October 1992: Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence

Friends With Sexual Benefits: Fun at First, But Began to Destroy our Friendship

About the song “Give It Away” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, which after a year was still getting a lot of airplay on MTV: Though I still wasn’t so sure that a song that said things like, “Give it to your dog,” “Take what I got and put it in you,” and other such questionable lyrics (questionable because you couldn’t be quite sure if it meant what it sounded like), was something for me, it was fun to play with.  I amused Clarissa by rolling my tongue just right to say “Give it away,” and then transforming that into,

“Put it away, put it away, put it away now!”  I rolled my tongue for both “put” and “it.”  It was surprisingly easy.  So if what he “got” was really what I first thought it was, I was telling him to put it back in his pants and leave us alone.  It was fun to say, and it was fun to make Clarissa laugh by saying it.

(Though, many years later, I heard that “it” was actually stuff you have, sharing freely with others, not what I thought it was.  Whew!)

Each year, Turning on the Heat was the event of the fall.  It usually didn’t happen until October.  Catherine’s roommate Carrie inquired about it.

The administration’s story was that the school’s ancient steam heat system took time and effort to start up each year.  Turning it off again right away because of a return to warm weather would be a pain.

“People would open their windows because it’s warm again and the heat would just be wasted,” they said.  Carrie said, “They said it has to be consistently cold.”

But this was little comfort in late September to cold students wrapped in blankets.  A little wasted heat sounded pretty nice around that time.

That year, a new thing began in the Muskie: weekly open mikes for writers.  The following year, it moved into the Pub, and was opened to other arts as well, such as music.  On October 1, I read one of my Fiction class stories, as suggested by my teacher.  I believe I read other things on other weeks as well.

***

On Friday, October 2, I had to sit with my Humanities class presentation group instead of my usual group during lunch, for a meeting.  Along with the presentation group, there were others.

At the table were Steve, N., Ned, Melissa, a guy I’ll call J.–and Peter!  Only one empty seat, and next to Peter, of all people!  Of course I had to sit there.

J. handed me the sheet with my part on it.  “We’re thinking about having you do ‘Singin’ in the Rain,'” he said.  (We were doing some modern take on Greek plays.  I was supposed to be a girl pretending to be a boy at an audition because girls didn’t act.)

Shocked, I cried, “That’s weird, because that’s just the one I was thinking about doing!”  I think Peter looked my way as I said this.

Soon, Peter said, “I’m going to take my tray up.”

He was gone an awfully long time for just taking his tray up, and, with a partition in the way, I couldn’t see where he went, or even when he went to the window.  I began to wonder if he’d run away from me.  But he finally came back, a newly-lit cigarette in his hand.  Maybe he got it from someone.

“No, Peter.  Bad,” Ned said.

Peter put it close to an ashtray, and the smoke billowed my way.  And this from the guy who used to complain about people smoking in the cafeteria.  I waved it away, sitting forward in my seat and making exaggerated lunges for it.  Everybody laughed.

“See that?” Ned said.  “Nyssa knows it’s bad.”

“They’re all bi***ing at me for smoking,” Peter said to me, “I guess so I’ll quit.”  He knew it was bad, but it was a long story how he got started smoking.

“Especially since you hated them before,” I said.  Then, with a smile, “Maybe you should try one of those nicotine patches.”

“No,” he said with a grimace.  He tapped the ashes into the ash tray again.  “Just willpower.”  He started blowing his smoke upwards to spare us.

We chatted a bit about my broken jam box; I wanted to know if he could fix it, but no, he could only fix cameras.  Then a short time later, after some more chatting, he said he was going to shoot pool, and left.  (Until my dad could fix that jam box, I relied on MTV for music.)

Once he was gone, I said to Steve, “It’s such a relief to be able to talk to him again.”

“Yeah,” Steve said.  “You know, I didn’t even notice that.”  He raised his eyebrows.  “Hm.”

Soon, the presentation group was left, and began rehearsing.  We went through the script several times.  J. was supposed to say at the end, “My sympathies to your father.”

He told me to say my lines in a deep voice, which, he said, would make my “uh-huh” sound like Elvis Presley.  I told Steve I should have an umbrella, and I did a little embellishing of the part I had to sing, trying to remember some of the things Fred Astaire did in the movie and the different ways they sang the song.

At about 12:30, N. had left, and my bosses Arthur and Nancy were the only other people sitting in the cafeteria.  Nancy came up to me and said, “You know, Nyssa, I’m really disappointed in you.  You, of all people, should know better.”

I blanched, wondering what in the world I’d done.

She said, “You should know better than to hold your tray!”

I jumped up, and J. and I took our trays back.

Before Steve came back with our mail and copies of the school paper, J. and I started talking about The Omen, which he’d seen, and the person whose mailbox number was 666.

“We’ll have to find out who it is,” I said, “and kill them for being the Antichrist!”  (I was joking, by the way.)

Steve came back with new, orange directories, and J. and I started looking for this person, who, however, didn’t seem to exist.  We found 665 and 667, but no 666.

You’ll note that the directories didn’t come out until almost a month into the semester.  Every semester, this was a problem, and you’d be stuck without people’s extensions if they changed rooms since the previous year or you didn’t have a copy of last semester’s directory.  You wouldn’t even know how to call the information desk from your room to find out somebody’s extension–if you even knew that you could do that.

Steve lent me a hat, tie, jacket and a dress shirt for my part.  I dropped them off in my room, and began working on a note.

****

I got the idea for the note from an issue of the magazine Campus Life, in the column “Love, Sex and the Whole Person,” written by Tim Stafford.

I wrote the note before re-reading the column; later on, I wished I’d read it first to get the words just right.  But I still thought (and think) that the note I did write was well-written.  This is the column:

Q: Is it possible for a guy and a girl who were going out once to become friends again–to be just as close, if not closer, than they were before?  I’m beginning to think it’s not.  

What suggestions do you have for two people who used to date, but now, several months later, won’t talk to each other?  

A: It’s possible to reestablish a friendship, but it’s very hard.  The more romantically involved you were, the more difficult it is to find a non-romantic way of being together.  Too many feelings get in the way.

A few months isn’t enough time to deal with powerful feelings.  Often a year must go by before you can let go of anger and disappointment.  Don’t try to force a change.  But keep the door open to friendship.

I thought enough time had already passed, since now Peter was talking to me–heck, chatting with me like a regular acquaintance.

The column went on:

A good way to keep the door open might be a note.  It could say something like:

“Just wanted to let you know I have good feelings about you and hope that we can be friends again someday.  I don’t think we’re ready yet, but I hope to see the day when we can sit down and talk like old times.  Let me know when you’re ready to try.  In the meantime, I hope things are going well for you.”

Then, when you think you’re ready, ask your old friend if you might have a soda together.  Keep it light.  Don’t go over the past.  Just try to talk as friends.  And if things feel comfortable, do it again in a week or two.  Gradually you may be able to reestablish a friendship.

I thought we already had the equivalent of that first soda, that day at lunch.  This is the note I sent to Peter:

Dear Peter,

I want you to know I’m praying for you, and that everyone misses you at the Nazarene church in S– (now known as the “Good News” church!).  I miss our friendship, and I think we should meet for a Pepsi at the Muskie sometime (not a date, dear friend!).

I put “Don’t Panic!” on the folded letter so he wouldn’t think it was a beg letter or anything like that.  I checked with Pearl to make sure it sounded just right.  When I asked if I should say “dear friend,” she said, “If he takes that the wrong way, that’s pretty sad!”

The letter took so long that I had to hurry to Humanities class, though I think I mailed it before or after class.

****

I changed in a room across from the classroom, putting Steve’s clothes on over my own.  Steve had put a slipknot in the tie, but it came out–one end was too short.  I put my hair in the hat, and came out of the room.  N. did the tie for me, and Steve made an OK sign to me.

We waited outside the door for our parts.  While N. was inside doing hers, some teacher came by and smiled.  Then she turned around at about the end of the hall, and came back by us, still smiling.  I finally went in with a smile, and did my part.  J. jumbled up his lines, confusing me once or twice.  N. shook my hand after class.

****

That evening, as I did some reading for Sophomore Honors, Catherine and her roommate came over. Most everyone had gone home for the weekend, so they were visiting those who still were left.  I asked to go along.

There was no one to see at Muehlmeier, so we went on to Grossheusch.  In between the two dorms were a bunch of guys playing a game, and someone was running a little, red, remote control car around the parking lot.

Catherine said, “Is that Shawn over there?”  I said, “It probably is.”  We got to the door at the same time as Shawn and another guy, cars in hand, and we spoke to him.

Catherine distributed her “HAPPY” signs: signs with “Happy Happy Happy” written on them, and covered with stickers and drawings.  I put mine on my door each year for at least the next two years.  When Elizabeth moved into the suite later that year, she saw my Happy sign and thought I must be a really happy person.

