was taken at least eight years ago. Matt still has a full head of hair. Josh wears the same pink button-ups he does now, and Jay wears the same baggy polo knits he does now. Rick is about 20 pounds lighter.

Despite those bad haircuts, all of us stare at the camera with the genuine optimism of youth. We have not yet taken on the cynicism that will define ourselves for the rest of our years in college. Inside a dorm room during a January so many years past, we say cheese for the camera while squashed together on a futon, smiling honest smiles, laughing honest laughs, all of us hopeful at the prospect of becoming men.

♦◊♦

In high school, I’d been a model student who made excellent grades, stayed home on far too many weekend nights, almost never spoke out of turn, almost never faked being sick, almost never broke the dress code, scored high on standardized tests, could use big words to impress teachers, could use slang words to impress peers, and did not even once come close to getting laid.

At the start of college, I knew I had wasted plenty of opportunities in high school—to socialize, to have a good time, to ejaculate; but missing those opportunities in high school meant I could remedy them in college. I had gotten into an Ivy League school. Over the next four years, so went my thoughts during orientation, I would be able to become the person I should have been all along.

I could gain proper social skills and lose my bookish reputation. I could gain a tolerance for alcohol and lose my seemingly interminable virginity. Those goals led me, as they have so many others, as they did so many of my friends, to join a fraternity.

♦◊♦

Dartmouth was outrageously Greek. At the time I was there, September of 2000 to June of 2004, 23 Greek organizations were active on campus: eight sororities, three co-ed groups, and 12 fraternities, all of whose members constituted roughly 60 percent of the student body. You couldn’t throw a ping-pong ball without hitting a cup of beer.

It was 2002. At the local bar known as Five Olde—in the corner, a Zenith Chromacolor flashing nothing but snow; near the ceiling, a SmokeEater 3000 going loose on its mounts—my friends and I sat at our usual table toward the back, eating free popcorn and drinking whiskey on the rocks. We were sophomores. Over the past year, we’d stolen the banner from Phi Tau and draped it from the roof of Baker Library, hung a pickled pig’s hoof on a string outside the door of our residential advisor’s room, taken a handful of road trips to Boston, hooked up with many of the same girls, allowed a case of pinkeye to spread throughout our entire dorm, patronized a strip club called Cactus Jack’s one town over, thrown up in our beds at night and the next day cut out the soiled area of the sheets, chugged on scorpion bowls from Panda House, and watched on television as the World Trade Center collapsed to the ground. Whatever innocence we’d had on entering college was lost forever.

That night at the bar, we had been asked by the brothers of the fraternity we would soon pledge if we would join them for hot wings, a casual meet-and-greet prior to rush. We got there an hour early. That is to say we were, by the time the brothers arrived, a sheet and a half to the wind.

We nursed whiskeys as the brothers ordered pints. The bartender knew us by name. We ordered next rounds as the brothers nursed their first. One might have wondered who was courting whom.

At 9:00, the brothers excused themselves to go back to the house, where they had to attend their weekly meeting, a clandestine occasion that intrigued us to a very discernible end. That discernible end, Rush Week, was but days away.

I chose to stay behind at Five Olde after my friends left for a party. My decision would more or less prove fruitful: there at the bar, finishing a drink by my lonesome, I met Jocelyn, a woman with whom, like fraternity life, I would have a torrid relationship for years to come. A relationship that, like pledge term, I would consider enjoyable for a while, terrible for a while, but ultimately, strangely, worthwhile.

♦◊♦

Over the course of a couple nights, the entire Dartmouth campus percolated with young men wearing ill-fitting blazers, ugly ties, and double-pleated khakis. The aerial perspective of our scramble from house to house must have been similar to a kitchen light thrown on a bunch of Republican cockroaches.

On the first night, I went by a few houses to consider my options, introducing myself to brothers. My manners were impeccable. “You play first-string quarterback for the football team, huh?” I said to a Psi U. “Isn’t that sort of like being the world’s smartest retard?” I had all the charm of a roof shingle.

Only I could have so thoroughly sabotaged my chances of getting a bid. When I was asked what I would contribute to the KOK house, I told a brother that his ladyfriend had a bit of a horse face, but I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating hay. So what happened later that night came as no great surprise.

After the formal reception, my two roommates and I went back to our room to wait out KOK’s deliberations. After an hour, I was taken into a hallway by a brother whose pledge name had been “retard” spelled backward. Drater explained that, though my roommates were getting a bid, the brothers felt they needed to get to know me better before they could make a decision.

I was shocked. I was not used to being rejected. Well, I was—by women, by bouncers, by editors, and, again, by women. I was not used to being disliked. Well. I was kind of used to being disliked. Still. A second night of rush?! Dammit.

