Big Little Love

How two sorority sisters became so much more.

For many American students, being in a sorority or a fraternity is one of the highlights of their college experience. For this week’s Love Letter featured couple, it was one of the highlights of their lives. 

Helen and Mary met at the University of Delaware. Mary was Helen’s big in their sorority, and for the better part of three years the two were close friends. Unbeknownst to Mary, Helen had been nursing a crush on her. After graduating, she decided to tell her former big how she felt. 

Though Helen was initially taken aback by Mary’s confession – not wanting to jeopardize their friendship by attempting to date – she eventually came around to seeing her as more than just a friend. 

Three years later, they’re closer than ever. This is their story.  

How’d you two meet? 

Helen: We met in the spring of 2017. I was a freshman in college and Mary was a sophomore. I had just gone through our sorority’s recruitment at the University of Delaware, and you get paired with a big. They're like a mentor in the sorority and also on campus. Some people really take advantage of the big and little opportunity and others are just friendly with each other and ask them basic questions on academics or social life or where to go out. 

I became very close with Mary basically from day one. We both chose each other as big and little. And since then we were pretty much inseparable as friends all of college.

Mary: Our sorority had put together slides detailing the littles and what they were looking for and their common interests and hobbies and stuff. I actually was initially paired up with somebody else from Helen’s pledge class, but I met that woman and I didn’t feel like we really clicked that much. I incidentally had heard Helen’s name through another member in my sorority, so I reached out to her on Facebook. I picked her up in my car and we went and had coffee, and I found her very endearing and sweet. 

Helen: One of my favorite parts about that, which I now know in hindsight, is when she picked me up in her car she wanted to seem really cool. A new song had come out and it was really popular, and I hadn’t come out of my building right away, so she kept pressing repeat on the same song so that when I opened the car door it would be playing. 

Mary: I wasn’t trying to woo Helen! She had a boyfriend, I had a girlfriend at the time. I wanted to be like the cool older member. I had never had a little sister, I have an older sister, so I really wanted to have someone to mentor and stuff. 

How did you get together? 

Helen: We’d been friends for probably three or four years before we got together. Probably a year and a half into us being really good friends, I was asking myself why I was thinking about this person and really wanting to spend time with them and just really enjoying our friendship, but more than I did my other friends. So it kind of occurred to me that I had a crush, and I slowly accepted that fact. But we were both coming in and out of relationships at the time.

I really valued our friendship and I didn’t want to blow it up by telling her I had feelings. And at the time we weren’t women who were fully out. 

Mary: We were relatively closeted. 

Helen: Yeah. We were relatively closeted to both friends and family. We knew about each other, but it was one of those things that we kept close to the heart.

I graduated in 2020. That summer, my best friend was like “You’ve told me about this crush for the past two years. You’re out of college now. If there was a time to tell her how you feel, it’s now.” And so I called her and I just said “I need to catch up with you.” And we ended up on a phone call and I said “I’ve had this crush and I think we should do something about it.” And then she took a few weeks to think about it and we kept talking and talking and ended up dating by that December. 

What did you think when you got the call? Did you also have a crush on Helen? 

Mary: I don't think I'm that oblivious of a person. I like to think I can I'm a good judge of what's going on around me. But in college I was definitely not perceptive of Helen's crush. I thought I was just a really good big. I was like, Listen, she wants to hang out with me a lot. The cool thing I was going for clearly worked. We were never flirty. It wasn't anything like that. We were just close friends. 

So when I got the call, I think I basically guessed everything else before she told me what it was. I was like, Are you moving? Are you pregnant? Did you hear some crazy gossip? My brain didn't go there. Although I do remember that we had seen each other a couple of months earlier, and I distinctively remember that we were in a big group setting and I had looked at her and she looked at me and she was so pretty. I remember thinking That must be really nice to be desired by somebody like Helen

Anyways, when she called me at first I was like “I’ve gotta call you back, my phone is being weird.” And I called one of my friends who knows Helen really well and I was like “You’re not gonna believe this.” 

She kind of walked me through it and was like “Listen, at this point, arguably, your friendship is ruined anyway. I don’t see how you’re gonna get back to her being a bridesmaid after you’ve found out that she secretly had a crush on you for two years. But maybe that means you give it a go and you talk to her.” 

So I called Helen back and we talked for like three hours. Everything I could think to ask, I asked. 

What did you do for your first date? 

Helen: I was in Pittsburgh and she was in New York. We were kind of testing the waters. And she called me and was like “What if I flew you out to new York?” So for our first official date, she flew me in and picked me up at the airport. And it was one of those things where we had to rip a bunch of band aids off at once. I was living with my parents at the time, so I came out to them. And then I flew out for this first date and met her parents. 

We ended up going out to dinner that night. And that was Halloween weekend 2020. We had a blast and it reconfirmed our feelings. 

Helen and Mary while they were students at the University of Delaware.

How was it for you, Mary? 

Mary: It was a gradual adjustment at first from friend to more for me. But all the qualities and all the things that I had always expressed to Helen that I was looking for in my next relationship I knew she had. I felt like if I didn’t seize the opportunity to be with her that somebody else would. 

What can people learn from your Meet Cute? 

Mary: I think the whole idea that sometimes your timing can be off is definitely true. Because sometimes I’ll say something like “Oh, man, I wish we were together in college so we could have had more years to be together and having those experiences as girlfriends.” But then I’m quick to be like, No. I don’t think that that environment, and especially that environment of big and little on campus and who we were closeted to and who we were out to, would have been right. Sometimes you have to be really patient. 

Helen: I think timing does affect things. If you’re looking back and think you should have said something or done something, and maybe you’re in a better place now to do that and show your true feelings, you should. The risk might be totally worth the reward. 

🤔 Poll

What's more crucial for a relationship to flourish?

Click below to vote!

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

📊 Last Week We Asked…

  • [poll] “What’s your ideal first encounter/experience?”

    • 27% said “a spontaneous, shared activity”

    • 14% said “acting on a strong impulse”

    • 10% said “stepping outside of your comfort zone”

    • 49% said “A mix of all the above”

Do you or someone you know have a meet-cute story for the Love Letter? Get in touch here!

Did someone you know forward you this love letter? Subscribe Here

Interviewed and transcribed by Nicolas Vega. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.