The shrill screams and shrieks of delight permeated the air of the room as we all opened the small envelopes containing our bids. After going through several days of dressing up, meeting new people, and learning all about the Greek system on campus, we had finally done it. We were now new sorority pledges. There were a few girls who retreated from the room in disappointment after remaining bidless. But the gleeful smiles of all of us who had gone through rush and been offered a bid by a national sorority, stole the limelight away from the long faces of those who regretfully left the room empty-handed.
We were supposed to go over and meet up with our new sorority sisters, but first I hurried over to the corridor beside the large conference style classroom that had been the focal point for our rush experience and dialed my mother from the pay phone to share with her the good news. This was the Fall of 1996, after all.
“I can tell from the sound of your voice that you are happy” she said as I excitedly informed her that I had been accepted by a major sorority. And as I finished my phone call, I noticed that these guys who were in their early twenties and held some type of position with the interfraternity council were not being shy about hovering close to me. Having scouted out all of us rush participants throughout the week, they now were most bold in scanning me fully from top to bottom with their eyes.
I had just graduated from my small private Christian high school a year early. And due to a full scholarship and my acceptance into the honors program, I was attending the university literally just a few miles down the street from where I lived. Since they had mentioned going through rush during our Freshman orientation, I decided to try it in spite of not being a legacy. It wasn’t a decision that I trumpeted out loud to my classmates, but they became acutely aware of it, nonetheless. For as one classmate of mine asked me “Did you rush? All of a sudden all of these cute, peppy, and petite young chicks are talking to you.” A phenomenon I hadn’t really become consciously aware of prior to her query.
The young lady in charge of our table during rush even missed one of her best friend’s wedding to fulfill her panhellenic duties, so she was very pleased when it turned out that all of us under her charge unknowingly joined her same sorority. With us shortly becoming aware of the distinctions between the different sororities and fraternities on our campus. The Delta Zetas were the dressed up country girls, the Sigma Nus the cute fraternity guys, while the Kappa Sigmas were the handsome, tall and athletic fraternity boys. The rest of the fraternities were the ones nobody bothered to dress up for.
It was an exciting time for the sororities and fraternities on our campus since we had recently been allotted some space in the student dormitories. And the interior designer for our sorority was even ordering some curtains from England with which to decorate our new chapter room. Some of the fraternities still maintained their houses off campus, however. And for our mixer with one of those fraternities, we drove what seemed like quite a distance out of town to their house in order to make tie dye t-shirts. Most of the times the sorority girls and the fraternity boys mingled with each other during the various alcohol laden parties sponsored by the Greek system. But since we were required to have official mixers with each fraternity, this particular fraternity was inviting us over for the t-shirt dying experiment.
To their credit, the frat boys kept their house spotless. However, whoever was in charge of straightening up the premises that day, most conspicuously left the one thing right in the middle of the lawn that would manifest itself with frequency throughout the entirety of the academic year – a used condom. It was impossible not to notice the condom lying there in the sun as we went through the various steps of the tie-dying process including hanging the t-shirts out to dry. And not until more than an hour and a half into the mixer did one of the frat boys finally take the initiative of removing it. Resulting in the atmosphere being a decidedly forced one throughout the breadth of the afternoon.
For our official initiation into our social sorority, we had to take quizzes on the history of our organization and learn some of the rites of our club. Rites that could be a little peculiar since our founders had a penchant for skeletons and coffins. So during the night of our initiation involving the macabre traditions, the president of our chapter urged everyone to maintain some integrity due to the volume of telephone calls they had received from parents begging them not to harm their daughters. An integrity that I can say they did maintain for the rest of the evening.
On paper, the ladies of our sorority were quite adept at presenting a wholesome image for the various officials from our club’s hierarchy who would periodically come to inspect us. Instead of having everybody learn all of the pertinent information, one question and its corresponding answer was assigned to each person to learn. That way, when the aging former sorority girl was presented with her roses and duly impressed by “how well we all knew the material”, she walked away feeling “like Miss America.”
