Pledging screws with your head. The mental test is far more grueling than the physical one. But there will always be one mindfuck that stands out, and once the mindfuck reveals itself, you can reflect on the experience and appreciate what you worked for and gained, even if most of it came by the courtesy of a ruse. Pledges come in strangers and are initiated as brothers. It starts slow — sometimes infuriatingly slow if the the class is big or there are some tough personalities to break. It stays slow for a few weeks until the difficulty is ratcheted up. The increase in difficulty is sometimes gradual, but more often, it’s exponential: going from two hour, weekly lineups to four hour lineups, three days a week when sleepovers and early mornings become the norm. And the spike in toughness prompts a turning point. Every class experiences a “turning point” and it comes to define the class’s resolve. It’s when every member of the class can definitively answer the most important question: Why am I here?
At first, a pledge class is assembled as a loose-bound group of mostly strangers. Some may have rushed as friends and others may have met during rush, but the majority are meeting for the first time the men they will call their brothers for the remainder of their lives. The salutations will be awkward and the first night will be strange from a pledge class’s perspective. These seemingly nice brothers have pulled a complete 180 and are now yelling and drunkenly throwing beers at them. At this point, the entire pledge class is still a dozen or so individuals with very little sense of cohesion. They may even be in competition to gain the best rapport with the actives.
The next few weeks will follow in a similar style, as no sense of urgency has taken hold of the pledge class yet. That is to say, they haven’t been pushed to a join-or-die point yet. Most think pledging will follow the same straight road of easy lineups, fetching a few beers, and using embarrassing theme party costumes for a sympathy fuck. They’re still all individuals, pledging for selfish reasons.
They’re all still in it for the parties, girls and test banks.
The individualistic attitude of a fledgling pledge class can exist for a few weeks, but needs to be squashed once the halfway point is reached, or the remaining weeks will destroy the class. A divided pledge class will die on the beaches of Hell Week.
As such, around week five or six, a pledge class will experience their turning point.
Every competent pledge master will plan on a turning point occurring just after the midpoint of pledging to bind a dozen individuals in brotherhood, and springboard them towards Hell Week and beyond, but no one — not even the pledge master — will know when or what will cause the class to turn the corner. It needs to happen organically, though there’s a good chance it will happen within the context of lineups. The turning point is a deep, personal experience shared by the class. Some pledge classes are united over a brother’s loss of a loved one, or someone falling ill or getting injured. Other groups can be bonded over a cancerous weak link dropping or being balled. At this point, when the pledges overcome their first real strife, a member should be able to look down the line and say “now I know why I’m really here.”
It is not until every member buys into the mindfuck and begins pledging for his pledge class, and not for himself, that the ruse takes hold and maxims of unity and brotherhood cease to be just cliché. It takes a class’s team-first attitude to make pledging worthwhile, otherwise pledging is just like joining a club.
A class is defined by its turning point. It’s brought on by the first real struggle its members’ faces. There’s no need to force it: It always happens. And when it does, a correct answer can be given to the question of “why am I here?”
“I’m not here for me anymore.
I’m not here for networking and philanthropy, or free booze and easy lays.
I’m here for these guys. And I need to see this through to the end.”.
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