Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Season of White Dresses and Demon Bunnies

One of the things that still haunts me from way back in the day is washing out of sorority rush. My mother's sorority chapter was in trouble, and as it turned out, their advisors from national had cautioned them against taking any girls who were not stereotypically attractive, because they were already under interdict as the house that took fat, ugly, or socially-awkward girls. What I thought would be a shoo-in, coupled with malicious rumors started by a girl from back home who was in another house, buried me, and deeply. (EDIT: in researching their legacy policy, I discovered that it's worse than that- they had to obtain the permission of their national office to drop me because it was a distressed chapter and under those circumstances, a legacy cannot be dropped from rush and must be on the bid list.)

A childhoods friend's daughter belongs to a smaller sorority that began as a teaching sorority back in the World War I era, and migrated to a regular social sorority during the Thirties and Forties. Their chapter here in Kentucky just pledged a young woman who has Down Syndrome. I think that's pretty fantastic. In a time when one of the sororities at Bama made a kind of harebrained video to promote themselves to rushees (this semester, Fall 2015), Katy's sorority at Murray State pledged a girl because they liked her. That's often not enough. So kudos to the ladies of Alpha Sigma Alpha at Murray State for having the guts to choose girls they like rather than choose girls for what they look like or what their parents do for a living, or something else equally shallow.

Every so often, I revisit the humiliation of sorority rush. I'm not sorry I did it, because I earned my stripes, but the thing that caused my mother to jump in the car and drive immediately to Lexington (at my father's rare behest- he had his moments about this stuff) was when I howled, "That means I'm not good enough for my mother. I'm not good enough for my own best friend!" My best friend, you see, is a sorority sister of Mom's. My mother drove a hundred miles to tell me in person that it wasn't true.

Some sororities require that upon the death of actives who have no one else in the family who are members, the pin should be returned to their national offices. My sister pledged a different house, and was followed into it by my mother's great-niece. Mom's other great-niece pledged a third, different sorority. There is no one else. I've taken the pin out and looked at it and known in my heart of hearts that if they required it, they'd have to fight me for it.

My godmother joined a couple of professional sororities as an adult, because she didn't pledge as an undergraduate. There are times that I've felt an undercurrent from her that she, too, washed out of rush, but I've never had the courage to ask. While I've thought perhaps her joining these organizations was weird, I understand it. Mom's sorority offers alumnae initiation; in a way it sounds kind of silly, but I was reading the nomination form earlier and realized how much I'm still traumatized by that long-ago rejection.

I don't begrudge anyone Greek life in college, but I wonder how many girls are still left behind in the dorms on bid day, waiting for a card or call that will never come, white dress hanging in the closet after the others have all returned with balloons and jerseys, with mascot posters hung proudly on their doors. Do they still wander down the hallway and try to slip, as invisibly as possible, through the mascotless door before their failure is further published? Will they move on, or will it still clutch at them some distant day when they don't expect it?

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