We also had our philanthropy related to the well being of children that we maintained to give us some modicum of respectability. It required a lot of planning to raise the funds for the charity we sponsored, but to claim it was the focus of our social order would be an exaggeration. Yet, even so, we were commended by the mayor of our city for our philanthropic efforts. And we happily sent a copy of her declaration on our behalf to nationals.
I soon became involved with other organizations on campus such as the Spanish Club, the Baptist Campus Ministries, and the campus student newspaper. And after sitting in on the Student Government Association meetings as a Freshman auditor, I decided to run for the position of Arts and Sciences Legislator. Thankfully, I was unopposed. But it was impossible not to notice during all of our candidate-related meetings just how dominant the Greek system was in the SGA. Our university didn’t have an established machine blocking independent candidates from running like the Greek systems at some of the other campuses in our state. However, all of the candidates running for a seat on the SGA, save about two, were members of either a fraternity or a sorority. And we really weren’t but a small fraction of the student population.
Our functions were officially alcohol-free, at least during the stated hours. For in order to host the beer bash parties that are such a feature of the Greek culture, our sorority would set the start time two hours earlier than the actual hour the event was to begin. This way, the sorority alumnae could come and have a light refreshment while pretending to be none the wiser. And the body shots of tequila with the fraternity boys could take place later.
Minimal I.Q. television shows featuring bikini-clad girls by the swimming pool were continually airing on the television sets in the chapter rooms along with heavily thumbed through copies of Cosmopolitan magazine. The mainstay of sorority life for many of the girls was also readily visible. So much so, that when one young collegian’s mother came down to visit, she noticed her daughter’s roommate’s wastebasket filled to the brim with used condoms. Causing her to promptly take her daughter back home to Tennessee for good.
Sometimes, the college sorority members would express a little bit of an awareness of the sorority environment’s libertine lifestyle. With one of our sorority sisters, who was also a cheerleader, explaining to us how much she loved playing the piano for her church on Sundays. As that way she could “make up for my sins on the weekends.” Even when we were doing something as innocuous as setting up the Christmas tree in the center of the grassy courtyard of the dormitories, allusions were constantly made as to who was “the boy” and who was “the girl” while plugging in the Christmas lights.
During one of our evening socials, the sorority girls started talking about how many guys they had seduced for their first time. With one girl specifying that it was easy to tell who the non-virgins were, since they wouldn’t hesitate at all. While the guys who happened to be a virgin would say things along the lines of “I would love to do that for you, but I just can’t.” Or in some instances, the virgin boys would even cry.
Quite taken aback by such a line of conversation, I shared it with one of my sorority sisters who was not there that evening while we were studying Calculus a few days later. She was an engineering major, we both had gone through rush together, and I thought very highly of her.
“They sure are open about it,” she said. “My friends and I back home just don’t talk about it.” Causing me to stare at my friend with incredulity. As somehow I had never anticipated such a response. Making me feel all the more grateful that we could divert our attentions back to solving intricate mathematical problems.
Of the various groups I belonged to, the sororities and the fraternities were actually the friendliest ones. But I found myself astonished by the adeptness with which they could transition from licking the salt for the tequila off of their best friend’s boyfriend’s chest late in the night and the next morning sit properly with their ankles crossed while wearing a pastel-colored springtime dress before the regional director. Are they really the same people? I found myself wondering. Later on, when my younger brother started college at The University of Alabama, he discovered he could use my sorority connections to his advantage. For when a group of sorority girls refused to deign to speak to him as an independent, he let them know which sorority I had pledged. Resulting in them greeting him with effusively warm smiles for the remainder of the semester. I, however, no longer had any desire to be affiliated with the Greek system middle-class gangs in any way whatsoever. So as my Freshman year came to a close, I transferred to a small Christian college . . . one that had no fraternities or sororities.