That was when the door burst open. The three brothers came back into the room, laughing and smiling, with a can of beer for each of us. My rejection had been a joke. They explained that the purpose of their little game was to allow us to realize how much we wanted to join the house. Such psychological annoyances would prove to be the bulk of our pledge-term hazing rituals.

Page two: Hazing gets serious.

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About Snowden Wright

Snowden Wright is a writer living in New York City. More of his work can be found on his blog.

Comments

  1. “I will not apologize for having one hell of a good time. Because that’s the point of college: not only to figure out who you want to be as an adult, but also to spend four years being the person you don’t want to be.”

    That, my friend, is the truest part of your entire piece. I was the biggest asshole on Earth in college. I was constantly drunk or stoned. I always had a girlfriend, but I was constantly cheating on her with multiple people. Sometimes in the same night. I was a liar, a manipulator and was only interested in hanging out with my friends and finding the next party.

    And while I’m glad I’m not still that guy, I will forever regard my college years as just about the best time in my life.

    The best part, for me, was that I didn’t have to join a fraternity and pay dues for friendship. We did stupid shit while we were drunk because we were friends and it was fun, not because some idiot “brothers” were telling us we had to. I’ll never quite understand the draw of fraternities.

  2. Well, Snowden, I’m so glad that you had a good time. That is, after all, all that matters, isn’t it? You give fraternity men (and men in general) a bad name. I am at a loss to understand why your work is being published on the Good Man Project’s site and am disappointed that it was. I hope my brief reality check didn’t ruin your good time, you can go back to having fun now…

    • Albert Barnes says:

      Ruin his good time? It already happened you fucking moron. The concept of past tense must be beyond your community college grasp.

  3. I fail to find any smidgen of interest in tales of your salad days, but I have to thank you for reminding me why the whole fraternity thing never appealed to me. Some of us were able to enjoy our youth without institutionalized idiocy and vomit fetishism. I don’t consider you an asshole, just horribly foolish and weak.

    • Wow, such commentary on 18 year olds. And, you at age 18 must have had the time of your life, I imagine, splitting atoms, philosophizing, solving world hunger… I always love when somebody criticizes something they have never experienced. I am 46 and to this day, my best friends are those that I met in my fraternity enjoying the institutionalized idiocy. By the way, all of my friends who were “foolish and weak” are all very prominent, successful and strong adults.

    • Albert Barnes says:

      joe was too busy dressing in black and listening to NIN to actually have fun. just another whiny bitch GDI full of hate.

  4. Kappa Omega Kappa: Kok!
    See, its witty, because it sounds like a word that means penis! Such sly humor!

  5. Your xperience sounds like mine. The respected members didn’t harass the pledges – the weakest and least liked members were always the hazing leaders, the hardest drinkers, and the worst students.

  6. Great piece, Snowden. Those who didn’t join a fraternity just don’t understand. They like to think they do, though.

    • Actually, I was in a fraternity, so that makes me even more qualified to reply. Sorry, Jon. Was I an angel? Far from it. I did a lot of dumb things in my youth that I can acknowledge as immature, insensitive and unenlighted, rather than refusing to change/apologize for them and ruin the “fun.” And what exactly are non-Greeks unable to understand from this essay? Let’s stop the elitist rationalization for boorish, unacceptable behavior and be grown-up men.

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  7. Adam Pendleton says:

    Snowden, your coping mechanisms need work. Looking back on your previous indiscretions as if they have some sort of intrinsic learning value should not absolve you of a guilty feeling. The fact is that you were a terrible person for four years. That time could have easily been spent doing something worthwhile, while still having loads of fun. That is, unless your only sense of fun is found in baseless egotism and being a consummate degenerate.

    Actually, I’ll take that down a step. You didn’t participate in the hazing of others. Ostensibly, anyway.

    You ARE, however, seeming to be advocating the continued practice of hazing. For that, you are more than just a degenerate, you are also a complete moron and a cesspool of ethical failure.

    Hazing is nothing more than institutionalized abuse that is wholly harmful and completely unjustifiable. It runs the gamut of physical, emotional, sexual, and (arguably) intellectual abuse. I’m all for the appropriate use of alcohol, but forcing it on people and making them drink to dangerous levels is just terrible. Some of the other acts, such as the milk drinking, or the beatings, are more obvious acts of physical abuse.

