Re: Greek life doesn’t care about student lives

To Hanna Suarez – Opinions Editor, Daily 49er:

Let me begin with first thanking you for acknowledging the tragic death of Timothy Piazza, a sophomore who passed away sadly at the neglect of a Penn State fraternity. This is not the first death associated with hazing or alcohol abuse within a fraternity or sorority that has caught national attention – and like many newspapers, you capitalized on the sensationalism of Piazza’s death and used your position to attack Greek life organizations with little research on how these organizations are run. Instead of interviewing campus Greek members or members of OUR campus athletic organizations to understand your local Greek community, you choose to use impartial statistics to justify calling a ban on Greek organizations without doing any research in the actual field. You hide behind your rape, alcohol, and hazing statistics to hide the fact that you did no research into your local Greek community. You even cite dues and party receipts from Penn State without finding out any statistics from the college you’re writing the article for to act as comparison.

Maybe this is just my opinion, but you jumped to a lot of conclusions from your statistics without understanding the points of view of the community you’re criticizing. I hope in the future, you’ll take the opportunity you have as a student journalist to reach out or contact CSULB’s Greek organizations. You’d be surprised at how many of its members would love to talk to you – or maybe you assumed we were all hiding on our lofty thrones, too entitled to speak to anyone that hasn’t pledged or doesn’t get a check each week from their parents for extra spending money?

I joined a sorority at the end of my sophomore year in college, but at that time, I held the same opinion as you. I thought Greek life was about drinking, drugs, and partying with no consequences. I had built these stereotypes from articles I read, movies I’d watched, and from all kinds of media that had beaten into my brain the idea that frat boys would try to date rape me and sorority girls were catty and rich. Then I was proved wrong.

I could tell you about the community service my sorority and countless other Greek organizations support, besides all the hours, money, and time we put into fundraising and giving back to charity and our local community, but you don’t seem to care. I could tell you about how I was too shy and anxiety-ridden to make meaningful relationships with people I’d met at CSULB until I joined Alpha Omicron Pi, but instead I’m sure you’d like to reduce me to the fact I just “paid for friendship”.

I could tell you I served in leadership roles in my organization, learned how to budget and run meetings, and put our dues into areas that gave back to our sisters and to the house our sorority used for meetings, but you don’t actually care about how my organization was ran; you’d rather assume our money went to partying, drinking, or going out with frat boys. I could even tell you about the fact that I paid my own dues while I was in the sorority and I worked a part-time job while going to CSULB full-time in order to afford it, but instead you’d rather assume I was born rich and wanted to shell out thousands and thousands into an organization just to increase my social status.

I would even tell if you, if you’d asked, that we have mandatory educations – which are essentially free lectures and seminars paid for in our dues – for the women in my chapter on some of the topics you mention in your article, which include: binge-drinking and the signs of alcohol overdose, sexual assault and the available resources on campus, and even domestic violence and self-defense workshops. I could tell you about all the fraternity men I have met over the years that didn’t see me as an object, but instead as a peer, treating me with respect and kindness. I even began dating a fraternity man, which has led to one of the healthiest relationships I have ever had and that I am still in today after two years – but you’d rather reduce fraternity gentlemen into “boys”, infantilizing them and perpetuating the idea that they are testosterone-raging teens hell-bent on hazing and assaulting any young woman they lay eyes on.

I could tell you about how Greek life enhanced my life and how it continues to do so even though I am now an alumna of AOII and have since graduated from CSULB, but it appears you care little for the opinion of someone that is actually a part of Greek life, or you would have interviewed one.

Your assumptions are dangerous because you’re perpetuating stereotypes against organizations that you know nothing about and that you obviously haven’t put the care or effort into getting to know or research. You would have learned that we don’t claim to be perfect – Greek organizations have always had to deal with hazing incidences, alcohol abuse, and sexual assault charges against their members. Our national and international headquarters give us rules and guidelines, and if those guidelines are broken, our chapters are disbanded.

We take these issues just as seriously as you do, if not more seriously. Your gross exaggerations of us being elitist and unaccountable for our actions are in direct opposition to all the Penn State members who were just charged with manslaughter and the shutting down of their fraternity due to Piazza’s death. When something like this happens in the Greek community, it reflects poorly on all of us – which makes us more steadfast in our desire to do better for our community, to continue to work hard academically, and to be more loving, kind, and better human beings.

My problem, Hanna, is that you could have used your article as an opportunity to talk about the dangers of binge-drinking and give information or ideas about its prevention on college campuses or even within clubs and organizations. You could have given your readers some facts or resources of on-campus organizations that are there for women and men that have suffered from sexual assault and violence. Instead you used this tragedy as an opportunity to rehash old and tired stereotypes without any new fresh ideas on how to solve these problems.

