Type ‘sorority, big and little’ in the search tab on Pinterest – pages upon pages, upon pages of gifts, crafts, articles on ways to budget, and reveal pictures, pop up. Picturesque young ladies with a cute tank top that says ‘big’ on it, with her little on her shoulders, their letters gleaming in the background. In every picture, the girls look so thrilled, so enthralled with their new sister; so grateful to have that other person in their life.
For anybody that is new to a sorority or is not in Greek Life at all, the idea of big and little is hard to comprehend. You join a sorority, you get a big; that big also has a big whom they received when they first joined. That big – aka your grandbig – could also have another little; your big’s twin. That twin could have a little of her own, making her your cousin. It’s a family tree with branches and connections, severed ties, and leaves sprouting with every new semester. And it’s no wonder people get confused at the mention of it.
The idea of big and little, however, is very simple. If you are the little, you are not required to be attached at the hip of the big. If you are the big, you are not required to be the best friend of your little. When you take a little, you are signing up to be so much more. It should not be taking someone as a little just to say you have a little. The big is supposed to be the mentor, the best of both a friend and a mother; the definition of a sister. Someone who looks out for their mentee, makes sure their transition from high school to college, teenager to adult (perhaps one of the hardest things a person, especially a young woman, can go through) is as seamless and as enjoyable as can be. Someone who puts their little’s happiness and comfort above all else, within reason. Someone their little can call in the dead of night and count on for something as small as a tampon, or as significant as a broken heart. Someone they know is going to love them no matter what.
Amid this ‘contract,’ the little is bound to some conditions as well. No, they are not required to agree with everything their big does; they are not required to listen to every word they say, for we know deep down, just like a mother to a child, they aren’t going to always listen. But they, too, are agreeing to love their big no matter what. They are agreeing to be trustworthy, patient and understanding, and there for their big whenever they need it. (And trust me, big’s will need it.)
Once you have signed up for this, you’ve signed up for life. This doesn’t mean necessarily being in one another’s wedding or the godmother of their children – although it is a special and revered circumstance when it does happen. This means that, that person knows forever that there is someone out there who cares for them endlessly, even after all else have faded away.
Somewhere along the way, we lose sight of those blissfully happy girls in the photographs; we lose sight of one another. Don’t be ashamed: it happens to all of us. Big or little, it doesn’t matter, sooner or later one begins to take the other for granted. If that’s never happened to you, you’re either A) lying or B) a much better person than the rest of us.
In any journey, there reaches a point in which the roads turn from pavement to gravel, from gravel to the bumpy sod of the earth. We ride along, thinking everything is fine – convincing ourselves of it – firm in believing that the rough patch will end, that we will find pavement once again. We push through, laying our foot harder on the pedal, thinking the more gas we give it, the gentler the ride will be. All the while, thinking, ‘I should have just turned back when I hit gravel.’ But, there is no turning back; we’ve already given it everything we’ve got, and depleted our fuel in doing so. Now, we have two choices: we can either abandon our efforts and turn back, knowing the costs if we do, or we can forge ahead on foot, persistent and true.
Even though the pictures are lovely, some of them aren’t real. (Remember, people, stock photos exist.) Even if they are, they are not true to you and your own situation with your big or little. They are not a portrait to live up to, and you should not enter a relationship with the intention of looking like the girls in the pictures on Pinterest. This relationship is not a show; not a social media goal. We put too much emphasis on what people think of us, whether it’s on social media or the generalized others out in the world – and I’ll be the first to admit I do it too. But the big-little relationship is not founded in the basis of how many cute pictures you can take, how many likes you get, or how many people in your chapter tell you that you and your big/little are #goals. I’d like to think it is worth so much more than that. Just because there’s a problem – or because it strays too far from the photo online – does not mean it’s over. Once you’ve committed – whether you are a big or a little – you do not get to pick and choose who to replace the other because you’re angry. It is a lifelong relationship, and a meaningful one at that. A relationship that you can look back on after your college years and be ultimately thankful for.
So, when you hit the dirt road on your journey – and we all do some time or another – remember what you fought for, what you are still fighting for. Keep going, and don’t let it just be a picture on social media.