But back to October 2.  Catherine slipped a “HAPPY” sign under the door of Jennifer’s brother, then we went down a few doors to 212.  That person wasn’t there, so she was about to leave, when I suggested we visit Shawn in 211.

Catherine wanted me to visit Shawn by myself, doing her little matchmaker thing, so she tried to talk me into it, saying, “At least one of us oughtta have a guy on a Friday night.”  She didn’t succeed.

She said, “We’ll all visit, then leave you there after a few minutes.”  She knocked on the door.  “I have a gift for you, Shawn!” she said.  How embarrassing!

We all went in, and her roommate sat in the green chair.  Catherine and I stood by the wall for a few minutes, as Shawn did something with his red RC car.

I told Catherine about seeing Peter at lunch, but she said, “Don’t talk about Peter.  Shawn doesn’t like it.”  As if he even cared if I did or not!  Then she said it was time to leave, and Shawn once told us, with a smile, to leave.  I tried to follow them out, but Catherine turned around and said, “You stay!”

“But he told us to leave,” I said.

“He wouldn’t say anything like that.–Would you, Shawn?–You stay!”  She practically threw me back into the room, and slammed the door behind her.

I looked sheepishly at Shawn.  He told me to sit down, so I sat in the chair.  What else could I do?  So we tried to start a conversation.  It was about 7:00.  He asked what Catherine was trying to do, always trying to get him to see me and me to see him, but I didn’t want to tell him.  “Why don’t you ask her?” I cried.

“Because she won’t tell me,” he said.

I wasn’t completely sure myself, but I tried to reassure him that I didn’t think she was trying to get us to sleep together.  Then we started talking about my day, including Peter.

I mentioned the sunset, seen through a crack in the curtains; he told me to open the window so I could see it.  He meant the curtains, confusing me.  He acted like I was silly, and opened the curtains for me.

He lay down on the bed.  I still couldn’t see the sunset with the back of the chair turned to it.  He said, “You can see it better from over here.”  I wasn’t sure if this was an invitation, so I stayed put.

We talked for a bit; it had nothing to do with our makeout sessions or twisted relationship, but was still full of misunderstandings and my hurt feelings; he said, “I’ve interrogated you so much already, that it’s your turn.  Start questioning me, ask me anything you want to know.  Try to see from my answers, just how I think.”

I didn’t know what he meant, but began.  But he wasn’t satisfied.  Finally, he said he wanted me to lie next to him on the bed, so I could see the dying sunset and we could talk better.  So you see I waited for him to give a clear invitation, did not force myself on him.

He kept the lights off as the sunlight dimmed.  I climbed over him onto the bed, and lay against the backrest.  I gazed at a star; he said it was probably a planet, that the stars weren’t out yet.  I said no, it twinkles, and planets don’t twinkle.  He said planets twinkle, too.

He said the best sci-fi comes from stories with a moral; I said we downplayed that very thing just recently in Fiction class.

He said we now know humanoids could never have lived on Mars, that we know too much about it for successful sci-fi set there; this upset me because of my Martian stories.

I told him that I asked a girl in my high school Astronomy class about this, because I wanted to publish my Martian stories, but we now know they’re not plausible.  She said not to worry, that my stories are just the sort of thing people want to read about.

I asked him why he was voting for Bush; he said he’s the best candidate, and on the right side.  He said, “That’s politics, go deeper!”  I couldn’t figure out what more he wanted; these were indeed the things I wanted to know.  Wasn’t that what he told me to do?

Finally, when I asked why he kept dismissing me as being “as mature as a 19-year-old,” when I was 19 and for years people called me mature for my age–he revealed what he wanted me to probe for.  With only a little provocation, he opened up his heart.

I won’t reveal his private thoughts, just that it was about his time in the mental institution (which was no secret at Roanoke anyway), and that he only told people what they needed to know about it.  Obviously he felt I needed to know far more.  The feelings came pouring out, and the tears.

At the end he said, “I guess this is what I wanted you to find out about me.  I seem to have a gift for finding out how people think, from the simplest replies, without them even knowing.”  He turned to me.  “But I’ve overwhelmed you, haven’t I?  They say not to do that.”

I agreed, but did not answer.  I didn’t know how to react, so I said and did nothing, thinking that might be best.

Then he began asking me to do things, some I was fine with, but some which made me uncomfortable, so I did not do them.  The conversation became more intimate as he tried to get me to experiment.

I followed his lead, though I kept trying to stop him when he wanted to do things I did not want.  He was persistent, however, and I finally let him do some things he’d been begging to do for months, admitting I did actually want them, too.  Things got more heated and…

The phone rang.  It was his parents.  At almost midnight!  He told me to be very quiet, but I couldn’t help snickering now and then.

It was a very long call, with all his parents and siblings, so eventually I got hungry and thirsty and had to go to the bathroom.  As I tidied my hair before going out, he told someone that Heidi called him way too analytical, even more than her!  It was so true that I could barely keep from laughing.

Then Samuel, Anna’s friend, began going up and down the hallway, yelling, “Fleeee fornication!  Fleeee fornication!”  That made it even harder to contain my laughter.

When Shawn hung up, saying he wanted to get up for Saturday breakfast for once, he scolded me: “You were noisy.  I could hear you!  But it’s all right; you were still quiet enough.”

This may be when I went to find the women’s little bathroom.  I tried to get enough information from him that I would not get lost, but he said the dorm was so simple that “if you get lost, then you’re not as smart as I thought you were!”  But I kept having trouble finding that little bathroom that year, depending on whether the sign was on the door.

I was feeling melancholy about Peter, and expected to now move to the guest room in the suite to talk and cry about that.  But Shawn kissed me “goodnight” a few times and that plan was set aside.

I even fell asleep for a time; as he tried to wake me up, he said, “You know, I could take advantage of you now, really easily.”  I said, “But I know you won’t.”  He said, “No, it’s really tempting right now.  Really tempting.”  So I quickly roused myself and got up.

He said, “I thought we agreed this wasn’t going to happen again.”  Which was maddening, because he’d been driving the whole night.

Eventually, we began talking again, about old love interests, then he walked me home.  I said something I should never have said: Somehow, after all this, I was thinking of Peter!  “Reality hits at 3am, so I know what I really feel for who,” because I felt strong love for Peter, and not much of anything for Shawn.

I just want to go back in time and slap myself for that.  Here Shawn could very well have been falling for me, with all he did and said that evening, and I said I was still in love with Peter, who didn’t care two bits about me anymore??!!

Sometimes I think I sabotaged my own relationship with Shawn by talking too much about pining for Peter.  But eventually that did end.

But I was definitely attracted to Shawn, always had been, or I would not have fallen so easily into temptation with him, again and again and–as the following school year would prove–continuously until he left Roanoke for good.

As we passed Chase, we saw a kitten, but it ran away from us.  I said, “I want so bad to pet something warm and furry and cuddly.”  Shawn said, “You’d better not say that to your friends.  They might misunderstand.”

He said, “Maybe you should tell Catherine that we had a big fight and you hate me.”  He left me at the door.  He said he was going to bed, but there were lights on in the Beta suite, so he went there instead.  He missed breakfast.

The next day, at dinner, I wanted to tell him a couple of intimate things relating to the night before.  I hung around him in the Campus Center lounge waiting for my chance; once, at the information desk, the worker there asked me, “Can I help you?”  Shawn said, “She’s just hanging around.”

Then he headed back to his dorm, and I went with him part of the way.  He said, “No, you’re not coming with me.”  I was miffed because I didn’t plan to; I just wanted to tell him those two things.  Which I did, then left.

****

So you see how I tried to be good when Catherine shoved me into his room, but he called me over, confided in me, made me his toy for the night, exhibited quite a bit of passion for me, then scolded me as if I had started everything, and treated me with scorn and derision the following day, trying to push me away from him.

He would say I was beautiful and pretty, but didn’t want to be my boyfriend.  Once or twice, later in the year, he even said he wasn’t attracted to me–but his behavior belied this claim.  What he got from me, he could’ve gotten that and much more every weekend from the easy high school “pop tarts” who came around the guys’ dorm looking for college boys; he didn’t have to come to me.

He was always completely sober, because he never drank or did drugs.  He didn’t do this with anybody else, and neither did I.  So you can’t blame it on inebriation.  If he didn’t find me attractive in some way, then why did he keep lusting after me?  Why did he call me pretty?

(I was also thin and curvy, and kept myself clean, so there was nothing to turn him off physically.  After him came several boyfriends, all of which considered me beautiful and sexy.)

Why did he come over every weekend, or ask me over, looking for some more?  Why did he seem to want me so intently?

If I was so unattractive to him, then why didn’t he just stop coming over, cut me loose, only talk to me on the phone or at mealtime, and pursue some girl he actually liked, leaving me to pursue other guys who might like me?

