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Confession #3

November 15, 2009

I have been the recipient of a successful atomic wedgie.

It was my sophomore year in high school. I was a starter on my school’s soccer team back then, and we had just finished one of our many away games.  The night had been almost perfect for me—the crisp night air, the perfectly manicured grass, the bright lights illuminating the field as if it were the most important soccer field in the world.  I scored my first varsity goal that night and narrowly missed another.

As one of the few sophomores on the team, I was usually segregated from the older players on the bus ride home, but on that night I truly felt like part of them as I listened and laughed at their jokes and stories.  As the bus drew near to our school, I noticed that some of the guys were changing seats, circling around Jared, our goalkeeper.  I giggled to myself, thinking that they were going to jump him for letting in a goal that night.

Boy was I wrong.

Someone behind me gave the signal, and all of a sudden Jared and a couple other guys pounced on me.  I quickly curled into a tight, protective ball, realizing that they were initiating me for scoring my first goal.  It was then that I felt my underwear being pulled completely over my head. No joke. I could feel the cotton grinding against my skin, the elastic snapping against my forehead.  This only lasted for a second, because the elastic couldn’t hold any longer, and it broke off into Jared’s hands.  I opened my eyes, took my underwear back, shook Jared’s outstretched hand (to assure him that I enjoyed the wedgie? I have no idea), and received a few friendly pats on the back from the rest of the team as they congratulated me on scoring my first goal.

I’m still bewildered by bizarre initiation rituals, and looking back, I’m particularly amazed at the elasticity of my tightie whities.  But at the time, I definitely did not appreciate that.  I was so embarrassed.  In no way did I feel closer to my teammates than before.

To this day, I don’t understand or condone initiation rituals. I didn’t treat the younger players on the soccer team as I had been treated, and in college I stayed away from frats (an institution with a foundation seemingly built on cycles of initiation). Such rituals just seem like a good excuse to ridicule people–just because you had it done to you doesn’t mean you have to do it to somebody else.

Have any of you been subject to initiation rituals? Or, specifically, atomic wedgies? What’s your take on them?

Read my previous confession about how I don’t like surprises–to the extreme.

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. Dionne permalink
    November 15, 2009 11:46 pm

    OMG being part of my mexican family meant you got “initiated” into everything. Anytime you experienced a “first” of any kind (i.e. first boyfriend, first time driving, etc) the family felt it was necessary to humiliate you in public. They would let anyone and everyone know what your “first” was and they usually followed it up with a joke about how you were going to screw it up. Ahhhh memories. I’m so glad I was able to grow up with few emotional scars…lol!

  2. November 15, 2009 11:52 pm

    Wow that sounds like pure torture! So you like that your family does that?!

    • Dionne permalink
      November 15, 2009 11:57 pm

      At the time no, but I did do the same to others. Now those memories are some of the funniest I have. I’m glad I have those memories.

  3. November 16, 2009 3:28 am

    I was in a girl’s service club in high school, which was the equivalent of a sorority. We had something we called rush week, but which was really a hazing week. The members spent a week humiliating the neophytes. The neophytes were not allowed to smile during most of the activities, and would get a demerit if they did. They would get demerits for any ridiculous thing the members wanted to make up, like shuffling their feet or breathing too loudly. They would also receive points for doing something well, like singing, but the demerits always outpaced the points.

    We had to march around school wearing costumes, pose, dance, sing, spend a night with 15 girls crammed into one tiny bedroom, serve dinner to a bunch of screaming club members, answer an interrogation, and so on. Some of it was fun, but most of the time someone was screaming at us, sometimes inches from our faces. The demerits were the worst, because we were told that if any single one of us received more than 100 demerits, none of the initiates would make it into the club. The idea was to get us to break down and lean on each other, but all it did was terrify those of us who had the most demerits that we would be hated by the rest.

    I received more demerits than anyone could remember a neophyte ever receiving. The reason: I would never cry in front of the others, which was exactly what they were trying to accomplish. The only reason I didn’t break down was because I thought I’d get more demerits, a Catch-22. I thought the whole concept of trying to drive the neophytes closer together by being cruel to them was nonsensical, as it simply drove a wedge between the neophytes and the long-time members. And honestly, there must be better ways to get people to come together.

    The following year, one girl was so upset by all the screaming and stress that she fainted. After I graduated from high school, I considered going back to talk to the advisors about the psychological hazing, but by that time I heard the rules had changed considerably.

    You might be surprised to know that this club had a reputation for being filled with the friendliest, smartest girls in school, unlike a similar service club which had a reputation for being filled with the most popular, image-conscious girls. Both clubs required a high level of community service and scholarship from their members. But for me this positive image was overshadowed by the monstrous group-psychosis that took over during haze week. I never got over my bafflement at the cruelty of otherwise kind, smart, decent human beings.

