By Kim Cruts
My grandmother told me to join a sorority because she was worried that I couldn’t make friends on my own. I was a weird kid and not exactly a social maverick, so this wasn’t an unfounded concern, but thanks for the vote of confidence, Grandma.
Being my usual stubborn self, I didn’t go through rush my Freshman year, thinking I would meet people on my own. But by Sophomore year I remembered that I’m a weird kid and not exactly a social maverick. I saw the other girls with their Bigs and their Littles and their parties and I started wondering if I was missing out on something. My roommate was a random Freshman from New Jersey with big hair and big boobs and a big personality. She was everything a sorority would want in a girl and she was just about the coolest person I’d ever met. I had been flirting with the idea of joining a sorority and when she decided to rush, I did too.
Rush was fun. There were songs and rituals, cute houses with color-coordinated billboards and pearls and dresses and pastel quilted purses. It was new, and it was totally out of my comfort zone. I was a debate nerd, a theatre kid, a professional marionette puppeteer. I was chubby and I wore a lot of black and red. I also suffered from deep-seated and unaddressed abandonment issues, which I covered up with sarcasm and cigarettes that I didn’t know how to inhale. Grandma may have had a point about my ability to make friends. But I thought why not? College is a time to reinvent yourself, right?
Rush was fun. Until it wasn’t. By day three I remembered that I hate pastel colors and most of my clothes were from TJ Maxx or consignment shops. I had been rejected by all the houses that I was interested in, and it was getting harder for the girls interviewing me to hide their disdain when I had to miss rush events to go interview for a job at the Cracker Barrel. I was wearing a red and white 50’s style floral party dress when I called my mother from the student union to tell her I was dropping out of rush, a phone call that was interrupted by a recruitment coordinator telling me I wasn’t allowed to be making phone calls during rush. I went home, changed into a bathing suit, and went to a pool party with the theatre kids instead. There was a boy there who tried to open a beer bottle with his forearm as a way of impressing me and just ended up hurting himself. He asked me out on a date.
Freshman year had been hard. I had a long-distance boyfriend and shared a two-person dorm room with two other girls, one of whom slept all day and the other was depressingly stupid. I stopped speaking to them both by October. The long-distance boyfriend and I broke up the summer between Freshman and Sophomore year. I had a few friends, but they were friends who had been acquired for me by high school friends who felt badly because I was struggling socially. Part of me had known that rush wasn’t going to be the solution I needed, but I couldn’t quite come up with an alternative.
That September, the boy with the beer took me to a pig roast where I met a hopelessly awkward gay Republican in a truly hideous sweatshirt. He would eventually introduce me to another hopelessly awkward boy with a terrible haircut who had skipped half of second grade (the half where they teach social skills, we always joke,) and who would become the third triangle in our triforce. We lived together my senior year in an apartment full of squirt guns and shaving cream fights. We spent our scholarship money on tequila and ridiculous dinners, and they built me a swing in our back yard for my 22nd birthday.
It’s the kind of friendship you expect to only see in stories. They are my brothers, my children, and my boyfriends all rolled into one. We’ve been together so long that we’ve forgotten what our first inside jokes even meant. We have no concept of boundaries or personal space, and frequently end up in a pile like a litter of puppies. Our fights are vicious and fast, with two of us at each other’s throats and the other one trying to mitigate or flat-out avoid the carnage, and we’ve all given one of the others the silent treatment for weeks on end at one point or another. We hate each other’s significant others for the first few months without fail because we don’t share well with others. We talk every single day. It’s a package deal, me and these men, and my fiancé is well aware that he’s stuck with us for life.
The boy with the beer ended up dumping me over AOL Instant Messenger. My beautiful roommate pledged Chi Omega and lasted three months before dousing her Greek bridges with Ketel One and throwing a match over her shoulder as she walked away. That’s college. College is weird extracurriculars and skipping class and getting dumped and required courses taught by brilliant people and waiting tables to pay for beer. And for some people, it’s going Greek.
I don’t regret going through rush. It was nice to see how the other half lives, and to start to understand a small part of a large thing that so many people love. But college creates rituals and parties and families whether you go Greek or not. Some women go their whole lives with the muscle memory of their sorority handshake, and I’m happy for them. But if I were to walk up to my apartment today and find a loaded squirt gun outside the front door, I would know instantly and without any doubt that inside my house are two adult men with water pistols, ready to take me down.