In fact, before Christmas Break he insisted it was all going to stop and we would get to know each other as friends, only to–as soon as we got back to school–start asking every night for me to come over, until I finally did.

Even now it makes no sense, because usually you hear about guys either getting drunk first, or one-night stands, if he’s not attracted to her physically.  Neither applied here.

And we ran in the same circles, so it would be impossible to avoid each other; why do something you’d regret–over and over again–while in full possession of your faculties?

He wasn’t some handsome, muscular stud–No, he was an ordinary geeky guy, getting pretty flabby around the middle, who seemed to annoy a lot of people, was considered obnoxious by my friends, and had an awful time finding dates.

I believe one or two of my friends didn’t like him at all.  They especially didn’t like him coming over all the time, behaving like I was his girlfriend, and then telling me he didn’t want me except as a friend.

Other than two girlfriends in high school, there had been nobody else, and would be nobody else for quite some time after he left Roanoke; I was the only girl at Roanoke known to be interested in him.

Some guy saw a picture of his ex and said, “How did you get a girl like this?  You’re butt-ugly, man.”  But I thought he was cute: He had dark hair, glasses, and big, Irish blue eyes I could get lost in.

I had a huge crush on him, which is why I kept taking him in every week.  That, and I liked doing what we did.

We kept going farther and farther, but did not want to lose our virginity through vaginal sex (that would be sinful).  However, we were extremely naïve to think that what we did eventually do was not “sex.”

It was, according to medical definitions, and far too many Christian kids are going too far because they think only one thing (vaginal) means “sex” (or that it’s the only way to get pregnant).  I write about this here, with links to various articles.

Such things as we did are meant to lead to a certain end point, and stirred up our passions to boiling.  And according to Wisconsin law, what we did qualified as sexual contact and intercourse, so legally, we were mistaken that we were still virgins.

The following year, I let my fiance Phil lead me into more things with this idea that only vaginal penetration=sex and only sex=sin.  He made me feel silly and uneducated in sex for thinking otherwise.

I never did this stuff with Peter, because Peter and I felt it was going too far.  They were all Shawn’s idea, and it took him months of convincing to get me to start giving in to him.  And Phil found it a lot easier to break through my reserve because Shawn had done all the work before him.

Even Christian boys can be just as persistent as non-Christian ones, so if you’re dating only Christians expecting to never have this problem, think again.  Don’t be naïve like I was; know what you’re getting into.  And if you’re under 18, be warned that what you’re doing could be illegal.  At least we were 19.

Once Shawn got it in my head that these things were not sinful, I only wanted more–and we got deeper into trouble as we went.  Then afterwards, he would tell me in a long lecture why he didn’t want to go out with me and criticize everything about me.  He’d also tell me about other girls he was attracted to–who included some of my friends.

The problem, as we discovered later, was that he knew my body but he didn’t know me, my soul, how I thought about things.  All he knew was what other catty people thought, people who weren’t even my friends.

When I think back–especially now that I’ve been married for years, those youthful indiscretions were nowhere near as satisfying as what I do with my husband, and I haven’t actually been haunted with disturbing “memories” which church leaders always warned teenagers would follow them into their marital beds–I don’t really regret it so much anymore.

It feels like I regretted it for so long that it just got tiresome to keep thinking so negatively about it.

It seems like, after many years, continuing to beat yourself up for past sins becomes overkill and unhealthy, especially if those sins did not really hurt anyone, have now been set aside through marriage and never had negative impacts on that marriage.

Hubby doesn’t seem to care that I did these things before him; by the time he came along, what I did with Shawn was overshadowed by Phil, and Hubby sure wasn’t innocent, himself, putting us on an equal footing.

Rather, I’ve just put it into my past as something that happened and shaped who I was.  In fact, I don’t find the memories disturbing at all; I’m supposed to, yet instead they are pleasurable reminders of a colorful past, not promiscuous but monogamous.  Even my “friend with benefits” was monogamous.

What I do regret is that Shawn did all these things with me but kept insisting he didn’t care for me the way I cared for him, that our friendship was damaged by it.

If he had not been so disgusted in May 1993 by what we did, seeing it as a grievous sin and an impure relationship, while I was not disgusted, maybe he would have been kinder to me.

Many of my readers will say I was an adult and did nothing wrong.  That’s fine, especially in this day and age.

But if you want to save yourself for marriage, don’t do what I did, because one thing leads to another, and Shawn and I both felt that our “impure” relationship damaged our relationships with God.

And in any case, this story is meant to show two things: 1) how easy it is to get out of control with lust if you want to save yourself for marriage, and 2) how adding “benefits” to a friendship can destroy it.

I have no regret over the first ten months, which were a lot of fun.

But things began to take a very dangerous turn in January 1993, not just taking away any innocence and purity that might still have been left to us and our relationship, but damaging our friendship almost beyond repair.

It’s a miracle that things finally turned around eventually, long after the sexual aspect was removed–but more on that later.

The Secret Gets Out

A few days later, on Tuesday the 6th, I wrote this in-class assignment, myself from the point of view of Counselor Dude:

She’s very quiet, especially in class.  Then you can’t usually get a word out of her unless you ask her a question.  She will talk to her friends, though.  When she does say something, you have to get her to speak up, or else strain to hear her.

Sometimes she acts like I’m going to bite her.  I think she only sat at my end of the table because she’d be close to her friends, the people she did talk to.  I remember once when Julie sat next to her.  D–n, did she laugh and laugh!  I believe she said some funny things to Julie, too.

Oh, and that’s another thing.  You should see her wince when I cuss.  That’s one thing you never hear her do, besides speak up in class.  Wouldn’t that be a d–n fun thing, getting her to say “F–k!”  I wonder how a person could do it?  I hear I “corrupt” people that way, so maybe, if I keep at it, and keep using such words in class….

After Fiction, I was in Pearl’s room with Pearl, Rachel and Catherine.  Somehow they forced me–with Catherine’s help–to come out with everything, so I revealed my secret of seven months.

I didn’t want to, but they threatened to take away my blue Flavor-Ice so I’d quit eating it and talk.  There were plenty of loud “ooooohs” whenever they tricked me into revealing something Shawn and I had done, such as frenching (I did not tell them everything).

Catherine asked me, “If Peter and Shawn both asked you to the Homecoming Dance, which one would you go with?”  I don’t remember my answer, or if I could decide.  She said, “You should choose Shawn.  Shawn’s nicer.”  Peter had recently done something she witnessed that really ticked her off.

I looked at the time and fled; they called it an excuse.

I also told them then about a silly dream of a beetle.  That’s where I got my “signature.”  Some of my friends began calling me Bebe based on this dream.  When I worked the dinner shift, their trays came in with three messages written on napkins, one with a drawing of a beetle.

I didn’t have time to read Rachel’s message, so I stuck it in my pocket, but I threw the other two away so no one would see them, trying not to grin.  But part of it read, “Guess who heard us talking about you at dinner?”  Oh geez….

With them calling me that and Catherine calling me Stella, I began to sign my name as Bebe-Stella on Pearl and Cindy’s message board.  Then they tried to give me another nickname.  Sharon or maybe Pearl took my name and started playing with it until she got “Stu.”  This one lasted quite a while.

I don’t recall when exactly Shawn told me this, but guys would ask him what was going on between us, and occasionally say, “Nyssa’s looking really pretty today.  You should see her.”  It sounds like people were shocked that we weren’t “going out,” and maybe they wanted Shawn to make me his actual girlfriend.

***

On October 7, my hopes for a restored friendship with Peter were blown apart.  I waited for several days–no answer.  Then I talked with Pearl, who told me that her friend Dave O’Hara had been driving outside my dorm with Peter.

I remembered that day, having seen the two of them in Dave’s red car as I headed off somewhere.  I was on the sidewalk beside the drive, or very close to it.

Dave did not tell Pearl Peter’s exact words, probably to spare her feelings.  But Peter saw me walking and made some sort of nasty comment.  I suspected he called me a rude name.  I was furious.

Soon afterwards, he called to me by the dorm to return my stuff.  “Here’s your discs,” he said, with the air of someone who wants to slap you or throw you into the river.

“Where’s my notebook?” I said, wanting to do the same thing to him.

“What notebook?”

This may have been when he told me that he had gone through his room and not seen a notebook.  So, to this day, my precious writing notebook is lost, along with all the notes and other things I had so painstakingly made in it.

So, even though he’d acted like we were friendly again, I wasn’t allowed to be friends with him?  I couldn’t even make an overture of friendship without him treating me like mud on his shoe.

This may have been when I began to view the before-mentioned “words” more as something that was supposed to be fulfilled rather than something that I wanted fulfilled.  I hated Peter.  I wanted Shawn or James, not Peter.

Ill-Fated Pledge Class

In October, I decided to join the Phi-Delt sorority, which some of my friends belonged to.  I can’t go into great detail because I was told to keep certain things secret.  But I can mention things of more general knowledge, which “outsiders” were involved in, or which everybody knew about anyway.

