Preparing For My First Fraternity Grad Weekend As An Alumnus

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At 7:45 a.m. on Friday, April 22, I fly out of Austin and head to Madison for my first-ever fraternity grad weekend as an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After playing host to this event for four years as an undergrad, it’s now my time to play guest. And, as you can imagine, I couldn’t be more excited to get back and be the drunk asshole grad I used to witness walk (or, more appropriately, stumble through) the hallowed halls of our house — the one I always dreamed of one day becoming.

The event? Frank Norris Pig Dinner, Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI)’s nationwide annual graduate banquet. Every spring semester, each FIJI chapter rents out a ballroom or event space, gets catering, and engages in fraternal bacchanalia, complete with a mix of lighthearted and serious speeches, a number of ritual events, and a state of the chapter address. All of the chapter’s living alumni are invited to attend, as well as alumni from other FIJI chapters who happen to live in the area and can’t make it back to their own Pig Dinners.

While that’s the event’s more official-sounding description, it’s moreso the much-needed yearly excuse FIJIs everywhere need to ditch their boring post grad lives and return to their college towns for a weekend of fraternal debauchery — and it’s amazing. Don’t believe me? Read fellow FIJI and TFM writer Dan Regester’s account of his chapter’s 2015 Pig Dinner here.

The itinerary for our Pig Dinner weekend is as follows: grad reception and bars on Friday, golf outing, Pig Dinner and bars on Saturday, and chain myself to the radiator in my fraternity’s basement so that I don’t ever have to leave on Sunday. Simple enough — as it should be. The schedule of events for every fraternity grad weekend should be this simple because, the way I see it, it’s not really a schedule of events; it’s a “here are the places the undergrads will be and the times at which they will be at them, you drunk asshole, please come join us if you aren’t too belligerently drunk, or covered in garbage… JARED.”

I’ll do my best… NOT! Yeah, I just made a “not” joke, step off my jock, bitch, I’m a fucking grad.

This might be my first grad weekend, ergo all my thoughts are just assumptions based on what I’ve seen from the grads during my undergrad Pig Dinner days, but I feel like the concept of “on-time” doesn’t exist when you’re a grad who’s back with his fraternity brothers. Why? Because in your eyes, you’re right on schedule with your own personal itinerary. “Hang out with my fellow graduates from the time I arrive into town until the time I leave? Check.” Will Bevs get to the golf outing while we’re all already at the turn (because him and JEM overslept… classic) and then somehow proceed to get drunker by hole 18 than the rest of us, who will have already been drinking for two hours? Probably. Will there be a brother in attendance whom I literally don’t see the entire weekend? No doubt. Will somebody not even make it to the actual Pig Dinner portion of Pig Dinner? Unquestionably yes. That’s just how it’ll go, I assume.

Oh, the pledges. I can’t wait to have some nice interactions with the pledges. If I’m lucky, my very niche internet reputation will not have proceeded me, and I can freak at least one of them the fuck out. My goal for the weekend is to make a pledge ask somebody “what the fuck was this chapter like back in 2012 to where this superchach got initiated?” I’m already working on my conversation starters, too. Here are my top 3.

Me to a group of pledges: “Just like how dwarf planets don’t count as planets, dwarves don’t count as people. Who’s with me?”

Me to a pledge after I force him to let me give him a 1-on-1 tour of our fraternity house attic: “So… you ever been fisted?”

Me to another grad as a pledge is walking by our conversation: “… and then I said to him, “I can’t BELIEVE you would make this whole thing about race. I don’t see color, officer, that’s why I ran that stoplight and hit that interracial couple.” He let me off with just a warning, can you believe that?!? What an IDIOT!!!”

I’ll let you guys know what happens.

Despite the fact that I have no prior personal experiences to base these off of, and the fact that I’ll most likely be so drunk this weekend that I won’t know whether or not they end up being correct, I have three general predictions for this trip.

1. I will be asked to donate money to my chapter

Lucky for the Wisconsin FIJIs, I don’t, and will never, shy away from giving money back to the fraternity. My fraternity is responsible for pretty much every good thing that’s happened in my life since 2012. Every student org position I held was because of my fraternity membership/fraternity-based nepotism. All my best friends? Thanks, FIJI. My job, AKA the thing that makes me money? 100% the result of my fraternity membership. And that’s why I have no issue giving some of that money back to FIJI. You call it a donation, I call it a finder’s fee.

Hell, I even donated to the fraternity at last year’s Pig Dinner when I was still an undergrad. We had a bunch of different pledge sheets in our dining hall where the grads could donate money to specific projects they wanted to see done. One of these projects? New walls in our foyer. I was standing by the “new walls” pledge sheet when a large group of fraternity brothers young and old erupted in a boisterous chant of “Walls! Walls! Walls! Walls! Walls!” while looking at me and moving their fists up and down. I was trapped by a force stronger than peer pressure — brother pressure — and proudly signed that sheet to raucous cheers and applause.

That is a great memory and all, but if I get up there tomorrow and those walls don’t look at least $50 nicer, I’m gonna be pissed.

2. I will not feel like an undergrad

One thing I learned from last October’s Homecoming weekend is that with this trip, I’m not going “back to college.” Rather, I’m going back to where I went to college. It’s still Madison, and it’s still UW, but the people, businesses, bars, restaurants, buildings, drunk food joints, etc. — everything that I remember about my college experience? Irreconcilably different, almost to the point of antithesis. One thing you learn after graduation is that college isn’t a place — it’s a time. But I’ll get into that in more detail after I get back.

3. Leaving won’t be that hard

This one seems incredibly counterintuitive, but it’s really not if you think about it. Almost everything that I want in my life will be in Madison this weekend (especially after that Chick-fil-A popped up back in 2014). But every other weekend (Homecoming not included), there’s not much for me there. Sure, my undergrad and grad student friends are still in Madison, which would obviously make for a really fun visit, but they’re only still there because they have a reason to be; something I wouldn’t have. I mean, I would, but my reason would just be so that I could try to relive my college memories while they add onto theirs. It’s a realization that stings, but if you spend your whole life reliving college, you kinda missed the point of college: growing up. As much as it sucks, growing up is the debt we owe college for teaching us how to do it. And, if you think about it, it’s the least we can do.

Reliving my college memories once or twice a year, though? Yeah, I’ll take that.

Madison, I’m comin’ for ya.

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