Note: I unapologetically call out the Greek system in this post. It doesn’t mean I don’t have friends that love their sorority (I do!), or that I’m a ruthless GDI who’s just bitter (not bitter, just perpetually *hangry). It means that just because some things have good parts doesn’t mean they are good as a whole. So, if you’re easily offended by warranted callouts, this essay probably is not for you. Or maybe, that’s all the more reason that you should read it.
She was sobbing. I’m not talking a halfway cry or a storm that quietly rolls in and out on a sunny Sunday afternoon. This was a full-on tornado, and I was Dorothy, the epic receiver, who would make the best of this Oz-like adventure. It wasn’t the first time that I’d been the grand comforter. I’d spent years honing my skills as the big sister, go-to babysitter, and a few weeks earlier, I had to announce to my residents that one of girls had passed away overnight. Wading through others’ pain wasn’t foreign or confusing, it felt natural.
But this pain was different. This pain seemed, at first, hard to take seriously. Here I was, an RA, comforting an 18 year-old who had been left devastated by the sorority rush system. As someone who walked out of the first informational meeting years earlier, after they’d informed me of the rush “dress code,” I’d never looked back. I’d wear whatever I damn well pleased, hang out with the theatre crowd, and spend my money on late night milkshakes and used copies of Gloria Steinem books (yes, major nerd alert) rather than date functions and overpriced paint pens.
So, as she crumpled in my arms on the fourth floor of that college dormitory, I tried to think of the right words to say. As an RA, you’re taught to make sure that your language is all-inclusive (obviously important), and as a college student outside of the “Greek system” in the sea of sorority girls, you spend an exorbitant amount of energy acting ambivalent towards that system, which deserves more thoughtful critique and callouts than it ever gets.
So, instead of sugar coating her experience, and pretending like those sorority girls made a thoughtful decision with their excel spreadsheets, rankings, and 2 minute conversations that they all apparently dread anyway, I decided she’d had enough bullshit for one day.
Here’s what I said to her, and here’s what I say to anyone who exposes herself to this minefield of judgment that is unfair and cruel to say the very least.
You’re worth it. And not in that L’Oreal crap kind of “worth it” way. You don’t have to spend a load of money on your face, your features, or your personality to make you worth it. I don’t mean you’re worth it because that dress makes you look pretty in the hips, or because we have matching shoes. You’re worth it. Period. I know it never feels like you’re worth it for just being you after someone rejects you. Rejection is the worst. It never stops stinging, and there’s nothing I can do or say that will make you believe you’re worth it. But you know what’s never going to help? Giving any ounce of power to a system that places emphasis on short-lived conversations, first impressions, wealth, and stereotypes to define its exclusivity. We can all pretend these social groups are about philanthropy and a commitment to life-long friendships, and those may be awesome by-products, yes, but we’d be kidding ourselves if we didn’t acknowledge how many people get trampled in the process of this newfound sisterhood and good-doing.
So you know what I want you to do when you go to bed tonight? I want you to close your eyes and imagine tomorrow, when you wake-up, without all the sorority colors, sisterhood events, date functions, pictures of you squatting (truth: those poses hurt anyway), lineages, and secret traditions that you’re expected to learn. Because if you imagine it closely enough, you’ll also see that without it you’ll meet new friends, have more money in your pocket to spend on milkshakes, cupcakes, and calorie filled self-love, and you’ll have time to actually fall in love with the awesome person you are becoming without the distractions of unrealistic expectations associated with rigid social groups. Your life will be rich with diversity that isn’t cultivated through a week of torture, and you’ll have the courage to face rejection head-on and say, “You know what? Screw you. I make my own rules.”
Quite simply, you will be okay. You’ll be more than okay.