My pledge folder, which held a pledge diary, was easy to spot because of the Greek letters on the blue cover, and the sci-fi pictures: The “Don’t Panic” creature from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a Vulcan hand signal, the Star Fleet symbol, one of the Doctor Who logos, and a picture of the head of the androgynous diplomat from Alpha Centauri on one episode of Doctor Who:

PledgeFolder

 

PledgeFolderBack

 

(By the way, no, I am not a science fiction fanatic; I just happen to like sci-fi.)  On the back is a drawing of me on a desert island.  I colored my folder because of a note from one of the actives: “Please color me!”

My fellow pledges were Rachel, Dori (the one who was in InterVarsity for a while), and Tammy.

Rachel’s reason for pledging: “It looks good on a resume.”  My reason for pledging: The sorority seemed like fun, and Pearl and Sharon were in it, along with other people I knew, such as my suitemate Mary.

Latosha once found me in the stairwell in the Campus Center, and we talked about pledging.  She said,

“I heard you were pledging.  It surprised me.  At first I wondered if you were doing it because Peter’s a Zeta and the Zetas are the Phi-Delts’ ‘little brothers.'”  I forget how, but she concluded that no, that wasn’t it.  Which it wasn’t: The sorority sounded like fun, and some of my best friends were in it.  I was also getting friendly peer pressure from my Phi-Delt friends.

At an open house for potential pledges on Monday, October 5 at 8pm, the actives said they wouldn’t make the pledges drink alcohol like the Pi-Kapps and frats might.  During pledging, the pledge master, Wendy, said, “We’d never make you pledges do something we wouldn’t want to do ourselves.”  However, her tolerance of being hazed must have been much higher than mine.

The Pi-Kapp room was right next to the Phi-Delt room in the Krueger basement.  Jennifer said, “When I pledged last spring, one night we came here to our room and saw a bag of manure outside the Pi-Kapp room.  We were so glad to not be pledging the Pi-Kapps!”

The Pi-Kapps were the enemy, and they partied too hard.  They made their pledges drink alcohol.  You wouldn’t want to be a Pi-Kapp.

The Phi-Delt room was prettily furnished with comfortable furniture, Greek letters, and various mementoes.  I don’t think there were paddles; at least, I don’t remember any.  Our InterVarsity group occasionally met there, and at least once I had a private conversation with Pearl there.

We drew names for pledge sisters.  I got Jennifer.  Rachel got Joanna.  A pledge sister was an active who mentored a pledge.

Among the pledges, it was universally agreed that even while so many of the other actives had seemed to turn mean, Joanna was the one who was still nice.  No matter what, no matter how the other actives treated us, she was always sweet and treated us more like equals.

Some of the actives were always nice, but several turned mean later on.  Jennifer, as my pledge sister, also seemed nice.  Wendy sometimes got disgusted with us, even though she was pledge master.

We could never be sure if the anger from the actives was real or just feigned because they were “supposed” to be mean to us during pledging.  I believe that at first, I thought it was all just a joke, that none of them were really mad at us.

Near the end, however, there were times they did seem truly mad at us.  I grew to dislike many of them–and what kind of beginning is that for a sisterhood?

Once, when the actives were gathered together for something at Dori’s house, she was scared that her brother and mother, who were there, would think the sorority girls were all b**ches.

She didn’t like the way they had acted there, whether it was in fun or not.  I wish I could say that Pearl and Sharon never joined in, but I do seem to remember being mad at them as well for a while, though I still hung out with them.

I seem to remember Pearl or Sharon saying once that there were people in the sorority that year who made it into something they didn’t like, and that when they graduated, it changed character into something better.  I believe Sharon was glad to be president one year because she truly could make a difference.

Later on, I asked Pearl if most of the meanness was just a facade, the punishments we were given just jokes and not real punishments, and she said that they were–except for sometimes.

One particular example was when the pledge class couldn’t go through a recital of the Greek alphabet in unison without laughing or smiling.  We thought it was funny to be reciting this stuff.

We thought it was all light-hearted, just a fun tradition of using Greek letters, and our standing there reciting the letters seemed like more of this light-hearted fun–and a bit ridiculous.  But they got mad at us and made us keep reciting it until we said it more seriously.

At the time, I believe I thought their anger was just a facade, that they probably thought it just as funny and perhaps had even recited the alphabet in the same way when they were pledges.

But Pearl later said they truly were mad about this, since the Greek alphabet was really important to them, like the rest of the sorority traditions.  I still couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about.  Important or not, couldn’t they at least have some fun with it?

The final walk, the one I wrote about which took us out in the cold, was a real punishment, I believe.  They talked as if there would have been such a walk anyway, and they did have two of their own walking with us, but it still seemed to go far and beyond what any walk should have been.

****

Now that I’ve given you an overview of what pledging was like, kind of like the first chapter of Genesis gives you an overview and then a chapter or two later you get more detail about the Creation story, now for more detail about pledging.

Once, the actives told the pledges to go into Grossheusch and probably Muehlmeier to collect guys’ underwear.  Of course I shirked from this, being a conservative Christian.  The actives half-jokingly accused me of a lack of unity.  (“Unity” was bandied around a lot.  The actives encouraged us pledges to develop it among ourselves.)  However, this qualifies as hazing.

We knocked on Timothy’s door–Timothy, the guy who almost moved in with my suitemate Tom the year before.  When one of us asked for a pair of underwear, he whipped off his pants and underwear and gave us his briefs.  I must have averted my eyes, since I don’t remember a “visual.”  This shocked all of us, but we laughed about it afterwards.  I hope the underwear had no skid marks.

Early on in the pledge month, as we pledges went out on some odd quest, I said I had finally found the college antics I had always expected in college.  On TV and in movies, people would steal the other team’s mascot.  On Ozzie and Harriet, one of the Nelson boys and his college friends did an elaborate prank.

I had expected to see these things happening in college all the time, and had been a bit disappointed to not see any.  But in the sorority, we were doing so many crazy things that it seemed I had finally found what I had craved.

I liked the thought of the Zetas being our little brothers once we became actives.  I liked this special bond with them.  And no, it wasn’t because of Peter: it was because of Darryl, Steve, Marc, and maybe a few others I knew or knew of who seemed cool.

I was still shy and hated to raise my voice, was uncomfortable saying hi to people I barely knew (this was also a product of my big-city upbringing, where people didn’t usually talk to strangers on the street but allowed them some privacy by not looking at them), and was scared of the actives and their power to punish me with unpleasant errands or (so we were told at some point) blackball me into not joining the group, so of course I didn’t say hi to the actives I didn’t know very well, when I passed them on the sidewalk.

To a shy person such as me, social situations are divided into those with “power” and those without.  The ones with the “power” to take charge and say hi and things like that are the ones who are comfortable in the situation, who are older or have been in a group or organization longer than you have, or the ones who own the place you’re in.  The ones without the “power” are the newcomers.

I perceived the actives as having the power and me, as a pledge, as not having the power, so I expected that if anyone were to say hi first, it would of course be them.

To my surprise, Jennifer told me that the actives were offended because I wouldn’t say hi to them!  (Why didn’t they ever say it to me first, then, if it was so important to them?)  But even if I tried, my voice would probably have been so low that they wouldn’t have heard me anyway.

When the frats said they were service organizations, we saw that as a joke.  Everybody knew the frats spent most of their time partying and hanging out.  It seemed that the service they did do was to make sure they got in their obligatory service and didn’t lose their right to be a fraternity on the Roanoke campus.

When we had to do chores for the actives, Sharon asked some of us to wash her dishes.  She felt bad, however, because these dishes had been sitting around for some time and were moldy.  I don’t remember what happened to those dishes.  I hope she threw them out instead.

Once, when the actives took the pledges down to the lake and island, I was blindfolded and Pearl was driving around in her scooter.  Something happened on the mud or on the bridge that made her temporarily lose control, and next thing I knew, she was crying out in shock and dismay and a bit of amusement as the scooter banged against my heels.

I wasn’t hurt at all, and she soon got the situation under control.  But after that we joked about Pearl running me over with her scooter.

On October 12, I joked around with Pearl.  I made a low bow and said, “Greetings, active,” after class.  I gestured her inside when I opened the Krueger door.  I put my palms together like my genie Zara, and said I’d wait in line so she’d have someone to stand by.

She thought it was funny, and told the others as I went in line.  Then Rachel started calling me a brownnoser.  It was fun.  Behind it all was an ever-present, “NOT!”

I wasn’t brownnosing; I was just having fun.  Then I drew a picture on Pearl’s board of Zara coming out of her water jar and saying, “Your wish is my command, mistress!”

The next day, I found several notes about it, ranging from, “Bebe hasn’t got enough brown on her nose for everybody.  We’ll have to fix that” by Sharon, to “Nice picture, but it should say MASTER SIR (followed by ‘In your dreams, man cub’).”

