Dear Wolf’s Head,
I see you. Waking from a nap one afternoon, I tugged back my dark blue curtain to let in the light. But you filled my room instead: the orange dresses some of you were wearing as you snapped group photos in your front yard, behind the closed gate, and the chandelier shining through the tan stones that cover your largest window.
I wish you were not the first thing I see when I wake up. I wish you were not the last thing I see before I lie down to sleep. I wish I didn’t stare into your always shut eyelids each time I rise up from downward dog on my yoga mat. You are at eye level with the windows of my bedroom, but you never make eye contact. What a poor neighbor.
I actually didn’t know about secret societies until a fellow pre-frosh pointed out the Skull and Bones tomb during Bulldog Days. I was amazed I hadn’t noticed it before. The imposing windowless building loomed over the street in a way that only something called a tomb would. But it fit into every other impression I was getting from Yale that week—large, impressive, elite.
My biggest fear was that Yale would make me think that I was large and impressive and elite. I didn’t realize it would make me feel so small, so much further from elite than I felt before I was associated with this school.
I didn’t notice any of the tombs until I did—and then they were all I saw. I was only a freshman, but secret societies already had me.
It wasn’t about getting in. It wasn’t about filling Sunday and Thursday nights. I realized that societies are not important for a rewarding senior year or affirming that you’ve done Yale right. It meant a lot to me that Marina Keegan ’12 was not tapped. I only met her a at a few meetings with the Dems and Occupy, but back home over every break, I would tell my old teachers and high school friends about how courageous she seemed. She was the coolest person I met my freshman year. I knew that if Marina wasn’t tapped, being tapped couldn’t be a valuation of one’s character.
But even Marina admitted, in a YDN op-ed, to feeling lame when she wasn’t tapped. Societies managed to make the coolest person I knew feel lame.
For me, it’s about the windows that I will not see inside. Any room is infinitely more tantalizing behind a locked door. And then the door cracks open just an inch and your heart leaps out of your chest.
Or at least, mine does. Every time I see the light on in Wolf’s Head. Every time I see someone parking a bike inside the Scroll and Key gate. That one time I passed Book and Snake on a run and saw a group snapping photos outside the open door and I lapped around the block twice because I just couldn’t look away.
I worry that it is only me. A few weeks ago, a Bonesman accidentally reply-all-ed a panlist, and hundreds of people got a glowing email meant for a tap. My jaw dropped. Wide-eyed and still buzzing in excitement, I brought the email up at lunch that day. No one really said much.
I was ashamed to have cared so strongly. But the door had cracked open. How were my friends not equally excited?
A fraction of Yale’s seniors are in secret societies. But societies are not just a part of the Yale experience for those seniors and they don’t just begin to matter during junior spring. Dotted across campus from York Street all the way to Whitney, societies loom over us for years before we have any chance to maybe be considered worthy of peeking inside.
The tombs are large, impressive, elite—but they remind us we are not. They act as a capstone to the Yale experience, but one that most of us won’t reach. Some of us will enter their doors. The rest will be left to feign nonchalance when we hear the howling of Wolves outside our windows and to pretend not to notice the gate opening for one scarce moment. There is no amount of times that repeating “Secret societies don’t matter” will make those words feel true.