High school hazing amounts to harmless cases of tomfoolery

I admit it: I’ve been hazed.

No, not the feces-in-my-mouth, urine-slinging melee a la Glenbrook North High School, but a down-home brand of initiation straight from a middle-class suburb of Portland, Ore.

No one was sued for battery, no one was suspended — the incident ranks as little more than a tale of high school shenanigans to be looked back upon with a chuckle. But had my story gotten out the day after I was initiated to the Milwaukie High School soccer team, who knows what the reaction would have been.

It was the end of the fall term of my freshman year. I was 13 and playing soccer on the junior-varsity team. About five freshmen were on the team, and as the season winded down, we each received invitations to a “slumber party” at a sophomore’s house.

Like any well-bred Northwestern student, I was a huge tool in high school. To me, the pristine white envelope was more than just an invitation to be part of the prestigious group.

Of course, I jumped at the chance.

We ate pizza, watched movies and giggled over the cute boys on the men’s soccer team. One of the juniors passed around a dusty bottle of wine, presumably stolen from her parents’ basement.

Around midnight the group of 15 girls herded us into a game room at the back of the house. They ordered us to strip but gave us a bottle of shaving cream to cover our unmentionables. Then our motley crew was paraded onto a side street in our small town to give a peep show for the men’s team we so adored.

All in all, the process lasted about five minutes. The captain of our team, also the head photographer for the yearbook, documented our charade. But blurry, underexposed pictures are hardly a case for blackmail, and most of the witnesses, after some hooting and hollering, weren’t all too entertained.

Milwaukie High School wasn’t all that different from Glenbrook North — with the exception that the tape of a particularly ugly May 4 hazing incident in the northern suburb of Chicago was picked up by national and international media outlets.

The first rule of hazing? Never tell anyone about hazing. Whoops.

I’m not condoning anything that happened in Northbrook, Ill. But across the country, such rites of passage go unnoticed all the time.

Getting naked and publicly embarrassed certainly was not a highlight of my high school career, but I wouldn’t change my experience.

I didn’t make lifelong friendships when I was hazed. I didn’t vault to schoolwide popularity. And I didn’t gain anything more than a notch on my belt and an excellent story of some of the most awkward years of my life.

But here I am, more than six years later, unscathed. I lead a normal life and have fully recovered from an aversion to shaving cream. Six years from now, stitches will have healed. Broken bones will have mended. And most likely, the Glenbrook North graduating class of 2004 will think no more of the powder puff game than as their 15 minutes of fame.

High school is a time to live, learn and make mistakes. Hairy as it may get, litigation rarely rights the injustices of the politics of popularity.

Despite the bruises on the body or ego, we all get past high school and onto bigger and better things — like wet T-shirt contests and sorority rush.

News Editor Torea Frey is a Medill sophomore. She can be reached at [email protected]