Shawn Leaves: His Brother Turns Deathly Ill; My Humiliation as Rachel Exposes How the Sorority Abused Me–College Memoirs–April 1993, Part 2

Shawn Leaves: His Brother Turns Deathly Ill

On April 19, I picked up a friend’s letter from my mailbox at about 1:40pm.  I strolled through the Campus Center lounge, and saw a bunch of people standing around the TV.  Some news report was on.  I stopped.

It was Waco, Texas, and the Branch Davidian compound was burning.  Wesley sat nearby (sigh), telling somebody that David Koresh couldn’t finish Revelations or the Seven Seals now.  I thought the news announcer said Koresh was on a plane that crashed, but I probably misheard “flames” as “plane.”  They said Koresh did not survive.

This whole incident is well known, so I won’t describe it here.

I got to class late.  I rushed to Old Main’s basement, but the class had been moved.  I rushed up to the third floor, and found the class sitting in the lounge.  We waited for someone to unlock the room; a classmate gave more details on the Koresh incident.

By the way, this happened exactly 4 years to the day, before my wedding.

In the early 90s, TV networks made movies about any sensational story which hit the news.  In fact, they would start work on the movies before the ink on the headlines had even dried.

A movie about Koresh was already in the works before the compound went up in flames.  When it aired, the final scene was missing because it hadn’t happened yet when the movie was written.

****

Some time in late spring, I had another NVLD moment: Shawn and I ended up talking until about 3 in the morning, and he never told me straight-out to leave.

He just kept asking me, “What else is up?” and well, I felt obligated to answer him, whether I felt like saying anything else or not.  Our conversation was very important, though I forget now what it was about.

Then I finally got my jacket on and got all set to go, either before or after he did straight-out tell me to leave–unfairly blaming me for staying and not catching his “hints” that he wanted me out–when all he’d done for the past half hour was encourage me to stay by asking me to keep talking!

There were absolutely no “hints” that he wanted me gone–just the opposite!

Now I had my jacket on and I was about ready to fall over from sleepiness, and yet he asked me once again, “What else is up?”  So I refused to tell him because I wanted to go to bed!  What is this, gaslighting?

I also complained in my diary about some other charges he made.  It seems there were quite a few.  (He even complained that I was “too tolerant”!)  I wrote,

Even though he says I’m a great debater and can take charge of the conversation, I still fall under his spell, and his charges (of anything) sound true, or somewhat true.  Later on, they lose their effect.  Here must be why I finally answer them a few days later.

[Or maybe it’s because I’m an introvert and that’s how our brains work.]

I don’t know how he does it, and anything I say–or don’t say–can and will be counted or used against me.  

I’ve suspected for a while that his problems with me are really problems in his own self, a reason the counselor gave me for someone being overly critical, and I keep suspecting it more and more as I see more and more things in him that he’s accused me of….

While under his ‘spell,’ I’ll possibly try to explain myself, like why I [do something he charged me with], like I did Sunday night; and I don’t realize at the time that I may not even have such a problem.

But I can’t get out of this friendship because of this, not now; I just need to find a way to counter and hopefully stop all this negativeness that keeps creeping in.

Which is ironic, because he kept infusing our relationship with negativity, while accusing me of being the negative one.  I just wanted to have fun with him, not listen to his constant complaints about how deficient and not-sexy I was.  Yet more reason to believe that he just blamed me for his own problems.

However, in my diary, on 5/30/93, for reasons I can’t explain here because they were private confidences, I discover that he was doing to me what others did to him.

I find many revelations in my diary, things he told me which I had long since forgotten, showing that the many things he did to me were a projection of his own issues onto me.

I also find that others felt he talked too much, needed to listen more to get to know people, and once he got his mind set one way, would not change it no matter how much the teacher said no, that’s wrong.  Cindy said, “I’ve never met anybody else like him.”

So this was probably a major source of trouble between us, and why he would accuse me of “having to be right,” when here was Cindy saying he was like that.

I think that more than anything, my problems with him came from very bad timing.  There’s nothing I could have done about that, for reasons beyond the control of either of us.

