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It’s All Greek to Me: Nine Signs It’s Big-Little Week

From the outside, sorority girls may seem like they live on another planet: we walk around with alien letters, singing crazy chants, dressing up in ridiculous costumes, and performing secret rituals, all in the name of “sisterhood”. But of all the crazy traditions of sorority life, one is much more ridiculous than the rest: Big-Little Week. For one week every year, each “big sister”, or older girls in a sorority, showers her “little” (little sister) with presents and special events, from sing-a-longs to massages to candlelit dinners, before revealing herself to her little at the end of the week. The week involves balloons, Backstreet Boys serenades, bedtime stories, and copious, copious amounts of glitter. During this one week, older girls devote every second of their time, money and energy to one thing: making a younger sister feel like the most special person in the world. The week is a whirlwind of sorority madness, and by the end, without even realizing it, the big sisters are transformed into a walking, talking big-little machine. It’s important, therefore, to recognize the signs of big-little overdose before they appear. Here are nine signs that big-little week has taken over your life:

1. Your puffy paint becomes your most precious possession.

Remember that awesome 3-D paint that you used to play with as a kid, that pops off the page as it dries? Well, once big-little week rolls around, puffy paint transforms from an innocent crafting tool to a weapon of mass destruction, and must be guarded accordingly. No crafting tool runs out faster than puffy paint — after all, it’s only sold in those totally impractical squeeze pens — and nothing makes a “BIG LOVES LITTLE” frame look worse than smeared, spluttery puffy paint from a pen that’s running out. So if there’s one thing I learned this week, it’s this: every big should have her own kit of puffy paint and keep it close to her heart, in case a less-prepared sister were to swoop in and squeeze some out of her own. You can find puffy paint at your local craft store , or at Target or Wal-Mart.

2. You have boys saved in your phone as “PiKapp Manicure” and “SAE Sushi”.

Thought you were done with freshman boys once you moved out of the first-year dorms? Think again. During big-little week, these little whippersnappers will become your worker bees, fulfilling your little’s every whim. All you have to do is text, and you’ll instantly have a freshman boy at hand to bring your little sister breakfast, lunch, dinner, or coffee, to tuck her into bed and read her a story, to serenade her with a Backstreet Boys ballad … the list goes on and on. By the end of the week, you’ll have the phone numbers of scores of freshman boys, and you’ll never be able to use them again — unless you feel inspired after watching Cougar Town.

3. Your new favorite store becomes The Dollar Tree

I used to think Loehmann’s and Century 21 were bargain shopping, but big-little week proved me SO wrong. In order to make it seem like we got our littles more stuff than everyone else, my friends and I all trooped daily to The Dollar Tree, sifting through piles and piles of utter junk to uncover the perfect new addition to your little’s daily gift bag. A Hannah Montana coloring book for only a dollar? A set of headbands that light up when you press a button? A pad of paper with little ducks marching around the edges? No matter how utterly useless it is, if it takes up room and it looks cute, dollar store merchandise looks to you like hidden treasure, placed specifically on this earth to help you look like a more generous big.4. You suddenly become an amazing poet.

While before you may have struggled while trying to imitate Dickinson or write an original sonnet, during big-little week your creative juices suddenly can’t stop flowing. When writing notes for your little, you may be amazed to find yourself thinking of such creative and clever rhymes as “Welcome to big-little Day #1 / I know we’re going to have so much fun!!” and “I can’t wait till the end of the week when we can unite / When our lineage is together we have the best nights!” Like everything else big-little, your rhymes will be utterly stupid, useless, and trite, but at the time they will seem like a huge accomplishment. So get writing, and make sure to go back over your poems in the future so you can laugh at how second-grade you sound! Just think twice before submitting them to your English department’s poetry anthology any time soon.

5. You have a constant headache from blowing up balloons.

Of all the herculean tasks to be completed during big-little week — crafting, gift-buying, poem-writing, freshman-boy-texting — one of the most difficult is room-decorating. You have to sneak into your little’s room encumbered by enormous posters, streamers, candy, crafts and gifts, and somehow make it look pretty and get out of there before she comes back from class. Did I mention that during this time, you also need to blow up dozens of balloons? Never in my life have I expended such a large amount of oxygen in such a short amount of time — the ensuing feeling is freaky, to say the least. At least I can say that I’ve improved my balloon-tying skills — even though I was so lightheaded I could barely stand up, by the end of the hour I could knot a balloon like a professional clown!

