When I first heard of PEEPS at the start of my first year, I was slightly confused but mostly dismissive, and I honestly just added them to the long list of clubs I didn’t plan on joining. Fast forward eight months and I found myself, a girl who doesn’t go near substances, genuinely upset that they are gone. Given that PEEPS both had a reputation and got suspended for the use of substances, how did this happen?
Alcoholism runs in my family, and while it wasn’t extremely detrimental to me, I wouldn’t qualify my relationship with substances growing up as a good one. Combined with the fact that I have anxiety that tends to flare up when I feel a lack of control over myself, I rarely partake in the drinking and drugs aspect of partying. I even applied for substance free housing for next fall (fingers crossed that we’re going back).
The thing is, I absolutely love to go to parties. Getting ready with friends and dancing the night away is one of my favorite activities, but I had such an overwhelming fear going into Kenyon that I wouldn’t be able to. I was worried not only because I was a first year, but also because I thought people wouldn’t even want to go out with me or would pressure me into doing something I didn’t want to do because of the awful stereotype that people who don’t drink or smoke aren’t fun. Luckily, I found a great group of friends, but that fear still plagued me constantly when we were going out.
I found a space for acceptance at PEEPS parties.
I won’t lie and say that Kenyon is perfect and I’ve never felt pressure from my peers before. Standing in a sea of red cups and White Claws and being told I would have more fun if I drank, sadly, happened more than once, and yet the one place I felt like I could simply have fun and not worry was at parties thrown by PEEPS. To me, their parties represented acceptance, not a drug-fueled rager. They even sent out “A Guide to Having Fun” before Deb Ball. So much of the emphasis was on expressing yourself and being supportive, and they even went as far to say that anyone caught being disrespectful would be asked to leave.
When I first saw this policy, the relief that I craved flooded through me. I always felt safe walking down Middle Path on the way to one of their parties, dressed to the nines. Despite their notorious reputation, PEEPS events were some of the few I went to without the nagging voice in the back of my head preparing myself for judgement.
These parties went even further in their acceptance, in the fact that people dressed however they wanted. Any pressure to fit in with your clothing and identity was thrown out the window in the most spectacular fashion, allowing for an inclusion that me or my friends had never really seen before.
I understand that PEEPS is gone and won’t be back for quite a while, but I hope that Kenyon can continue their tradition of embracing identities outside of the norm, in a way that has just as much glitter and fishnet as before. The need for parties like Deb Ball and Halloween is strong, and I hope the administration is able to see their nuance and allow the students this space of expression. Without it, I fear people like myself and many others will trudge through their college experience with a constant nagging feeling, warning them of the judgement they have yet to face.
Lilly Richart ’23 is an undeclared major from San Mateo, Calif. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.