This should go without saying, but if you talk to almost any sorority woman at CSULB, or even any Alpha Omicron Pi, they’d tell you this – we don’t haze, I was never hazed, and my sisters accepted me as a member of the group without needing to prove a damn thing. In your mind though, doesn’t it just make a better story, to say that banning something will mean something bad will just stop, instead of pushing those dark behaviors deeper underground? Because prohibition and the War on Drugs have worked out so well in the past, let’s just put an end to all fraternities and sororities, and then people will stop drinking, stop hazing people, and stop sexually assaulting people! What a concept!

Contrary to Hanna’s pointless idea of an outright ban, I’ll suggest the following, more realistic ideas, especially to CSULB Greeks reading this article. Greek organizations and our members need to be more open with our condemnation of the behavior of our fellow members, like those of Penn State’s Beta Theta Pi. We need to focus our attention on the education of our current and future members on the topics of hazing, sexual abuse, and the dangers of binge drinking. Every chapter needs to refocus on what they can do to prevent a tragedy like Penn State from happening within their own organization, whether it be increasing the presence of sober brothers and sisters at events, or starting sober driver ride shares within our chapters as resources. We need to further our outreach and service in our local communities instead of solely focusing on fundraisers for charities. We need to support one another and build each other up, focusing on the betterment of our community as a whole.

These tragedies should light a fire within us to reflect better on our organizations and to meet the world’s hatred for us with love and compassion. We are better than what Hanna Suarez and the media thinks of us, and the changing of our image can only be done by the positive actions we make and show to the world. Continue to wear your letters proud, as I know I will.

wallowing

sadness is a streetlamp flickering out at the end of the path, sadness is a trigger for the buried childhood dreams stillborn in my belly, sadness is church bells and virgin marys and hallelujahs and youth group and bibles bibles bibles, sadness is the metallic tang in the back of my throat on the last day i feel sick, and i suck that feeling down with bathwater in my gin

sinners

i never had faith before you
i lost all of it
in your white mustang blocks
away from my grandparents house and
you told me you
fucked someone else
and i can taste the salt on your
skin, you asked me if you
could hold me one more time

and i let you

you cried into my hair and
i was sticky, i’m in the
cool bathwater now reading
plath and wondering
what it’s like to disappear, if i
could step off a train into –
but i know matter
cannot be created nor destroyed
and my matter
splattered on the front of
a metro bus won’t make you into

a faithful fiance,
me into a trophy wife,
or god any more real

it would just make me dead

Why You Shouldn’t Trust A 23 Year Old To Know What She’s Doing

IMG_4344

Here I am, almost three weeks post-birthday, wondering what the fuck my life is supposed to mean at this point. I graduated last January from college, fresh from my years yearning for any and all knowledge of English, with no career prospects in my major. No networking connections. No job offers given to me, and no replies from the hundreds of employers that I spent countless hours crafting cover letters for.

Is this what post-grad life is supposed to be like? A year of saving pennies into savings accounts, only to spend them on Taco Bell when my PB and J sandwiches aren’t cutting it, on Sudafed when my immune system is failing me due to my instant noodle and caffeine-spiked diet, on concerts I can’t afford so I sacrifice other comforts for the thrill of taking risks in my dwindling youth?

I don’t know how to be brave enough to start my new path. For the longest time, we’re all taught what to do next and where to go. Go to Pre-School, go to Kindergarten and to every grade after. That is the path: straight A’s; honors; reading not-for-fun books; homework and chores and the responsibilities we avoid as children with whole lives ahead of us; study for your SAT’s and learn every word; apply to your dream college and five more safety schools until you make that decision.

Then you’re left without a path, and have to pretend like you’ve known all along what that path was. English major, take my classes, make ‘connections’, make lifelong friends, land that job on graduation day, and make enough money to live in my own house.

Then, as the cliché states: life happens. Where did my motivation go? My drive? My will has been broken by the reality that I’m flawed, more than I ever thought I could be.

My writing is shit, and so are my job prospects. Cover letters are boring. So is my resume. When will that real job come, the one with the financial security I’d hoped it would bring, with the happiness that only a dream could afford to give me?

A Facebook picture of my recent successes is worth a thousand words to my acquaintances and relatives, except for the words I’ve rehearsed in my head before I see them.

“No I don’t have a job in English, editing, or publishing like I thought I would at this point. No, I don’t want to just settle and be a teacher…but we’ll see where life takes me.”

“My job is great! Yes, I make enough to get me by. Ya know, that Lunchables diet.”

“Yup, still live in Long Beach. No, not New York. Maybe one day.”

“My boyfriend is doing great, hopefully will get a job in engineering and be the breadwinner, haha. Maybe then I’ll be able to pursue my writing.”

“The next step? I guess…just trying to figure out what that next step is.”