    It was many years before I ever joined another club, and sometimes I still have trouble trusting people who gather in large groups.

    • November 16, 2009 10:30 am

      Wow, that is insane. Although I see no shame in crying, I applaud you for holding back and not giving those elders the satisfaction.

      It’s particularly startling that these weren’t the typical “popular” girls performing all these initiation rites. I think that says something about human nature…and not a good thing.

      Did you stay with the sorority after all the hazing? Did you haze?

      Also, I think your point that there are much better ways to get people to come together is completely true. I think that’s the bottom line, but the reason I’ve heard from these groups (particularly frats) has been that it’s self perpetuating: They were hazed, so they need to haze somebody else too. Ridiculous.

      • November 16, 2009 1:48 pm

        Good question. Thanks for asking. Did I stay? And did I haze? Yes, and yes.

        I was in that club for my senior year. I ended up ditching almost half that year, as I had many other emotional difficulties with high school… but I never quit the club. “After the hazing” was kind of like “after being abused by the boyfriend”–oh, yeah, went through that a couple of times, too. Afterward, I saw only the positive qualities of these people, which were quite real: we volunteered at the children’s hospital, did projects for senior citizens, collected donations for charities. To get into the club, I’d volunteered many hours working with mentally disabled children. These were the kind of girls we all were. Rush was one week, and the rest of the time, it was all about charity, fellowship, sing-alongs, hugs, cookies, and Secret Santas. How could I stay angry?

        By the next Rush Week, I had allowed the group to convince me that, since none of the girls who had been hazed with me had ever complained, and in fact some said they believed that “yes, it really brought us together,” that I must just be overly sensitive from a lifetime of being bullied, and I was over-reacting to good-natured pranks. I read articles about the horrors of college sorority and fraternity hazing, which sometimes involved physically dangerous activities: drinking until one puked, swallowing goldfish, or being sprayed with icy water while outside in the cold. Since we did nothing like that, I convinced myself the psychological bullying was all in my mind.

        So the next year, I yelled and ordered girls around and gave demerits, too. Ironically, the same stoic face that had gotten me more demerits as a neophyte, also earned me a reputation of being the harshest when I was doing the hazing. Once again, it was only my desire to distance myself from the situation that created that appearance. My face looked serious, so they took my scolding more seriously. And I have a stage-trained voice, so when I yell, it’s loud. When I overheard that I was the “meanest” was when I could no longer tell myself it was “all in good fun.” I suppose that was the final phase in my coming-of-age, from a teen who could be peer-pressured into group behavior, into an adult who follows her instincts on right-and-wrong and sometimes gets criticized for not conforming.

        I am not proud of that week, but I am grateful for the lesson it taught me, and for my ability to learn it.

        • November 16, 2009 5:17 pm

          BTW – In the 2nd year, toward the end of Rush Week, when I found out how upset the new girls were, I felt so terrible I finally did burst into tears, in front of them. Several initiates/neophytes ended up comforting ME! I think they started changing the initiation rules in the next year or two, so maybe that was one of the last straws. I’d like to think so.

          Thanks for the open confessional, and the catharsis.

        • November 16, 2009 5:25 pm

          It’s so interesting to me that such an altruistic, philanthropic group would be so harsh during initiation week! I think there’s some part of us humans that make us bully someone at some point in our lives. I was bullied, and as a result, I once bullied as well. I really bet we all have.

          Thanks for your openness and honesty in sharing your story. I think the question at this point in your life (I think you are married from past posts) is, if you have children, what will you teach them about hazing/bullying/initiating, and how?

          • Dionne permalink
            November 16, 2009 5:37 pm

            You should read the book “The Lucifer Effect” and it talks about how even the most altruistic and compassionate of us are capable of unheard of things. It’s very interesting and based on an actual psych experiment at a university back in the 70’s. Sorry, that was my tangental thought of the day.

            • November 16, 2009 5:39 pm

              Is it about the Prisoner Experiment?

              • Dionne permalink
                November 16, 2009 5:55 pm

                Yes, he had designated students act as “guards” and others as “prisoners”. The experiment got so out of hand that the professor had to abandon the experiment only 2 wks into it (I believe it was supposed to be for the whole semester). It’s because of that experiment that we now have the IRB at universities. I have not finished reading the book, but what I have read is really amazing.

          • November 17, 2009 2:28 pm

            You’ve really made me think. My husband and I married a bit late to have children, but I have a sister who’s only 13. I take every opportunity to teach her about showing empathy for others, and not picking on others. When she was about 9, she was shunned by a group of girls who had been her friends. We discussed why their behavior was wrong, and how proud she could be that she didn’t treat people that way. When she was 12, her close friend made her a MySpace page that touted her as a 16-year-old girl looking for dates. Scary stuff. My sister cried when her parents forbid her to spend time with that friend. But I explained the dangers of her friend’s actions, and that when we love people we don’t allow them to put us in danger. (I learned that lesson the hard way.) She said she understood, but who knows? Ultimately, life will throw her curves no one can foresee, and her family can only hope we’ve helped her build a strong enough foundation of character to withstand them.

