Sorority Life

Saturday, May 03, 2008 / Comments (0) / by elizabeth

Back when I wrote my 100 things about me I mentioned that I was a member of a sorority in college, but that I quit my senior year. I said that I would write about it one day, and I guess today’s the day.

Someone recently asked me if I was popular in high school. I didn’t know how to answer that. I participated in extra-curricular activities which meant I had a lot of different friends – I was in choir and a cheerleader. I was in a sorority in high school which basically meant I paid a few dollars a month to sporadically attend meetings, but the real reason I was in it was for the formal we had at the end of the year. It was a big deal with a big presentation and (what I thought were) pretty dresses. I did sort of think about the exclusivity of it all, but at the same time was so relieved to be included that it didn’t matter. Your sorority in high school didn’t determine who you were friends with – in fact, my closest friends weren’t even in a sorority at all. They were probably the smart ones.

College sororities were meetings and pretty dresses but on a much larger scale. I never considered NOT being in a college sorority – I wanted to belong, to be accepted, to fit somewhere. And somehow, I believed that if I wasn’t in a sorority I wouldn’t have any friends. Also, my mom was in a sorority in college, making me a ‘legacy.’ So I went through the rush process.

There are many reasons I would not join a sorority at this point in my life, and rush (or “recruitment” as it is now called) might be the first and foremost. It is hell. Imagine six rooms filled with beautiful, smiling women all in matching t-shirts. They all know your name, where you went to high school, what you did in high school, your high school GPA, and all your dirty laundry, including but not limited to that one bad decision you made your freshman year (FOUR years ago). (Please note, I am not referring to myself here, but since I have been through rush from the other side, I know that it’s true). Every night after you’ve made the rounds (endless hours of small talk), they go through a process and decide to “drop” you or invite you back for another night of small talk. Most sororities will invite you back after the first night, but truth be told you could be “dropped” from every one after night one. You also get the choice to drop sororities that you don't want to be in if they don't drop you first. Anyway, this process goes on for like 5 days or something, and at the end you make a choice (if you still have one) and they make a choice and hopefully your choices match because if so, then you get to pledge ____ sorority. The last day is bid day, and it is fun and exciting for some people and heart-breaking for others.

For me, I was just glad to be done. I was in the sorority of my choice (and I did get dropped by other sororities, which – even when I knew which one I wanted - was a bit hurtful nonetheless). [And for the record, I’m not going to mention which one I was in, or details that might lead you to guess – it’s really not important]. I was glad to be chosen. I was glad that several of my good friends from high school were in the same pledge class and some other friends were already members. I was glad to have an identity. And I was proud of my sorority…we really were different. We were not all carbon copies of each other. There were skinny girls and fat girls, loud/outgoing girls and quiet/reserved girls, black girls and white girls. If I was going to be a sorority girl I was glad that I got to be in the sorority that wasn’t entirely made up of “sorority girls,” if that makes any sense. Sure, we had some, but not many. I thought.

The first three years were good. Fun. I participated in everything I could and made a few great friends along the way. My closest friends were in my sorority, so we did everything together. I lived with girls in the sorority. My mom used to say I was majoring in [insert sorority here] with a minor in English. I put a lot of time and effort into making it the best – and it was. We were.

But there were things about it that I wasn’t proud of. Like, one girl came out after she had finished pledging. She hadn’t been initiated because her grades weren’t good enough, so she was on probation. I’ll never know what really happened with her, but I am pretty sure she was pushed out. Asked not to come back because she was a lesbian, but under the guise of not making the grades. And I do know that when she wore a shirt with our logo on it, she was asked not to wear anything with our letters on it anymore. We treated her like a leper, like struggling with homosexuality was the worst thing ever. I know some people were embarrassed that someone like her could “slip through the cracks.”
I am so ashamed of how twisted my thinking was. I would see her out and become so uncomfortable, but deep down I knew I was uncomfortable because I was part of an institution that made her an outcast. I always wanted to apologize to her but I didn’t know if it would make things more weird, or how to approach it, so I simply smiled. I was always nice. But I hurt for her, and still do.

Or how about the one time the president had to kick her best friend out? She had to choose between the sorority or her best friend, and she chose the sorority. I don’t know if she regrets that, but in a moment of vulnerability she told me that she simply couldn’t believe she was part of something that was forcing her to make that choice.

My least favorite part of sorority life was still the rush process. I hated it. After being on the other side, the sorority side, you begin to wonder how in the WORLD you ever got in. And no, I’m not going to act pious like I didn’t say mean things. I did. The masochistic part of me loved being able to say horrible things to a roomful and having them laugh. It’s kind of powerful, knowing that your words can keep someone out of something you’re already a part of. I’m sure my words kept some girls from getting invited back.

I believe you reap what you sow. I had an elevated sense of self importance and it bit me in the ass. My final year in the sorority my sister was going through rush. She was a double legacy for my sorority and I was currently IN the sorority, so I thought it was a given that she’d get in. I was elected to be a Rho Chi that year – a sort of counselor who helps girls who are going through rush know where they’re supposed to be at what time, which sororities they got invited back to, which ones dropped them, etc. It was really fun because we didn’t have to do the small talk smiling thing, we could actually get to know these girls for a short time. I also thought it would be easier for Kathleen if I wasn’t in the room while she was talking to the girls in my sorority.

The details are a little fuzzy, but I do remember that halfway through the week, one of my best friends called me and told me they were probably going to drop Kathleen. See, when they talk about people at the end of the night, they can ask anyone who might repeat the information to leave the room. One night they asked 4 of my best friends and my [sorority] little sisters to stand outside while they discussed Kathleen. The next morning our advisor called my mom and told her that they had made the decision to drop her, that she wouldn’t be receiving a bid from MY sorority, MY MOM’s sorority, the sorority I had poured the last 3.5 years of my life into, the sorority I truly believed was different and good and not like every other hurtful, back-stabbing sorority. I was blind-sided. And my thoughts were wrong, because deep down we were the same. We just looked different on the outside. And I was part of something that was capable of mean, mean things.

No one knows what happened. I take that back – someone knows what happened, but no one ever told me. Shortly thereafter, I turned in my pin and walked away from those girls, because if they didn’t want my family the certainly weren’t getting me. I packed up my 1400 sorority t-shirts and gave them away. I took my stickers off of my car.

Before the year was over, I’m pretty sure 2 of my friends ended up quitting and a couple of others simply stopped participating. I don’t know that this had anything to do with me, they made the decision that was best for them. Just like I try to not begrudge those who chose to stay and continue to participate – again, they made the decision that was best for them. But if I’m being honest, and I usually am, I admit that it blows my mind that anyone could choose to be a part of something that is so exclusive. Something that seems to cause so much heartbreak. But of course my perspective is biased, because I am one of the ones who got hurt. I am one of the ones whose heart got a little broken. If this had never happened, I’d probably still be justifying my participation with the rest of them.

As for my sweet sister, she ended up transferring to another school, joining another sorority, and quitting after 2 years. I guess we’re just not cut out for sorority life. And I am grateful, because I've had to find my identity in the One who can truly identify me.

I know that some of you who read this were in the sorority with me. I’m not trying to offend anyone, so I apologize if I have done so. Everyone has a different perspective and this is mine.