****

On October 14, I got kidnapped by the actives: Jennifer told me to come to the Phi-Delt room at 8:15 to interview her before the meeting.  When I arrived, I saw actives whispering together by the room, and began to worry.  When I got down the hall, two of them grabbed my arms and said, “You’re being kidnapped.”  They took me out to a car, and stuffed me in the back with another active and Jennifer.  It was fun.

They took me to one active’s family home, ordered pizza, and played the Grease soundtrack.  Somebody passed around playing cards with pictures of Chippendale dancers.  I don’t believe I sat there in judgment, but I didn’t join in as the others goggled at the cards, because it was against my religion.  One of the girls picked out a dark-haired guy with glasses and blue-green eyes and said, “Here’s one you might like.”

When explaining what pledges could do while kidnapped, the actives included homework, just as naturally as if it happened all the time.  Yet when I said I wanted to do homework, they acted like I was strange, and said, “NOBODY ever does homework on kidnaps!”  But I was a student first, pledge second, and I had a lot of homework to do.  My teachers would not have accepted the excuse that I was at a sorority party.

They were supposed to kidnap at least one pledge, and we were supposed to kidnap at least one active.  Since I’d already been kidnapped, I couldn’t be kidnapped again, so I was safe after this.

The other pledges finally found me after calling up a lot of S– numbers to find me.  They said I was the most popular person in S– that night.

Our punishment for me being kidnapped, was to bum pennies from people on the afternoon of the 18th.  People were pretty nice, but a few of them gave us funny looks.  On the 21st, we had to get 50 people (preferably guys) to sign a roll of toilet paper, without ripping it.  We got at least 51 in half an hour.

On the night of the 18th, we went on a scavenger hunt dressed in bathrobes.  Dori wore a shower cap, Tammy wore a Burger King crown, someone had Pearl’s Spike, and I had a soft, cuddly Garfield.  We got funny looks from people.

The worker in a gas station, our first spot, gave us such weird looks that I showed her the sorority button on my robe as we left.  Rachel told everyone we were sleepwalking.  A guy employee in Hardee’s, obviously in on it, laughed his head off.

In another place (the wrong one), there were a bunch of guys a little older than us.  Dori told them, maybe to a comment that we looked good, that it was the latest style.  She also told the guy in Hardee’s that it was a winter version of a bathing suit contest.

We were supposed to tell people we wanted to be dressed like that.  At a small Dairy Queen (another wrong place), some girls there, probably our age or younger, saw us, and one said something like, “I don’t know.  They probably don’t dress like that all the time.  I hope not!”

I believe all the Greek organizations would send pledges on night walks.  This was no secret; I heard stories about such things even when not pledging.

We’d be driven out somewhere, then have to make our way back without letting the actives see us, because they said they’d take us out even farther if they did.  We were told to dress warmly for these walks, and if we had to change, would be given a chance to run back to our rooms and do so.

It was fun at first, all this wandering around in corn fields and by the side of the road, trying to find our way back in the dark and without being seen by any passing cars.  We all loved it.

I said it reminded me of the End Times (when interpreted literally), with Christians wandering around during the Tribulation without being seen by the authorities who would kill them.  It wasn’t terribly cold yet, though it was fall and starting to get cold, and we were (except for the last time) taken only a short distance away and could find our way back pretty quickly.

On the 25th, I wrote in my pledge diary, “Starting to get stressed out.”

On the 26th, we did a carnival of some kind; the actives changed the meeting time on us, which inconvenienced the pledges.  Rachel and Tammy were ticked about everything.

That night, I learned that I was not the only one thinking of quitting: Tammy had the same thoughts.  Sometimes it just seemed like too much to do, with everything else.  The actives were also ticked with us, and sent us on a walk with a piece of toilet paper that was not to be torn or wrinkled.  But by Grossheusch, we saw a huge, white shape, probably an owl, fly from a tree.

On the 27th was a Trust Walk, a kind of obstacle course, with our pledge sisters.  You were supposed to wear a blindfold and do whatever your pledge sister led you to do, showing your trust in her.

This was supposed to be a secret thing that Memadmin considered hazing; once or twice, there was a bustle because they saw Memadmin’s car (so they said).  They said that Memadmin hated the Greek organizations and wanted them gone, and would find any excuse she could to get rid of them.

The Trust Walk was by the suites, probably in the courtyard or maybe in the yard behind Hofer.  I think it was at night.  It was snowing and cold.

Jennifer took me to a stairway in the suites and had me crawl up and down and go under things which I couldn’t see, with me, all the while, trusting that she was leading me in the right direction and wouldn’t let any harm come to me.  We didn’t know where we were at the time, or that there really wasn’t a low fence above our heads.

On the 28th, we unsuccessfully attempted to kidnap Sharon.  We hid in the darkened RA supply room for this.  There had been tales that it was haunted by a spirit of suicide, and that it had been made into an RA room because at least two girls who’d lived there had committed suicide.

But no ghosts bothered us that night.  I took off work and Rachel skipped her late French class, which was, I think, with Ruth.

****

Hell Week was aptly named: it was the week of testing, after or during which you would be initiated.  You had to follow so many rules it was hard to remember them all.  The Phi-Delts had to be dressed up every day, for one.  I won’t go into everything I remember because I’m not sure how much of it is secret.

Our punishments were carrying around various items, which I also won’t name, though everybody in the school would have seen them.  These items were always in danger of being stolen by frat pledges.  The Phi-Delt actives called it “Help Week,” but everyone else called it Hell Week.  I’ve mentioned elsewhere some of the things other pledges had to do.

On the 31st, I spent all day cleaning my room and ironing.  Though no one ever actually checked my room, the word was that we had to have even our underwear ironed for Hell Week and that the actives could come check our rooms at any time.

The first day of Hell Week was Sunday, November 1.  I got to hold Baby Omega, a hard-boiled egg in a miniature baby basket, decorated to look like it had a face and was a baby in a basket.  It was cute.

Though we were supposed to ignore “evils” (males) as if they didn’t even exist during Hell Week (which I believe the actives said we were excellent at), we were allowed to talk to men if it was for or in a class or if it was a teacher or if we were at church.  So when I went to church on day one of Hell Week, it was a relief to be able to talk to the men and boy there.  I told them about the “evils” stuff, and they laughed.

I expected Hell Week to be a bit of a trial, but until I got involved in pledging, I didn’t realize just how taxing it could be.  I couldn’t memorize all the rules they gave us (I think there were several pages of them), and often forgot them.  (I bet NVLD had something to do with this.)

I had no idea I was supposed to greet all the actives before sitting down at meals, for example, until they got mad and told me I had to do it.  Rachel later said it was pretty stupid not to, but it wasn’t stupidity, it was ignorance.

Then we also had to get up and wear a dress for 7am breakfast, which was really hard to do after they kept us up late into the night.  Then they didn’t let us take naps during the day to make up for this.

In the evenings at the meetings, they would give us our points and I would find pages filled with various things I had done “wrong” and the points taken away from me.  I felt I could do nothing right.

I was punished far more than anybody else: Some of the point amounts taken away were so large that it seemed ridiculous, probably going into the tens or even hundreds.  My points were going into the negatives!  It was impossible to make them up now.

Then I’d be made to carry Sally, this big rag doll, which I believe was supposed to be a “punishment,” what the person with the least points would carry.  Carrying around Baby Omega wasn’t so bad; this was for the midrange of points.

But soon into Hell Week, I never got to carry her; I only got Sally.  I always had the least number of points of anyone.  I wanted to cry.

The thought of a whole week of this stuff made me only wish for the end of it–and wasn’t pledging supposed to be fun?  I also wondered how I could stand going through a Hell Week every semester until graduation, since even as an active I would have to deal with them: getting up for breakfast, going to meetings, that sort of thing.

We pledges often complained that the actives themselves showed a lack of unity by not always showing up for meals or meetings during Hell Week like they were supposed to, and often backbiting each other.

We were supposed to yell greetings (such as “Hello Miss —“) to the actives even if they were halfway across the campus and we saw them.

I felt physically unable to yell.  There had been various times throughout my life, including when Emily would yell greetings to me, when I had tried to yell and ended up barely speaking above my normal voice.  I had never even been able to scream, except maybe on a roller coaster (and even then I don’t think I was very loud).  To this day, it’s hard for me to get my voice that loud.

I believe that, during Hell Week, I made myself look neither to the right nor to the left as I walked along the sidewalks, in hopes I wouldn’t see an active and have to yell at her.

I didn’t wear a dress in Food Service, though I was supposed to wear one the rest of the time, because that was hardly the place to wear nice clothes like that.  You’d sweat in them (it was very steamy back there) and possibly get ketchup or the weird Food Service smell on them.

When I was expressing my worries once, Rachel said the actives probably wouldn’t make me wear a dress to work because “they know it’s a suck job” or “sucky job” or “sh-ty job.”