He even accused me of manipulation for telling him I was a week late, back in January, and for something else that happened weeks later.  But there was no manipulation; this was very unfair:

When I told him I was late, I was very scared.  Though really, it was just meant as a flippant joke, which he grabbed onto and took seriously, making me freak out as well.

I did not know if we had done anything to make this possible, though there were things done that made it a blip on the radar of possibility.

(He also was told things by his married friend which were not actually correct: Things we did back in January made it unlikely, but still possible to get pregnant.  Also see here.)

As for the second thing, which I don’t want to describe, it was not manipulation at all: Something in my mind frightened me, just as his own thoughts about taking me by force had frightened him.

So I confessed them to Pearl, prayed over them with her, and then confessed them to Shawn, hoping for his help in fighting these thoughts.  It worked: He helped by staying away from my room for a while, and the thoughts almost immediately vanished.

How is that manipulation?  On the contrary, it seemed he was determined to think badly of me, whether or not I truly deserved it.

****

Shawn suddenly had to go back home for several weeks.  His brother was very sick because of cystic fibrosis.  When Shawn finally came back near the end of the semester, he didn’t say much about what had happened in his family, so I didn’t know.

****

One day at lunch, as I made a chocolate cone at the soft-serve machine, I thought I heard a faint whisper: ‘NY-S-S-A.’  I turned around, and saw Peter, walking about halfway from me to the doors on my right.

He didn’t even turn around or act like he’d seen me or said anything to me at all.  It seemed too weird, too coincidental, to have been my imagination.  The way it sounded, it could’ve been a statement rather than a greeting.

I suppose he might have greeted me, or just said my name, but if so, his voice was so quiet.  Could he have whispered it to himself–or even thought it?

My Humiliation as Rachel Exposes How the Sorority Abused Me

On April 30, a letter to the editor by Rachel hit the school newspaper.  It filled the last page with complaints about the Phi-Delts.

The Phi-Delts were very upset, and also changed many of their practices to be less harsh, and because the letter gave away pledging secrets (one reason why I included the details I did in my account: they were no longer secrets anyway).

I won’t describe all of what she said, just how it affected me and my own account, since I don’t think there’s much point in rehashing all of her complaints:

She spoke of “psychological abuse,” such as being “ridiculed and degraded” with laughs, heckles, snide remarks and crudeness for not finishing the scavenger hunt on time.  

She spoke of “mental abuse, belittlement,” “cruelty.”  

I noted a few references to me, though I was not named: forcing even a “rather conservative” pledge to ask guys for condoms and underwear (I felt humiliated by this task and not having the option to sit it out), and “the only other [remaining] pledge” on the Trust Walk.

This part particularly bothered me, because I now discovered new reasons to feel paranoid, things I did not know before, and could have happily spent the rest of my life not knowing:

Rachel was told to climb a stairway on her hands and knees, but walk back down; I was “forced to crawl” up and down.  The actives had also gathered an audience to watch us.

Another example of hazing is the point system the actives put us under.  Rarely did the other pledge receive a positive total of points at the end of the day.

[It made me want to cry.]

In fact, it was said that the actives would discuss in their meetings reasons they could take points away from this pledge the next time they saw her.

(All this, and more, because they did not want her to be a successful pledge.  Several members were quoted as having said, ‘I hope she quits.’)

WHAT?  WHY?  Why on earth did they have it in for me?  What could I have possibly done to make them want me to quit?

Me, who never wanted to offend anyone, who barely even knew any of them, and was usually called sweet, quiet, kind, caring, innocent and nice?  I could recall doing nothing to hurt these people!

This also reassured me that I made the right decision in quitting, because, as I jotted in the margin, this was “subtle, but classical, sorority snobbery”–and I wanted no part of an organization that behaved this way.

It was middle school all over again!  These were mean girls, bullies!  Rachel wrote,

Is it really so difficult to tell someone when you don’t feel that person is ‘Greek material,’ especially if you pressure her into joining in the first place?

And of course, what is “Greek material,” anyway?

Why should I want to be a part of a group which thinks a kind, decent person is not “Greek material” because she’s too shy or not a partyer or whatever the heck their bullsh*t reason was, but apparently “Greek material” means abusive, exclusionary and bullying?