“Well, Karen, maybe I spend all my money on concerts, festivals, and food because I’m avoiding answering these questions posed by social media ‘friends’ that claim to be concerned about my well-being, but instead are more intent on pushing their expectations onto me about how my life should or shouldn’t be. Suck it.”

College taught me binge drinking was an acceptable way of dealing with the pain of adulthood.

This seems a little self-explanatory, but I still pretend I’m in college the way I can slick back drinks at a frat party that I self-invite myself to these days. Shots are not just for doctors anymore – we can inflict pain and numbness all on our own!

Didn’t all of the great writers have some sort of addiction to alcohol or drugs? Am I walking in the footsteps of the greats who have spun words into beauty after getting shitfaced on bourbon in their little writing dens? Or am I just another post-grad with no purpose who finds that all her friends are still in college and living a carefree, buzzed always lifestyle?

The answer to this question is simple: I need to stop drinking. Except for wine. Or a glass of beer when I’m out for dinner. Or a shot on my birthday…yeah, that sounds like a good, adult compromise.

Maybe this is the part where I learn something: my new, adult life is full of compromises.

Should I go buy some healthy groceries and get my life on track, or order a pizza and wallow in sadness? Why not spend half my money on mostly healthy food choices, and the other half on pizza. See? Compromise.

I don’t think the compromises will ever stop. If I really want to get deep here, life isn’t going to stop for me to make choices or compromises or decisions. It’s going to keep going whether I’m ready or not, and when I reach these milestones, like every birthday leading to the big 30, I’m going to have to reevaluate everything.

I have to remember my past and let all my heartbreaks, my tears, my successes, all inform my future. Every year, I’m going to remember the climb I still need to make to reach each goal I’ve set for myself – writing daily, job applications, networking, staying in touch. Every setback will be a challenge. And every year, without fail, I’m going to be better when I look back and see how far I’ve come, how much I’ve overcome, and how much better of a climber I am because of it all.

In short: I’m ready to be 23. To be a real adult is a whole other mountain to climb.

panic

you smoke your cigarettes
like you’ve never smoked a cigarette before
like I never told you I hate the smell
like I never had you promise to never
be like my father
you smoke your cigarettes
like you want me to inhale it
like you want me to
stop breathing
so maybe I
will

Eviction

the only thing my mom misses about you

is exactly what I miss about you, too

I don’t wish for things to be

the way they were, but I’m allowed

to miss you, right?

I’m allowed to grieve for you, to want for

the things you gave me after all this time

I’ve been on and off my meds lately

and I guess that’s where this is coming from

thw part of me I tried to suffocate and leave

behind when you left me

but it’s the only thing that makes me

want to write poetry, the grief

the pain that dug so deep and scarred over

new skin stretched over old skin and

wouldnt’t it be nice to see your face again?

But every old album on social media

memories remind me of why you weren’t

the one for me and why the one that comes

after is always a better one,

but are they the one

that comes and picks me up when it’s

too dark to walk home,

when the bus forgets to stop or when my

money runs too low or I read the wrong

times and I’m not sure how many calls I

made to you to help me out,

but you always did in the end

I know I can’t compare them all to you

but you were my first, and how

pathetic am I? To remember you,

to give you a poem after all the shit

you put me through,

what did I do to offer you

a permanent home inside me

that you never walked out of?

What precident did you set,

what scars are you forcing me to carve

on all the men that try to burrow in?

This is your final eviction notice,

within 3 days time, remove

every piece of you still attached

to the crevices of my being

and never even speak a syllable

resembling my name again

and this is a promise

that I’m renovating myself

and out front on my new lawn

a sign says,

“I’m open,

come on in.”

13

Months have passed and turned
to years, and suddenly a man I
knew so well is now a man some
girl knows better, and well, I
saw him not that long ago and
I’m pretty sure he knew my face and
when you see a man you knew
holding up the girl who now knows
that man on his shoulders, laughing
like there wasn’t a care in the world, like
he didn’t break some girl’s heart
months and months and months ago, like
that man never took a girl’s soul and
pierced it straight through until
a hole became infected and stitched over,
internally bruised and blood drenched and like
he had changed, but a man like that
could never change, and now that girl
who knows that man better, doesn’t know
how freeing it truly feels to be
rid of that man, to be truly
loved by herself, because that man she
thinks she knows is no lover
she deserves

Prank

 

Jeanine lined the edges of the bathroom with candles and lit them with care with the matches from the kitchen drawer Mom had said never to open. She had taken the floor pillows from her bedroom and put one against the bathtub, the other right across from it against the sink. She sat by the bathtub and waited.

The floorboards in the hallway creaked, and the bathroom door opened – it was Jeanine’s twin Emily, holding the Ouija board in her trembling hands.

“Jean, I don’t like this,” Emily said, setting the board down on the floor in the center. “I really, really don’t like this.”

“Shut up,” Jeanine said, “and close the door. Shut off the lights. Demons hate the light.”