Since I also hadn’t heard any rules stating that pledges could carry each others’ doll or egg or whatever, I had no clue that I could give Sally to one of my pledge sisters to watch while I was working.  So where else could I put her but in the coat room?  For what happened next, see a letter which I have copied below.

It may have been during Hell Week when Dori dropped out.  I believe Tammy dropped out a bit before that, saying she came into the sorority to meet people but I believe she said either she had no time or didn’t like the pledging stuff that was going on.

I didn’t know about it until somebody told me about it the next day, and I believe Dori was talking to us about it on the little lawn outside the front door of Old Main.

It seems like there were three of us during the first day or two of Hell Week, but soon there were only two.  I believe she told us she didn’t like feeling like she had to be friends with the Phi-Delts just because they were Phi-Delts, and may have said that this was especially because of how they were treating us.

The last walk, the one which I considered to be hazing and a true punishment, along with an unfair and dangerous one because of the possibility of frostbite, was on the second day of Hell Week, Monday, November 2.  I wrote about it in the letter copied below.

We were sent on this walk because we couldn’t find anything during an on-campus scavenger hunt.  Pledge “unity” had turned into an us against them attitude, since the way the actives treated us had made this necessary.  (One compliment they did have for us was that we were very unified.)

Rachel and I had a talk during the walk about both quitting.  I was so angry with the actives that I began thinking seriously about it, and I may have made up my mind before the walk was even over.

I keep thinking I made it halfway through Hell Week; maybe I quit on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.  It was said that we would have only had to go through part of Hell Week, and that the night of the day I quit (and then Rachel quit) would have been the night we got initiated.  The word was that they were already getting ready for it.

Here is a clipping of my e-mail to Mike (Wendy’s brother) in late 1999:

Did you know I was part of the Ill-Fated Pledge Class of 1992?

“The Ill-Fated Pledge Class” was the Phi-Delt name for it.

For about a month I actually thought I’d like to be a Phi-Delt, me, the loner.  One person wondered if it was because my ex was a Zeta, but no, it was because I had friends in it and it sounded fun.

But as pledging went on, it just didn’t seem as much fun anymore.  Actives being mean may have been playacting, but it still was annoying, and I didn’t see any sense in it.

And we never could understand why we should take the Greek alphabet recitals so seriously.  It was just so funny to stand up there reciting it in unison for the actives.  But when we giggled we ended up getting demerits.

These demerits were made up by carrying out punishments which the actives gave us, such as bumming pennies or going on a walk.

Then there was the time I was forced to leave Sally in the coat room by the kitchen…I didn’t know of anything else to do with her, since I worked in Food Service and couldn’t have her with me, so they [somehow found her and] stuck her in the Phi-Delt room and made it look like she’d gone and gotten drunk because of me not watching over her…She was just a doll!

Then there was Hell Week… All those rules I could never memorize, constantly breaking ones I wasn’t aware of because of that, trying to get my homework done, trying to survive on little sleep and not being allowed to nap, actives acting meaner, then finally the actives get really upset with us (there were only two of us left by this time) and send us out on a walk in the frigid cold, so far out we have no clue where we are…

We had our pledge sisters with us, but they didn’t know any better than we did where we were.  We walked for hours trying to find the campus in the cold and dark, and by the time we got back, it was already 1:30 (on a school night), my feet had gone from chilled to [hurting to] numb (possibly frostbitten), Rachel and I had discussed dropping out (while the actives were out of hearing range), and I was mad.

There’s no way I’d ever want to go through that again.  It was that night or the next that I decided to drop out, and Rachel soon followed, after going through breakfast in the morning.

She told them I’d dropped out and then told me they were a bit ticked I hadn’t gone there myself to tell them, but after the late nights they’d been giving us, there was no way I wanted to dress up and go to breakfast at 7 in the morning.

A couple years later, I was mystified to hear that Rachel would have liked to try joining again.  Why, after all that?

I also talked with Rachel in her room before or after quitting, and she read a letter she had written about the Phi-Delts.  I remember something about a tree being used as an image, and her showing disgust about how the actives had treated the pledges and the actives’ lack of unity.  Then she asked me if I thought it was a good letter, and I did.

But one thing I don’t believe I knew at the time was that it was a letter, and not just a poem or essay she had written to make herself feel better, and that she planned to actually give it to the Phi-Delts.

The ironic thing about it was, Pearl later told me that the letter about their lack of unity had so distressed the Phi-Delts and given them such a common cause that they ended up more unified.

Jennifer soon pulled me aside, probably after Sophomore Honors and probably into a deserted hallway in Verhulst, the music building, and talked to me.  She was worried that I was mad at the Phi-Delts and felt the way Rachel did about them.

At that time, I felt I could truthfully say I wasn’t mad at the Phi-Delts.  (I was mad at some of them, but, I guess, not all of them as a whole.)  Perhaps she had tried to explain the actions of the Phi-Delts and put them in a nicer light, which would explain my change of heart.

Of course, I hadn’t yet read a letter Rachel would send to the campus newspaper in April.  Jennifer told me about the letter Rachel had dropped off in the Phi-Delt room–she just went down there while they were there and dropped it off–and I told her I hadn’t been aware she would actually show it to the Phi-Delts. I’d thought it was an angry letter which you write but don’t send.

She asked me not to talk to others about the secret pledging things we did, since part of the fun of being in a sorority is having these secrets.

Of course, things like walks and pledges avoiding evils and all that are common knowledge (all the Greek organizations seemed to do that), so I don’t feel bad about talking about those things.

As for any secrets I may have revealed here, well, for one thing I’ve been told they changed their pledging because Rachel revealed so much of it in her letter in April.  The things I’ve written here were, most of them, done in front of people outside the organization, either students or people in the surrounding towns.

Jennifer told me to keep my pledge diary so that, if I ever decided I wanted to pledge again, I could read it and remember why I dropped out in the first place, leading me to never make that mistake of pledging again.

I did, however, have to let her remove things from it, things that pertained to the actives which they didn’t want people outside the organization to have.  This included the actives’ schedules, mottos and such which we were to memorize, and the interviews I had done with the actives.

Cindy got really mad at Pearl and Sharon over how they treated pledges, and noticed, the day after I quit, that I sat by the non-trad in Sophomore Honors instead of by them.

I did this because, yes, I was still hurting and fuming over the whole thing.  I did soon start sitting with them again and forgave them, and it all seemed forgotten–though, possibly, not by Cindy.

After that, and after a Zeta party which I describe in the November 1992 chapter, I did not like fraternities or sororities.  I was told that the Phi-Delts changed a lot of things because of the “Ill-Fated Pledge Class,” and because of scathing letters Rachel wrote to the Phi-Delts and the school newspaper, and that I should pledge again, but I refused.

Though I didn’t think Rachel’s letter was appropriate, and she later regretted it, it spoke of things I was not aware of before, things which made it sound like some actives did not want me in the sorority for some mysterious reason.

We were told that we were the most unified pledge class; however, we were unified against the actives.  I don’t see how hazing causes unity in a fraternity or sorority.

To my shock, senior year, Rachel said she wanted to pledge again, but couldn’t now.  She even regretted dropping out.  How could this be, after the things we’d said to each other the night before dropping out?

Not all the actives seemed to join in the hazing.  Some were really sweet.  I think my friends and our pledge sisters stayed out of the worst of it, but it was still hard to deal with being reprimanded or punished by a group that included close friends.

I soon forgave my friends, but there never was any sort of relationship between me and my Phi-Delt suitemate, Mary.  I also had trouble with the pledge master Wendy.

That semester, only the Phi-Delts and the Zetas could have pledges, for some reason I’ve forgotten.  All the Zeta pledges also dropped out one by one, until neither the Phi-Delts nor the Zetas had pledges left.

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, innocent, nice, kind, caring?  I could not recall ever doing anything to hurt these people!

I don’t know why they didn’t like me.  I try to be nice to people.  Here I was feeling a rejection I hadn’t felt in some time, and remembering that I’d felt like crying when things were going on.

It was especially bad because of what was going on with Shawn at that time, which already depressed me and did horrible things to my self-esteem.  I was glad to realize that it probably wasn’t the whole group doing this, just maybe a few people who didn’t know me all that well, that my friends there would never have done such a thing as those few people did.

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!  She 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?

She spoke 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 paid attention would know that was me.

This is a time when I probably most wanted to speak to Shawn, but he was gone home.  Though I’m not sure why I’d want to, after the psychological abuse he himself put me through, but I still suffered from Stockholm Syndrome.

Rachel later felt sorry for sending this letter to the editor, and even considered pledging again.  That surprised me.

We’re Dating!–No, We’re Not.  Yes, We Are.  ACK!

I wrote in my diary on the 11th that “the situation with Shawn is finally clear now.  We have different definitions of terms in our own minds; to me, we’re dating; to him, we’re friends; but we both have the same idea of what it is.  We’ll have to get the word out that we’re only dating…we’re not boyfriend/girlfriend!!