Rachel wrote of backstabbing, gossip, complaining instead of changing, harassment, “criticize in the cruelest of ways,” “degrade to compensate for lack of self-esteem, belittle, or abuse others for their own pleasure.”

It confirmed that what I felt was abuse, really was, that I was not the only one feeling abused.  Even Cindy had been upset at them.

Losing hundreds of points for stupid reasons and having to carry Sally, that humiliated me.  And isn’t humiliation one of the determining factors for if something is hazing?

And if it was all just mind games, something they didn’t really mean and something they claimed to have gone through themselves that only brought them closer together in the end–why would I want to be with a group of people who treated people that way as a joke?

The fact that they didn’t apologize for the things they did need to answer for, or even try to explain them as misunderstandings or rumors, concerned me and made me even more glad I quit before I was initiated.

As I told Clarissa, the letter actually embarrassed me because Rachel would refer to the only remaining pledge besides her–and anyone who was paying attention would have known that was me.

This is a time when I probably most wanted to speak to Shawn, but he was gone home.

Rachel later felt sorry for sending this letter to the editor, and even considered pledging again.  That surprised me.  Why would she even consider joining this group whose behavior she despised so much?

But I never considered pledging again, and hated sororities/fraternities for the rest of my time at college.  Claiming to be “service organizations” was just a cover to keep their justification for existence.

All I saw was b**chiness, fighting between the frats/sororities, a bunch of partying with excessive and underage drinking and weed, and guys who were horrendously immature.

Oh, yeah, and the stupid stuff they put the pledges through each semester just for the “honor” to be allowed to get wasted at frat parties.

I was far happier spending my spare time with my quieter friends, keeping up with my studies, and exploring intellectualism and creativity.

****

Sometime sophomore year, Muehlmeier caught on fire.  I don’t believe anybody was hurt, though they were scared and shaken up.

I began imagining what I would grab if there were a fire in my dorm.  I decided to copy my diaries onto a word processor so that if there were a fire there or at my house, I could just grab my discs and wouldn’t lose the many records I had made over the years.

In time, I would discover fireproof vaults, and use those instead.  And later on, as computers got more powerful and backups much easier to do, I began typing everything into my computer first and then backing it up.  I no longer bother with paper diaries or writing novels/letters longhand.

****

In late April, stories of a rapist loose in S–, shook up the women of the campus.  Cindy’s mom saw him in the laundromat late one night; he knew her and was after her for some reason.  His hair gave him a Hitler look.

Rumors flew around that he had been spotted on campus; the Mirror reported a suspect confronted in the library on May 5.  But it was just the innocent husband of a non-trad.

The rapist never did step foot on our campus, as far as we knew.  But the fear of him inspired warnings that we women shouldn’t go anywhere alone at night.

Clarissa and I went with each other just to do laundry, since we reached the suite laundry room by an outside door.  The dorms were now locked up at all times, accessible only by key.  I could no longer use Krueger’s side door to get snacks from the vending machine or visit friends.

****

The Claymation video “Three Little Pigs” by Green Jellö was a big hit.  The band wanted to be purely a “video band” (no albums) and deliberately tried to play the worst music in the world.  But “Pigs” got so popular that they finally relented and allowed a CD to be released.  The song made it to the radio in different versions.

The video was tons of fun.  Clarissa and I had all sorts of fun with it: When the video said, “earned his master’s degree from Harvard College,” I would say, “Roanoke College.”  We imitated both the wolf’s growling “Little Pig, Little Pig, let me in” and the pigs’ falsetto “Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin!”

Alternative Nation occasionally played a favorite video: “Detachable Penis” by King Missile.  It was so delightfully naughty and funny that Clarissa and I both loved it; I called it “The Detachable Song.”

Another video of the time: “Liar” by the Rollins Band.  Henry Rollins, the lead singer, was also a VJ at the time.

This video was funny: Rollins dressed up as “Rollinsman” (as opposed to Superman), begging his love to trust him when he said everything she wanted to hear about eternal love and faithfulness.  Then he switched to a demon, laughing and saying, “‘Cause I’m a LIAR!”

Gee, I wonder why this sounded so familiar?  Could it be–Peter?  (It would again, with Phil.  More on him junior year.)

Index 

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

 

%d bloggers like this: