Thanks to my wife, I got caught between a rock and a hard place last night. She’d volunteered my services to communicate with her nephew, who’s home from college for spring break. Marcello has informed his parents he wants to quit the fraternity he joined last fall. Believing their boy too much of a loner, his parents feel group participation will benefit him in the long run. They’ve urged him to reconsider, but he’s stubbornly refused their entreaties. That’s where I entered the picture. Sophia told her brother that the boy respects me and that I’d gladly convince him to remain. Right!
Marcello hadn’t yet offered justification for his stance. Accordingly, when he picked up the phone yesterday, I asked him: “What’s wrong with the frat?”
“Uncle Richard, my family’s a bunch of ‘nutjobs’!”
While inwardly I didn’t disagree, I chose tact over honesty for once: “Marcello, how ’bout we leave your parents out of this and stick to the frat? Anyway, I’m sure they only want what’s best for you.”
“Huh? I’m not talking about my parents, Uncle Richard. I mean my fraternity family.”
As Marcello proceeded to explain, his fraternity contains numerous “families.” Each one consists of a “little,” “big,” “grandbig,” and “great grandbig.” Every time a new member joins the frat, he’s taken under the wing of an existing member. The new member then becomes a little (brother), and the mentor becomes his big (brother). The mentor’s big thereupon becomes the little’s grandbig, and so forth.
Each family has its own crest and maintains its own traditions. Each also creates its own rituals, the most important being the ceremony for a little’s adoption into the unit.
Marcello confessed that he’d already quit the frat, during his adoption ceremony no less. According to him, the rite proved merely his last straw. His first occurred while rooming with his big in the month preceding the ceremony, when Marcello returned early from class one afternoon and discovered “the pig” masturbating in their quarters.
Obeying my wife’s instructions, I jokingly downplayed the incident: “I’m sure you’d rather not see your big brother jerking off, but unless he came on your pillow, I’d hardly call it a reason to quit the frat.”
“Not on my pillow, Uncle Richard; in my sock!”
Sticking to my prime directive, I told him: “Alright, so your big has boundary issues. Just make sure you don’t room with him next year. Anything else?”
Without pause, he replied: “Oh yeah! At the adoption ceremony, my grandbig said everyone in the family has to get tattooed with the family crest…”
I interrupted, making a final attempt to nudge him along his parents’ path: “I hear you. And I’m not personally a huge fan of tattoos, but don’t you already have one?”
“I do,” Marcello conceded. “But it’s not a five-inch woodpecker sitting on a tree branch; and it’s not perched on my ass cheek, like the ones my big, grandbig and great grandbig showed me!”