“Oh, yeah.  Anna said that just the fact that I’m here at school still, and not anorexic, is a testimony to God’s strengthening power.”

The next day, I saw Shawn, and we started walking together.  I was happy.  But then he said, “This is not gonna work.”  So much for dating.

Yet, despite getting rid of the term “dating,” things still went on the same as before.  He would still come over and see me or invite me over, oftentimes every weekend, we’d watch TV or talk about all sorts of things, and he’d start kissing me and touching me and fooling around with me.

So did we really stop dating?  And were we dating or not the whole time?

He also would call me late at night sometimes and we would talk for hours.  But it seemed like nearly every time he did fool around with me, after it ended he would go on and on about how he didn’t want me, and criticize everything about me.

It also seemed far too analytical of him, making things far too complicated: Calling someone your “girlfriend” doesn’t mean you’re practically engaged.

You can just be going on casual dates with a bunch of people and call them all girlfriends.  It just means you have some sort of continuous romantic involvement (as opposed to one-night stands); it doesn’t have to be serious.

And saying that we’re “friends”–um, “friends” connotes no romantic or sexual involvement at all.  Unless you want to call it “friends with benefits,” but we didn’t have that term back then.

A few years after I graduated college, I watched a call-in advice show on MTV called Loveline, hosted by Dr. Drew and Adam Corolla, along with a woman whose name I forget.  To my surprise one night, a guy called in about the very same kind of situation:

He had started by giving “kissing lessons” to a girl across the hall; these lessons continued, and progressed so far over time that they did the same things Shawn and I eventually did, though they had not had vaginal intercourse.  He said she had feelings for him while he had none for her.  He said it wasn’t a “relationship.”

Dr. Drew said that if two people are physically intimate on a regular basis, they are indeed having a “relationship”–and it would hurt the girl to break it off.  Drew said to stop and cut off contact for a while, to give her time to get over it.

He said there’s a lot of BS going around these days, people saying “this is just for convenience, we’re not really in a relationship.”  He did say girls need to realize that sometimes guys will kiss and carry on with girls they’re not interested in.

Yet testosterone-driven Adam, on the other hand, the one you’d think would agree, didn’t buy that this guy was not attracted to the girl.  He said, “Isn’t it funny how guys’ll go and bang someone every night and then say, ‘Oh, I’m not attracted to her.'”

He didn’t believe it was possible, but that if you’re physically intimate with someone it’s because you are attracted to them in some way.

Then there was Sharon Stone’s character on Basic Instinct, who said, “He wasn’t my boyfriend.  I just f**ked him.”

And my old friend Becky from South Bend, who was still in high school, told me about guys who’d tell her, “That’s not my girlfriend.  I just f**k her.”

I guess there are a lot of Shawns out there, when I once thought there was only one.

It was hard for anyone in my group of friends, least of all me, to understand Shawn, because we thought kissing meant something and you didn’t do that to someone you weren’t attracted to.  You didn’t want to, because that would be icky.

So we couldn’t conceive of Shawn telling the truth when he said he wasn’t attracted to me or didn’t want to go out with me.

And if he was telling the truth, then why did he keep coming over and starting things with me all the time?  I normally waited for him to call me over and to start things, to let him set the pace, since he was so ambivalent.  In fact, after I graduated, one day I visited Sharon and she referred to him as “Shawn, who you were going out with.”

After Shawn called me senior year and said he hadn’t had a girlfriend in two years (ie, since he left Roanoke, rather than since he left high school), Pearl said,

“That’s fishy.  Maybe it shows there was something going on there.  Maybe now he thinks of you as an ex-girlfriend?…I always knew there was something there he wasn’t admitting to.”

And Pearl would know better than anybody else, being the confidante of us both about our relationship.

This blog post, about people confusing each other with varying definitions of the same dating terms, sums up the whole thing very well.

In September, Shawn had said, “Do you want everyone to know we’re dating?”

So, why couldn’t he just tell me to use that term (or “seeing each other”) instead of the completely platonic term “friends”?  It would have meant we were more than friends, but available to date other people, and been far more accurate.

But no, he couldn’t simplify it like that.  No, he had to complicate things by telling everyone we’re “just friends” and make me feel like some tart because “just friends” aren’t supposed to be fooling around every weekend.  I didn’t want to be exclusive; dating around was fine.  But I was not just your “friend”!

When I hear the song “Ah Leah!” by Donnie Iris, I realize that was Shawn and me:

Don’t you know we’re playin’ with the fire? 
But we can’t stop this burnin’ desire, Leah! 

Ah! Leah! Here we go again! 
Ah! Leah! Is it ever gonna end?  
Ah! Leah! Here we go again!  
Ah! Leah! We ain’t learned our lesson yet!  

Baby, it’s no good. We’re just askin’ for trouble.  
I can touch you, but I don’t know how to love you.  
It ain’t no use! We’re headed for disaster. 
Our minds said, “No!” But our hearts were talkin’ faster, Leah! 

But if he’d let me, I could have loved him.  I could easily have forgotten Peter completely in Shawn’s arms if only he would have stopped pulling me toward him and then pushing me away.

We could’ve had a lot more fun, without all the guilt and shame.  And Shawn was more like what I was looking for: similar music, similar religious backgrounds (I was Nazarene and he was non-denominational evangelical), love of sci-fi such as Doctor Who, sharing each other’s religious convictions–He even liked Monty Python, unlike Peter.

***

Each year in October, Roanoke held a Writer’s Festival.  This year, we had Billy Collins (poet) and W.P. Kinsella (novelist).  Two guys stopped me once and asked where Krueger Hall was.  Only later did I discover they were Collins and Kinsella.

Collins played the piano once in Krueger lounge, and Pearl hung out with him for a while.  When Counselor Dude and maybe Rachel took Collins to his room in Krueger, they found there’d been a mix-up: Some (unmarried) couple on campus had rented the guest room so they could have sex in it, which they were doing right then.

Collins joked about it, and Counselor Dude didn’t open the door.  Rachel thought it was sick.  Rachel and Counselor Dude wanted the flowers, at least, since they were for Collins.

The guy made a weird smile and almost threw the flowers at them.  Collins told Rachel to keep them, but it wouldn’t look good for the RA to have them.  He told her to come and get them later, I guess, and “slip into something a little more comfortable”–just a flirtatious joke.

So now Rachel had his pretty flowers.  Collins writes humorous poems; I could imagine him writing about this whole incident, and immortalizing RC (and maybe Rachel or Counselor Dude).

W.P. Kinsella wrote Shoeless Joe, the novel which inspired the movie Field of Dreams.  He read from Box Socials.  Every time he said the town’s name, Fark, he would pause and then say it significantly.  The readings were so funny that I bought the book from the Campus Shop, and loved it.

This, and a later presentation called “The Devil You Know,” became part of the backdrop for my story Alexander Boa, which was based on a dream.

***

One night, as we stood outside the suite after he had walked me home, Shawn said, “I would love to go on a date with you” (as opposed to just making out in our rooms all the time).  So one day, I went up to him in the cafeteria as he was at the salad/ice cream table where people would set down their trays before getting drinks and such.

I don’t believe anyone else was nearby, and I’d fallen behind my friends, who were leaving, so they weren’t nearby.  I asked if he wanted to go to Homecoming with me.

(Either that year or the year after, Pearl and I were talking about how we’d like to ask guys to the Homecoming semi-formal dance, and she said with a laugh, “I love you dearly, but I don’t want to go to the Homecoming dance with you.”)

He said he had to see whether or not he’d be going home over Homecoming weekend.  But a whole week apparently passed before he gave me an answer, and I believe I had to ask him for it.  He said he didn’t want to turn me down and embarrass me in front of my friends.  This is part of a diary entry I wrote about it:

I’ve never been that good at expressing myself verbally.

Maybe my status as a youngest child, not listened to as much, has caused me to concentrate more on developing my natural writing talent than on developing my speech, since on paper, at least, I can finally be ‘heard.’  [I got this idea from an article I read once on birth order, and it seemed to fit my own life.]

A pencil and paper–my form of eloquence.  Since I have a hard time organizing my thoughts, and making them understood, during conversations of an important nature, my journal is probably my best place for arguing my side of an issue, so here goes:

No matter how you tried to ‘do it right,’ you still forgot the number one rule of rejecting: a quick and painless death….

When I asked you to Homecoming, I wanted an answer right away.  Pearl had told me you like dances or dancing, and we’d agreed that we could go on dates, so I thought, Why not?  He’ll probably say yes, and we’ll have a great time.  If he says no, then so what?  If the Group doesn’t go, maybe we’ll all do something else together, or maybe I’ll do something else.  Or maybe another guy will ask me to go.  I’d just better ask him quick, before he asks someone else, or I might not be able to go at all….

