The Coming Out
- Written by Tim Jones
- March 27, 2012
The sun is shining, birds are chirping, girls are wearing fewer clothes and male students are enjoying every bit of it. And then of course, you have your fraternity and sorority probates. For those of you who don’t know, a probate is when a particular fraternity or sorority crosses its pledges for that semester, making them official members and resulting in a whole bunch of people in the Commons Plaza on a Thursday evening.
Probates are pretty cool to watch, but after a while they get predictable. The pledges usually show up late. They have been forced to memorize rather uninteresting fraternal information, which is regurgitated as a modern-day cotillion ensues. Family members and fraternity or sorority kin have reserved seats in the middle section conveniently surrounded by crime scene tape. Yes, it’s that serious. And if you dare cross the tape, someone will be there to paddle you.
The probate theatrics are presented as a boot camp. The pledges must stand in line from shortest to tallest, march on beat and do everything that the “big brother” or “big sister” directs (also known as Simon Says amongst the kindergarten crowd). All of their moves are choreographed, rehearsed and memorized. Now that’s dedication. With all that marching and dancing, they get tired, so occasionally while the pledges are on line, one of the other members will give them a drink of “water.” Sometimes, the pledges will do a tribute to their fraternity or sorority counterpart. Often, the tributes have a little sexual innuendo in them, which is only weird if you think of them as actual brothers and sisters.
And then, the reveal! As if we didn’t already know their fraternally closeted identities, the pledges have donned strategically-placed masks, face paint or sunglasses. Sometimes they even shave their heads or have a haircut in the shape of their letters. As the crowd discovers the newborn brothers and sisters, the pledges each announce their new names and their life journeys up to this moment. The “line names” are really just nicknames and their stories are really just boring. The crowd roars with applause because they finally realized that their friends who have been missing all semester didn’t fall off the face of the earth. Instead, they have spent many long days and nights quietly yearning to join the ranks of countless others. They have bled, sweat and cried to reach this moment.
As the pledges embrace their new brothers, we remember the hazings: 4 a.m. death marches, fire hydrant licking and the walk to Shockoe Bottom for cheesecake and Cambodian breast milk. Having run the fraternal gauntlet, they are officially a part of a Greek organization. They finally have a place to call home, complete with their own distinct colors, calls, hand signs and a clubhouse. So what’s the moral of the story? It’s simply this: Instead of going through the trouble of actually making friends in college, you can get beat up, jump through hoops and pay for them.