Bullying Incident #23: The Frat Rat (1987)

“You know you make me want to SHOUT,
Kick my heels up and SHOUT,
Throw my hands up and SHOUT,
Throw my head back and SHOUT”
(Lyrics  to “SHOUT” by Otis Day and The Knights)

While I have told the worst of my bullying stories through other posts and the stories I share now may not seem as bad, they are still, to me, experiences with the bullying nature of some people. As we grow older, the male bully that wants to fight becomes the bully that uses words and ridicule. Fighting, it seems to me, is a very immature version of bullying and probably why males tend to use it longer than females as females mature faster.

What people seem to learn as they grow up is that they can do more damage through words that try to ruin your reputation or sway others to believe that what they say is the truth. In the long run, this is more damaging than some bruises in the schoolyard.

This story takes place during my college years. I really loved college and during my first year I had made some good friends and enjoyed the social aspect of living on campus. During my second year, I chose to live off campus and found that it was harder to find social activities while living away from the campus. Several of my friends had decided to join a fraternity, so I went with them to keep our social circle going.

We decided to pledge a small fraternity near the campus. The members of this fraternity seemed pretty nice for the most part and were laid back. It was a good fit for me, so we started the pledge process. As far as we could tell there was no hazing going on in this fraternity. Hazing is another one of those terms that is often tied to bullying. Personally I don’t see hazing the same as bullying. Hazing is ritualistic abuse in a group setting done to all members as some form of rite of passage. The effects are detrimental, no doubt, but because all in the group are abused, I don’t think of it the same as bullying. Bullying, to me, is a more individual attack.

So, again, there was no apparent hazing to our group. But one day I certainly saw some bully like behavior from a member of the fraternity. It was one of the older brothers. He lived at the fraternity house and we went there to visit. The house was open to all members to go to at any time. In the basement was a bar area for conversation and socialization. I arrived at the house and went down to the bar in good spirits, enjoying this new place to call a home away from home.

At the bar was this older house brother. He was by himself having a beer and wearing a yellow construction hat. I hadn’t talked to this particular person much before, but as we sat down, he just leered at us. It was pretty uncomfortable. He started in on us right away with some negative talk. I don’t recall fully what it was, but it got tense pretty quick. I asked him why he was wearing the construction hat.

“You want to know about the hat?” he said to me.

“Yeah. Why are you wearing a construction hat?” I said.

“This is my I hate people hat” He said back. “Wanna guess why I’m wearing it?”

This was getting pretty unpleasant quick. I didn’t bother to ask him, but he was going to tell me anyway.

“When I’m wearing this hat, it means you should get away, because I’m not going to be responsible for what I do next. Got it!” he said in a raised voice.

He started to act as if he was going to get up.

I got up instead and we left. We left him to play king of the mountain at the bar and feel like he won that battle to sit alone and stew in whatever was bothering him. Later on, I would see he liked the power games, particularly with the new brothers. I would say everyone else in the frat was cool, but this guy. I don’t know if he had psychological issues or was depressed, but he seemed to take pleasure in taking it out on the rest of us.

What he really managed to do was alienate all new people from him and make us feel less wanted by the frat as a whole. I’m sure the other brothers would not have wanted this, since the place only exists by bringing in new members, but this is exactly what he was doing. He was always pulling power plays and when he wore that hat, everyone just left him alone.

And 23 years later, that’s how I still see him, as nothing more than an annoying person who seemed to enjoy belittling others. By this point in my life, I had plenty of friends around me and in the fraternity to even be bothered by this one guy. But I have to wonder if this is how he still acts. The good news for me is that I made lifelong friendships in that frat and go to reunions often, seeing the friends I made through joining the place. I am certainly glad I joined and other than this one brother, don’t recall too many other bad apples.

But I will tell you that after this one individual graduated and left school, I have never seen them again at a reunion. I don’t see where the friendship aspect ever played a part in his life after school. It makes me wonder if he really did have any friends. Certainly, if I went around with an “I hate people” hat, I doubt that anyone would have wanted to be mine. That’s just something I’m not sure I’ll ever understand.

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3 thoughts on “Bullying Incident #23: The Frat Rat (1987)

  1. I so identify with your story and how bullying stories linger … I’m 58 years old and I still remember Shirley ______ and having to defend myself on the playground. I somehow was looking down on her (was I on top of her? This was before girls were encouraged to be athletic!)and saying “if you ever do that to me again!…” She never bothered me again. Sad thing is I do recall sitting in the classroom and when the teacher called on Shirley to answer what 2+2 was, she didn’t know the answer. The class laughed, think I probably smirked.

    Short story, shorter – I’ve always been grateful to a mother who listened to me when I complained about being “picked-on”, who then encouraged me to “take up for yourself”. She taught me self-esteem. Sad for Shirley, that she didn’t have the parenting that I did.

    • I have shared many similar personal stories here, Linda, including the “Loyal Lieutenant” story and how my mother was, like Shirley’s, someone who told me not to fight back. While I did eventually fight back, it didn’t make me feel any better. But, much like you have pointed out, we never forget our bullies and the memory lingers well into our adult years. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Pingback: Bullying Incident #23: The Frat Rat (1987) | Γονείς σε Δράση

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