One Last Jab

by Abbye Meyer | 5/21/02 5:00am

Apparently I'm as clueless as an embarrassed adolescent, a child who hasn't yet realized the world around her. For almost four years, I've resented the Greek houses, been embarrassed of their prominence at Dartmouth and even wished at times that they would just disappear.

And then something happened. For the sake of debate, for the fun of remembering silly in-class opinion papers and arguments that we had in grade school, a friend and I decided to engage in our own little debate. The topics of choice? Frats, freshmen and school uniforms. As a kind of handicap (I like to think I'm much cleverer than this friend), I took the more difficult position; I was "pro."

It was easy to argue for freshmen and school uniforms. The challenge with those was to come up with new points, funnier reasons to hang on to first-year students and plaid skirts. Arguing for the frats, the continually offensive Greek System, I imagined, would pose more of a problem. I thought and thought about what could possibly be good about the Greek System, and then I realized that I've basically been delusional. I'm like those people in the cave stuck watching shadows while a select few see things as they really are.

All I had to do was think of Greek houses in a new way, and I have learned wonders about my misunderstandings, seen the errors in my thinking. I am beginning to grow up, and I'm beginning to see that I've had it all wrong.

The Greek System is like a set of parents. (Certainly, I am kind of a product of the system, for my father, of course, was a good old Dartmouth Theta Delt, and my mother once dressed up as a sorority girl for Halloween). In following this Greek-System-as-parental-figures model, I see I'm just in the phase right now where I hate the Greeks. Probably it's delayed adolescence, and I am the middle-school kid who's perpetually embarrassed by her parents, who thinks they are so weird and disgusting, who can't understand them at all.

I'm well past the phase (if there was one) of thinking they're fun to be around and the center of the universe. Instead, I'm eternally aware of their presence, the shadow they cast over me and the influence they have over my life without even knowing it. I think they're disgusting, the Greek houses. They look funny and smell funny. I'd be embarrassed, I think, to introduce my friends to them. They're loud, and I'm a little bothered by the views they project; sometimes it seems as though they're from an earlier century. Occasionally, I find myself pretending I don't even know them. This can mean only one thing. I am on the cusp, on the verge of another realization, in which I will finally understand all that my Greek houses -- just like my parents -- have done for me. Soon I will see that they have been shaping me into a wonderful adult, that they have been looking out for my best interests all along.

The Greek System knows best. Even though I don't really understand what they're doing for me now, soon I will see that the Greek houses are wise, and we will become friends. I cannot overlook all that the Greek System does just because I'm a silly adolescent, too immature to appreciate what I've got.

The more I think about this, the more the world (at least this Dartmouth world) makes sense. If Greek houses are a set of parents, then I think senior and secret societies must be the uncle. Of course. They are the uncle that lurks in the corners at family gatherings, the rich and mysterious one. He is utterly unapproachable.

I think he's creepy and try to ignore him. But occasionally that uncle picks someone out of the crowd and makes her the center of his attention. This uncle is the kind of guy who can make a kid feel like the ruler of the world when he's got his attention on her. He makes everyone he chooses feel special and important.

I've always assumed this uncle had no time for me. But it must just be my delayed adolescent worldview again. I'm sure that one day -- around the time I realize my Greek houses are more than just embarrassing figureheads -- this secret society uncle will come talk to me and make me his heiress. He will be so charming that I will surely drop everything -- all of my friends and important passions --just for his attention. I'm sure it will be worth it.

I shouldn't underestimate this Dartmouth family. For if I've learned anything in the past four years, it's that things change. One of these days I will graduate from my immature adolescent misconceptions; I will learn to love my senior and secret societies and my Greek System for what they are: nurturing and loving, caring and knowing. They have been here for me, and I will no longer take them for granted.