6. Your newest Facebook friends are all called “SarahK MakesMyDay” and “LittleCaroline IsDivine”.

Since the advent of social media, yet another duty has been added to this crazy, crazy week — each big makes a fake Facebook for her little, detailing your obsession with her and using it to communicate instructions for the week. My friends and I spent hours coming up with clever incarnations of favorite musical artists, TV shows, and movies for our littles: “Keeping up with the Kristinas”, “Mariah Courtney”, and “The Brittany Club”, to name a few. We forewent our homework to make photo albums of our littles’ faces superimposed onto celebrities’ bodies. We competed with each other to see who could rack up the most Facebook friends, including every single member of our sorority, all our littles’ friends, and all our friends’ fake Facebooks for their littles. By the week’s end, these fraudulent accounts were just as active as our real Facebooks, and way more fun to use.

7. You rediscover your love for Disney princesses… and tiaras from Claire’s… and pink.

Remember when you turned twelve and insisted upon redoing your entire room so as to eradicate all signs of pink? Well, get ready to erase all those years and regress to your pre-pubescent self—this week, you will uncover the seven-year-old girl at your core, just waiting to get out. You’ll seek out the pinkest, fluffiest, girliest presents you can find for your little, you will write her notes with hearts over the i’s and multiple exclamation points, and you will bedazzle EVERYTHING until it can be bedazzled no more. And if you, like me, don’t think of yourself as a typical sorority girl, too bad. No matter what you do, your little’s room will look like your sorority threw up all over it. There’s just no getting around it. You will have to learn to love the kitsch, the cutesy, the horrifically corny — and by the week’s end, you’ll be so adorable you won’t even recognize yourself.

8. You may or may not be facing disciplinary action for sneaking into a freshman dorm.

The sorority girls that, generations and generations ago, invented big-little week did not anticipate the heightened security measures that exist in today’s world, or else they would not have suggested that bigs sneak into their littles’ dorms to decorate each year. Not since the virtual–reality Indiana Jones ride at Universal Studios have I had to execute such a stealthy operation as getting into my little’s dorm in the middle of the day with no entry card or key. And to make matters worse, I was carrying huge bags of gifts (including a giant stuffed duck—don’t ask), two-foot-wide posters, and a bunch of streamers and balloons—not exactly the most effective camouflage. If you don’t know enough freshmen to call one and have him or her let you in, and if you’re unlucky enough to get caught trying to sneak in, you may end up in some deep water. So be sure to wear all black, and try to look like a freshman who’s forgotten her stuff—or at least a freshman heading to a small child’s birthday party with decorations.

9. Any fraternity boy you’ve ever met is suddenly your best friend.

As mentioned earlier, freshman boys will become your slave army during big-little week. However, most sophomore and junior girls (excluding the more cougar-inclined among us) don’t know too many freshman boys. So how do you get in touch with potential delivery boys, Backstreet Boys singers, and bedtime-story readers? Their older fraternity brothers, of course! No matter whether you met him for five minutes at a frat party or dated him for five months, every boy in a fraternity becomes an invaluable resource during big-little. You’ll go through your phone and every one of your friends’ phones, searching your mental archives for memories of “Mike Psi U” and “Evan Redhead” and hoping every “hey, can I ask you a favor?” text is promptly replied to. If fraternity brothers can’t spare pledges for your use during big-little, then you’re on your own to find freshman boys, and who really wants to do all that work? Big-little week taught me, if nothing else, how to swallow my pride and ask boys for favors. It may not work in a real relationship, but it works for now.

Amanda First is a senior English major at Cornell University.  She is Life Editor of Her Campus, as well as founding editor of Her Campus Cornell. She has interned for Cornell Alumni Magazine, Harper's Bazaar, and Parents through ASME's internship program.  Some of her favorite things include high heels, browsing ShopBop, yoga, The O.C. reruns (but only before Marissa dies), and Tasti D-Lite. After college, she hopes to pursue a career in magazine journalism.
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