BY GRAY WHITSETT – OPINIONS SECTION EDITOR
The longstanding tradition of having a ‘big’ and ‘little’ is central to being a member of a fraternity and sorority, creating a bond between Greek members that can often transcend brotherhood or sisterhood. For many, it’s one of the closest bonds to be formed during their college years.
Recently, however, Centre students have expressed dismay at the newest addition to their Greek family, discovering upon Big/Little Reveal that they’re just “not perfect.”
“When I joined my sorority, I was so excited to have a little,” sophomore and member of Delta Kappa Theta Loretta Johnson said. “The older girls made it seem so glamorous. But now that I have one, I hate to say it, but she’s pretty average.”
And Johnson doesn’t seem to be alone. Junior and member of Alpha Alpha Alpha (Triple A) Henrietta Williams expressed similar disillusionment having met her. After talking to her briefly during formal recruitment and announcing to the world on Bid Day that she was “her favorite person ever,” Williams was stuck being her big.
“She’s a nice girl, really she is, but I already have one little and honestly that’s enough Instagram material for a lifetime.”
Fraternity men echoed these Greek women, labeling their little brothers as nothing more than “needy drinking budd[ies]” and “entitled to my exec position.”
“I always thought being a father-figure would be rewarding,” senior and member of Sigma Epsilon Chi Robert Watkins said. “Turns out, it’s a nightmare. Every night they want something from the grill, a ride to Walmart, or ‘help on their midterms,’ whatever that means. It’s exhausting.”
Indeed, for most sororities and fraternities, being someone’s big entrusts them with their little’s wellbeing, ensuring they make it through to initiation, college, and into the postgraduate world.
“It’s a big responsibility, no pun intended,” New Member Educator and consequently a victim of political correctness Richard Ramswell said. “I know every fraternity does things differently, but for Gamma Kappa Epsilon (Geke), the New Member committee works really hard to match up the active members with the pledges for big/little relationships. When they don’t work out, it’s heartbreaking.”
While Ramswell is correct in saying Greek organizations having meaningful differences, in general each chapter greatly values their big/little dynamic. Sorority women and fraternity men go to great lengths to make substantive, long-lasting, and mutually beneficial relationships with their forced adoptions, hosting ‘family dinners,’ purchasing expensive letters, and extending an obligatory invitation to their Spring Break plans.
But is this jaded outlook merely a result of Greek experience? Not according to first-year Bernadette Huffman, who was recently introduced to her sorority big.
“I mean she’s nice,” Huffman said, desperately cramming the remains of big/little reveal under her bed, as construction paper, glitter, and stylized Popsicle sticks poured out into the floor, “but I don’t feel any deep connection to her. We both like Titanic and the song ‘Mr. Brightside,’ but that’s essentially it.”
“In Geke we call them pledge fathers/sons,” newly initiated Travis Fugget said. “So my pledge dad and I hit it off really well in the beginning – he bought me a football, played catch, and even taught me how to ride a bike. It was incredible! But now, it’s just not the same. He’s never around.”
It seems that a growing population of bigs just aren’t fulfilling their end of the bargain, leaving their littles with feelings of disappointment and inadequacy.
“I guess she could only watch Jack die with me so many times before it got old,” Huffman said, eyeing old photographs of herself and her little. “She went abroad, and now I’m aimless. I thought we had something special.”
According to the littles, when bigs leave for extended periods, like going abroad for a semester, or even permanently, like graduating or transferring, it leaves a significant void in their life. And what’s worse, there seems to be a history of this behavior from big to little.
“My big was never around,” Watkins said. “I had to take care of myself. When I wanted to irresponsibly drive to Qdoba midweek, I did it on my own. When I wanted to live in Brockman as a sophomore, I made my own senior friends. That’s just the way it was.”
When pressed on his relationship now with his little, Watkins was unremorseful.
“I gave my little everything. If he can’t make do, that’s his problem. I barely even knew my big,” Watkins said.
“I have a life too, you know,” Johnson said. “And with another little on the way, there’s only so much I can give. Between the crafts, Facebook posts, and pricey Greek memorabilia, I’m broke. At some point, she’s going to have to start being more independent.”
For littles, it seems that their mistreatment is rooted in a problematic relationship between their big and ‘grandbig.’ In keeping with nearly every other mental health issue, there are concerns this will only perpetuate the problem, as bigs impart their emotional baggage onto their littles.
“All I know is that I never want my little to feel this way,” Fugget said, staring longingly at his rundown bicycle. “We would go down to the train tracks on a sunny spring day and he’d take the training wheels offer and balance me. Now he’s off at medical school. Abandoned me, just like that. I don’t know who Johns Hopkins is, but I hope he makes my dad happy.”