Emily did as she was told, and the room glowed gold from the candlelight. She grabbed her hairbrush from the drawer, then sat on her designated pillow and brushed her long hair.

“If demons hate the light, then why the candles?”

“The candles, dummy, are the only light that demons do like. It’s like you never listen to a word I say,” Jeanine said, arranging the Ouija board to be exactly center between them. She smiled to herself, knowing Emily would never forget what she was about to do.

She had been planning this prank for months, saving up her allowance, convincing her twin she was buying a new board game for them to play. She conned Emily into forking up her piggy bank cash, too, just enough to purchase it from the strange shop across from their middle school.

Here it was, the yellowing heavy square with each letter painted in perfect alphabetical sequence. The room was quiet except for Emily’s panicked breathing.

“Would you stop it?” Jeanine said. “Demons aren’t real, Em.”

“But why does it have to be demons?” Emily said, catching eyes with her twin quickly before looking away. “Why can’t we just talk to Papa through it?”

“Because Ouija doesn’t reach angels.”

“I hate this already.” Emily brushed her hair faster. Jeanine wrenched the brush from Emily’s grip, throwing it against the wall. It hit the tile with a clang.

“Stop it!” Jeanine said. “Don’t you want to know if it’s real?”

They stared into each other’s eyes for a whole minute. Emily nodded.

Wordlessly, they put their fingers lightly on the planchette.

“What do we say?” Emily whispered. Jeanine’s eyes narrowed at her twin, as if to say shut up, please. The candles flickered for a moment, unnoticed.

“Is there anyone here?” Jeanine said, her voice echoing. The planchette began to move under the light touch of their fingers, hovering over YES. Emily took her fingers off and folded her arms.

“You’re messing with me,” she accused.

“Put your fingers back, now,” Jeanine said, “or I’m telling Mom you bought this with your money. Which is partly true, by the way.”

Emily hesitantly placed her fingertips back on the piece.

“Oh, Spirit,” Jeanine continued dramatically, her voice deep, her speech planned word for word, “who are you?”

The planchette moved, and Emily’s eyes widened with every letter. Jeanine spoke each aloud: “D-E-M-O-N.”

“Jean, please,” Emily whispered, her fingers shaking. “Let’s stop now, before Mom hears us from downstairs.”

Jeanine only smiled. “Oh Great Demon, what do you want from us?”

The piece, guided and steadied by Jeanine’s fingers, moved despite Emily’s trembling. This time, Emily spoke the letters aloud. “I-W-A-N-T-J-E-A-N.”

She looked up at her twin, her eyes glossy, a single tear falling from her eye. “Jeanie, it wants you.”

“No!” Jeanine gasped in fake surprise, putting on her best frightened expression which she had been practicing the last few days and it was especially good. “It can’t want…me!”

Then – the best part of the trick – Jeanine’s eyes widened, and her head hung back as she threw her arms up as she began to speak in a made-up language she had practiced with great diligence, involving a lot of lip-smacking and tongue-flailing.

Emily began to cry. “STOP IT, Jeanie, this isn’t funny! This isn’t funny! STOP! IT!

Just then, the room began to shake, slowly at first, then violently in tremors. The candles shifted and moved across the floor as if the ground were tilting. Emily screamed in terror, grasping at the tile but finding nowhere to hold, looking about wildly. Jeanine stopped her act, too, grasping against the sides of the bathtub, trying to steady herself.

“This isn’t me!” Jeanine said, her voice cracking. “Emily, this isn’t me! I swear!”

Emily screamed louder, tears streaming down her face. She tried to stand, but the room shuddered suddenly, and she collapsed to the floor, her head hitting the tile with a crack. A few candles fell over, cracking the glass of their containers, pieces flying everywhere, dinging against the tile. The board slid across the room and crashed with a thud against the closed bathroom door, trying to escape the little hell Jeanine had created.

Then the earth was still. The earthquake had ended. The air smelled like ‘Fresh Linen’ and ‘French Vanilla’ and smoke.

Jeanine slowly brushed the glass pieces into the corner, and stood the fallen candles upright. Some were still lit, and flickered feebly. Emily laid motionless.

“Em, you don’t have to be so dramatic. Obviously I was joking, you know, about the board and all. Get up and help me clean.”

Emily laid there, silent. Jeanine rolled her eyes.

“Get up, now,” Jeanine ordered, standing up herself. She crossed the room and turned the bathroom lights on, but Emily did not stir. “Stop faking and get up!”

Emily did not move, not even to breathe. Her hands were sprawled over her face. Jeanine reached down to move her arms, but felt something cool and sticky on her fingers. She then realized that around Emily’s head, a pool of something thick was leaking out.

Jeanine screamed as she had never screamed before.

The planchette moved silently across the Ouija board, spelling out:

G-O-T Y-O-U