You were alone; I’d fallen behind the Group while contemplating asking you.  A simple, ‘No, I don’t like dances,’ and I could stop thinking about the dance.  I wouldn’t feel personally rejected.

Why did you say you had to see whether or not you’d be going home that weekend?  Hogwash!  That just made me think, if he will, no; if he won’t, yes.  And what was the good of that?

Why do you feel you have to treat me so differently than everybody else?  A little special treatment is obvious, considering our past, but you act like I’m some bundle of neuroses, that’ll [be upset] if you don’t stop your conversation with someone else and give me attention for a while.

And the way you ‘assume’ things, just drives me crazy.  Did you think I sat with you at lunch because I have a crush on you?  I sat with you because I supposed you were my friend and wouldn’t mind, and because no one else from the Group was around yet.

I was soon quite glad I sat there, because a certain person–James–sat there that I’d been wanting to get to know.  As a matter of fact, I’d basically forgotten you that weekend, in favor of this person.

One week you said you’d love to go on a date with me; tonight, you said just the opposite, and made me feel like you didn’t even want to be around me.

You’ve confided things in me, and I’ve confided things in you; I don’t want you to blow me off, and I don’t want to blow you off.  Am I really beautiful, as you recently said, or am I totally repulsive to you?

No matter what other feelings I might have towards you that week, what I value most is our friendship.  Friends don’t hurt each other; they spare each other pain.

And friendship means I can sit by you anytime, talk to you anytime (without me suspecting or you expecting that we’ll probably end up making out), tell you anything.  Catherine made a flippant comment once about you not liking it when I talk about Peter (‘the other guy’)….

Remember, when I say I want to talk, it means I want to talk.  Making out was never my idea, even though I went along with it; you always started it.

Don’t make it into another ‘love ’em and leave ’em’ thing; one’s too much.  ‘Over’ Peter?  [Someone] told me you don’t ever really get ‘over’ someone you’ve loved.

But that doesn’t mean you’re always going to be on the rebound.  It’s been eight months, almost nine, and I’m sick of having no one to think of fondly.  It’s probably unhealthy for me to stay away from dating much longer.

***

On the 20th, I had a disturbing dream about a vampire, which I quickly turned into the first draft of my story Candida.

***

Darryl and Ned occasionally did comedy skits as “Virtual Reality.”  I don’t remember if they did skits the following semester; they did none the next year.  My friends in the Group thought they did too much Monty Python, but I loved the skits.

During a campus talent show, they did the famous Parrot Sketch from Monty Python, and a sketch about the Registrar’s office.  Ned played the guy working at the desk, and when someone pointed out that the sign was spelled “Registar’s Office” instead of “Registrar’s Office,” he said, “Well, this is Roanoke.”

Their sketch of the campus president was hilarious.  It featured Darryl playing a clueless president, constantly offering people coffee.  The “president” would get this dopey, open-mouthed grin on his face and kind of tilt his body a bit as he walked, a coffee pot in one hand and coffee mug in the other.

The most hilarious part of it was, the second time they did it, the real president was there to see it–and he loved it.  He must have been a good sport.

Also in that performance, Ned’s new girlfriend Melissa played Ned’s “Piece of Fluff,” or ditzy girlfriend.  (She obviously agreed to this, so don’t go crying sexism.)  At one point, Darryl picked up Ned’s glass of pop and noticed the backwash.  Darryl said, “I feel sorry for Melissa.”

***

No matter what I thought of Peter as a person, no matter if I loved or hated him, I felt he was my burden and I was supposed to keep praying for him until he finally realized that he needed God again.  It wasn’t about me so much; it was about God.  I thought he was just in a phase; I didn’t realize he never would return to Christianity.

One day, we heard a lecture on “Job and the Mystery of Human Existence.”  The speaker was impressed that Roanoke students all read Job our freshman year, so we already knew what he was talking about.

One day, Rachel and Sharon, both RAs, took a master key and got into Pearl’s room while Pearl and Cindy were gone.  They then hid behind furniture.  When Pearl came in, Rachel started lifting up a pillow.  Pearl stared with a blank look, thinking, “Oh-kaaay….”

A year or two before, this Clinton fellow seemed to have no chance of winning against the popular incumbent George Bush who had won the Gulf War.  His run was a waste of time.

Now, opinion polls showed him pulling ahead of Bush.  But I knew he would lose, because Pat Robertson had said so, along with other predictions for 1992.  He had said the same thing soon after the Gulf War.

Each New Year’s, Pat gave predictions for the year to come, things God told him during a time of fasting and prayer.  He never seemed to be wrong.

Since I taped the show, I copied down every word of what he said each New Year’s.  He and his co-host would name the previous year’s predictions, and say they had all come to pass.

The only prediction I wondered about came right before the Gulf War.  Had he really said the Stock Market would plummet, or had he said, rather, that gas prices would plummet?  Had I written it wrong?  Had he thought one thing and said another, which I often do?

Whatever it was, I wrote down one thing, another thing happened, and he claimed to have predicted what happened.

I thought MTV had gotten too political.  This, and the message that everyone should vote, wouldn’t have been so bad if they hadn’t 1) shown political shows instead of getting back to videos, and 2) shown an obvious bias toward one candidate.

But here’s something good that MTV showed a lot that year: Joe’s Apartment, a comedy short about a guy whose apartment is overrun with cockroaches.  It’s hilarious; enjoy!

Even college students like a little trick-or-treating once in a while.  Since I wasn’t in the group who went that year, I don’t know where they went to (perhaps to houses on Prof Row).  Someone this year dressed as a mummy, wrapped head to toe in toilet paper.

The disgusting but funny antics of MTV and Nickelodeon’s Ren and Stimpy now came to MTV, and became popular at Roanoke.  We loved to imitate Ren’s “STEEEM-pee!” and “STEEM-pee, you EE-dee-uht!”

Ren and Stimpy’s song “Happy Happy Joy Joy” became popular to sing–and I believe WIXX played it.

One evening, while passing through the Campus Center lounge, I found a group of students all gathered around the TV, watching Ren and Stimpy.

This wonderful popularity, however, was shortlived: Ren’s voice changed, the cartoons began to be more for kids, and a new cartoon arrived on MTV: Beavis and Butthead.  But more on that one later.

I kept setting aside a tenth of my paycheck to be given either to the S– church, or to my church back home when I went home for vacations.  Some guy on The 700 Club (Benny Hinn) had predicted a dark economic time for the country, saying that only the givers in the church would survive.

Of course, in the fullness of time we see that though other parts of the world did see recessions in the 90s and the US went through its own recession for a time, it wasn’t so bad as all that.  Most people in the US seemed to survive, and I don’t think being a giver in the church affected that.  Heck, the 90s ended with a booming economy.

Clarissa and I heard awful stories about Krueger, that girls on the mostly-freshman third floor would get drunk and poop in the hallway instead of the bathroom, that somebody on the second floor puked or pooped in a shower stall….

It turned out that at least one of these stories wasn’t exactly true.  I believe the shower stall story (and possibly the other one as well) could be explained by someone taking peanut butter and putting it in a shower stall as a prank.

Some people didn’t even bother getting dressed for their 8:00 classes: They’d roll out of bed and go to class in their pajamas!

In high school, I had felt like an oddball for not wearing makeup like the other girls did.  That was the 80s, after all, when you were “supposed” to wear it, and lots of it.

But in college, I was no longer the only girl who didn’t wear makeup.  Rachel didn’t wear it, Catherine didn’t wear it, Clarissa didn’t wear it.  I finally felt normal.  In the late 90s, I’m told, college girls commonly went without makeup.

Clarissa and I hated it when our suitemates would hold seances in the lounge.  They’d turn off the lights and light candles, and Clarissa and I would hole up in our room until it was over, afraid to come out even to go outside or to the bathroom.  We feared what they might stir up.

We also heard that Carl, Dirk’s roommate, was a witch, and he and Dirk held a seance in their room in Grossheusch once.  Carl said he went to bed in his nightclothes.  When he woke up in the morning, his clothes were on, and all the drawers in the room were open.  (He assumed Dirk had been asleep.)

***

On Halloween, right before Hell Week started, Shawn called around 12:45am, asking if I wanted to watch a movie in the suite, in Maggie’s old room, which had been made into a guest room with the suite lounge’s old furniture after new furniture was delivered.  There was a big, old, comfy couch.

We used my TV and VCR.  He came around 1am, so I got myself ready for bed before he came, even in my nightgown.

We lay on the couch watching the movie, me about to fall asleep; afterwards, there was a little fooling around, though not much so I could go to bed.  He finally left around 4:30!

It was Saturday, but I had to get up in time for lunch, so didn’t get enough sleep.

It sounds very much like what a real couple would do, not just friends, just some simple little scenario of hanging out together all nice and cuddly.

November 1992

Life at Roanoke: My College Memoirs–September 1991 through May 1995

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:

 

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