    The forced homoeroticism, sexual assault, and occasional rape is also a serious crime, and talking about it in the manner you do only reinforces the idea that it’s an expected part of fraternity life. The “shared trauma” does not create any sort of a special bond, as you yourself admit. Hazing is merely a despicable, self perpetuating dominance ritual, and one that has been taken to an unnecessary extreme. The fact that you describe it as some sort of right of passage into manhood only troubles me more. Has undergoing hazing and subjugation to a fraternity really become that much of an ideal in male culture?

    I sincerely recommend you reconsider your view of your past. It’s irresponsible and unhealthy to believe that there was actually a point to any of what you experienced.

  8. Sid Almasi says:

    Between the start of the fall term and October 7, fifteen students were hospitalized for drinking at Dartmouth: the chief of Hanover police has said that “It’s going to take someone dying,” he said yesterday. “I’m afraid that’s going to be the only thing that will wake some of them up.”

    In fact, such things have happened at many Greek-dominated schools: one of the more recent was the death of Carson Starkey, who was 18, and died of alcohol poisoning during rush at Cal Poly. His “brothers” are spending their young adulthoods in jail, where they belong.

    I hope you enjoyed pissing yourself and eating vomit, you useless tool.

    • The only time I got myself in trouble drinking was with vodka at an off campus party at Dartmouth for a youth mentoring program. Lets get rid of youth mentoring programs while we’re at it.

      Hell, you could even make the argument that partying at fraternities is safer since they serve exclusively beer and its harder to do damage that way.

      I hope you enjoy scurrying around the internet taking cracks at ivy league schools, wall street, and anything with a pretentious label. Go write a poem about it, you hypocritically elitist tool.

      PA, Wright. It was the most fun I’d never want to have again.

      • Sid didn’t say anything against being Greek. He said that drinking yourself into a stupor and forcing other people to do so is completely unacceptable. As a Greek, I’m ashamed to see how proud Snowden is for this article. Seriously. Way to perpetuate the Animal House Delta House stereotype that all the rest of us are trying to rise above.

    • Albert Barnes says:

      sid, go fetch a crying towel, you whiny bitch. it’s clear you were dumped on more than one occasion for a fraternity man.

  9. Okay, Snowden admits what he did was completely stupid, but he’s looking at it from the perspective of how he felt about it in those days. Obviously, he had fun in those days, so why should he regret something he felt was fun? I doubt he’d do it all over again if given the choice, but he himself thought it was fun and I don’t condemn him for even thinking that today.

    Personally, what he did was extremely stupid and I’d probably never shake a stick in his direction had I known him in his college days, but that’s his life, and who am I to define happiness for someone who looks back on those days with a sense of whimsy?

    Cut the higher-than-thou attitudes and try to see it from the perspective of a guy who should have no regrets for having fun in his college days. It might not be my type of fun, might not be your type of fun, but it was fun for him.

  10. the guy’s name is snowden. how can anyone expect him NOT to be a d-bag.

  11. Wth, Good Men Project? says:

    The problem I have with this article is that its not all innocent, harmless fun. What about the whole thing with calling a woman a ‘horseface he wouldn’t push out of bed if she ate hay’ or the laughing at the thought of exploiting a homeless man?

    Fratboy culture is not benign. Recently there were cases where a dinner society fraternal organization at Yale marched pledges through women’s dorm areas chanting, “No means yes, yes means anal.” They might’ve had fun doing it…. but does it make it right? Hell no.

    ‘Because I had fun doing’ is not a moral argument, nor an ethical one. Its not any sort of justification.

  12. Albert what is with you?? You have nothing of substance to contribute yet you troll this article for days? Very strange… very sociopath. Go ahead and reply with something witty and original like calling me a bitch. I’ll respect you more then.

  13. I am a female student at Dartmouth College. I think this article was really illuminating of the perspective of a male student from my school. I don’t know a lot of details about what guys go through during hazing – mostly just grizzly rumors – but I know that a lot of people are strongly affected by it, and go through it for the sake of gaining brotherhood. Many guys I know describe pledge term as simultaneously the best and worst few months of their lives, something that was special, but never something they would like to go through again. I respect your perspective on your fond memories of college years – how they allowed you time to be youthful and carefree, yet also how some things taught you what kind of person NOT to be. Thank you for sharing your point of view 5 years down the road, because I think I can see more clearly now how a lot of the negative things that go on behind closed fraternity doors can actually have a positive impact on my male peers in the long run.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Dirty Rush — The Good Men Project Magazine At the start of college, I knew I had wasted plenty of opportunities in high school—to socialize, to have a good time, to ejaculate; but missing those opportunities in high school meant I could remedy them in college. I had gotten into an Ivy League school. Over the next four years, so went my thoughts during orientation, I would be able to become the person I should have been all along. I could gain proper social skills and lose my bookish reputation. […]

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