            • November 17, 2009 2:57 pm

              I think that’s great that you’re helping to build her character. There’s an odd side of human nature that makes us want to have someone (at work, among our friend, on our soccer team) that we poke fun at. Someone that allows everyone else to unite in their mockery. It doesn’t make it right by any means, but it happens all the time. So what is the targeted person to do? In some ways, I think they have to embrace it. Rather than get mad or ashamed, they can learn to make fun of themselves, learn to smile and laugh instead of getting defensive.

              Of course, once you take it online, you have to do something. That MySpace prank is really inappropriate. And I have to say, I think girls can be much more cruel than guys when it comes to uniting against one of your own.

              • November 17, 2009 3:16 pm

                Oh, those girls didn’t tease her or make fun of her, they simply started ignoring her because they heard she had reported them to teachers for some infraction, and would not let her explain that it was some other girl who had reported them. Come to think of it, this kind of stuff has happened to me in the workplace. And, sadly, the MySpace post was no prank. The girl simply led my sister by the nose and said, “Hey, this’ll be cool,” and she went along with it. I’m glad I’m not her parent… I don’t know how they can handle sending her out the door to school every day, or letting her use the Internet. On the other hand, you can’t tie them up or put them in a plastic bubble!

            • Dionne permalink
              November 17, 2009 5:42 pm

              She will come to thank you for being such a great big sister. Have you read “Reviving Ophelia”? It is a great book about empowering adolescent girls and really seeing what they have to deal with day in and day out.

              • November 17, 2009 11:56 pm

                I read that book a while ago. I think that was the first (and possibly last) time that I thought I understood women.

              • November 18, 2009 1:06 am

                I’ve never read that book, Dionne, but thank you for mentioning it. I’ll check it out. And I’m glad you think I’m a great big sister. My sister is getting to that age where she frequently wishes I would just butt out and stop asking about her feelings all the time.

  4. dbsjoe permalink
    November 16, 2009 10:22 am

    High school soccer team – atomic sit-ups. Much, much worse than atomic wedgies man. I never was initiated, but a couple members of the team who didn’t get along as well with everyone definitely were initiated. Let’s just say you lay down with a pillow over your face….people hold you back as you try to do a push up while someone steps in front of you and moons you. Use your imagination for the rest.

    • November 16, 2009 10:32 am

      That would suck. I heard of something similar involving tabasco sauce.

      And you actually bring to light an interesting point about hazing–it’s somewhat selective. The older guys choose the younger guys they don’t like instead of just all the younger guys. I don’t think my teammates disliked me, but I definitely wasn’t one of the “cool” kids on the team. If you’re going to haze or initiate or whatever, especially in the name of teambuilding, do it indiscriminately. Otherwise it’s just a form of bullying.

  5. dbsjoe permalink
    November 16, 2009 10:23 am

    sorry, meant sit up, not push up.

  6. November 16, 2009 6:03 pm

    RE: The prisoner experiment, I’ve read about it (most recently in The Tipping Point), and it’s really fascinating. I watch Survivor, and a similar thing happens every season. People really do slip into a primal survival mode (not everybody, but most people).

    • Dionne permalink
      November 16, 2009 6:08 pm

      True, we could all get “Lord-of-the-Flies” on anyone.

      • November 16, 2009 6:10 pm

        It’s interesting to me that on Survivor, people go “lord-of-the-flies” on one another, but there’s very little sex (or anything close to it). You’d think that in a primal state (the infamous, “What if you and I were the only two people stranded on an island” question), people would just go out it and ravish themselves. But no. That’s the last thing on their minds.

        • Dionne permalink
          November 16, 2009 6:22 pm

          Good point…I never thought of that. I guess food trumps sex or maybe because everyone is gross and sweaty nobody wants to “do” anyone. Hmmm….interesting.

          • November 16, 2009 6:28 pm

            Yeah, I think they smell REALLY bad after all that time without showering too.

            Food or sex? That might need to be a poll…

            • Dionne permalink
              November 16, 2009 10:31 pm

              That would be a great poll if you put it in the context of being on an island with limited resources and a few # of people around (i.e. the survivor concept).

  7. November 17, 2009 3:20 pm

    Oh okay, I can see that happening. I had some similar situations happen at my last workplace. People make assumptions and get other people to agree with them, and soon you have a person who’s been forced into the position of an outsider–hopefully just temporarily.

    Kids these days…back in my day we didn’t have MySpace. If you wanted to pretend you were 16, you had to hit puberty early.

  8. November 17, 2009 3:33 pm

    hahahahahahaha!

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