Why I Don’t Mind “Buying” My Friends

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During my sophomore year at Missouri State, every Wednesday I would wake up early, shower and shave and then don a shirt and tie for the day. I would also attach a small, triangular pin over my heart. Was I just that preppy that I felt it was necessary to get spruced up for class? Nope!

I was a pledge of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. We pledges were required to dress up one day per week, just to show pride in the fraternity. When some students would roll out of bed, put on a pair of sweatpants and a T shirt to go to class, we were showing we really DID have class. Or, at least, pride of appearance. While I’ve never minded dressing up, the shirt and tie was different from my usual disguise of jeans, Doc Martens and a sweater.

I showed up at class for the first time, looking all pretty. I took my usual seat next to a guy I’d known from a couple other classes. Of course, he asked why I was looking so dapper. When I told him, he laughed and said, “Well, that’s good for you…but I don’t need to buy my friends.”

This wasn’t the first time I’d heard this kind of argument against the fraternity and sorority system and it’s membership. While I totally disagreed with this viewpoint, from an outside perspective, I could comprehend why people thought membership in a Greek letter organization was “buying” friends. And, just so you know, my “purchase” was $50 per month. Not a treasure, by any means.

While I was an undergrad and paying my dues and living in the Kappa Sig house, that guy’s words still rang in my ears; that I was “buying” friends. I don’t know why this guy’s opinion bothered me so much, but it did. I guess I didn’t like to have my brotherhood so misrepresented. And what made us brothers? Simply put, once any man goes through the ritual of the fraternity, he is a brother. The ritual is a sacred event which takes about 60 minutes to perform. Once the secrets of the fraternity are revealed and the man takes a vow to conceal those forever, he is a brother.

That was a decade and a half ago. When I graduated, I was no longer required to pay dues. I still give to the local and national fraternity on occasion, but nothing is required. Even if we take that idea of “buying” friends as having some merit, I haven’t “bought” any friends in a very long time.

Now, fast forward to this past week. We encountered a situation where I needed some true assistance. Actually, both Marvelyne and I needed this assistance. We were in St. Louis on business and visiting friends and family for Easter. When I had the need for help, the first people to whom I turned were my parents. As always, they immediately stepped up to help, at no small inconvenience to them. The next person I turned to was my best friend, DJ. Over the next three days, DJ provided transportation, physical and emotional support and was just present for whatever we needed. DJ and I were pledge brothers in Kappa Sigma and have been best friends since, oh, about 1998 or so. Yet, neither of us have paid a dime to cultivate and foster our friendship since 2000 or so. We were introduced through the fraternity, but that was just laying the groundwork for what would be a lifelong friendship. Actually, scratch that…we have a brotherhood. And that, whether it was founded in financial dues or not, is what I carry away most from my college fraternity experience. Anything I need, DJ is there for me. And I for him. Without question, that support is mutual and omnipresent. I’m not sure everyone can say that of their relationships.

I’d just like to publically acknowledge my brother and best friend for all his sacrafices. AEKDB

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