Saturday, March 7, 2009


My social life changed considerably in my sophomore year of high school . . . I liked the people in my business program and started to make friends outside the program as well and then something major happened. At least it was major from my perspective at the time. Now it makes me cringe.

I was invited to attend a series of events for a sorority. It was totally unexpected. The girls were impressive . . . they were pretty and accomplished. They had the upper hand . . . just because we were invited to the luncheons didn't mean we would be invited to join the sorority.

Once they decided who they wanted for the next pledge class, they came to our houses and kidnapped us out of bed when it was still dark and took us out to breakfast. You knew someone had been kidnapped because they showed up to school in their pajamas with a basket of presents and balloons. The girls who weren't selected looked on jealously (this is where I start to cringe).

What we had to do was really dumb. . . it was the blind leading the blind. However, I think that teenagers need some space to be in charge and make these kinds of mistakes. It wasn't all bad - there were real life skills that were cultivated. I learned enough about group think that I made a point of going to a college where Greek organizations were not prominent.

I can't remember the exact order of events but before six weeks of pledging began, there were two dreaded hurdles: Serious Questions and Silly Questions. Serious Questions wasn't so bad. They had all of the potential pledges wait in a room then took us out one at a time into another dark room, holding flashlights at our faces and interrogating us. They tried to ask us difficult questions but I found it fairly easy to come up with answers that everyone liked. However, Silly Questions was hell on earth. Again, they had us all wait in a room and took us out one at a time but this time they led us into a full blown keg party. We wanted to die, literally, because we were the entertainment for the party. They had us act stuff out, dance, etc. Nothing seedy but completely humiliating. The only positive aspect of the situation was that a sisterhood quickly developed among the prospective pledges.

Then came pledging . . . it was an excruciatingly long and involved process. There were a ton of rules we had to memorize. We couldn't turn our back on a sorority member, couldn't even sit down in class unless invited to do so. I remember standing and standing in science class . . . the teacher liked me so he let it go but he knew what was happening.

On Thursdays, they brought us special outfits that were the worst humiliation for a teenager. We could wear no make up and had to slick our hair back. We carried around little books where members could write down tasks for us. We made lunches to order, sewed pillows, created signs. We always had to have a bag of candy ready to offer to members. We ran and rehearsed a special greeting whenever we spotted a member at school - offering them candy and "our services." We even had to answer the phone with a special greeting at home. So dumb.

They took us out one night a week and provided us with public humiliation. I can't even remember what we did. I really stopped caring. It was all the same. It helped me lose whatever shyness that had held me back before. I became really close to all the girls who were going through it with me. We had private jokes that no one else understood . . . we helped each other a lot. We developed a true bond.

The last night of pledging was a special brand of punishment. There was a party involving mostly that year's seniors on the beach in winter. We had to wear bikinis with fish tied around our necks . . . there was a list of things we had to do to prepare. Mostly stuff we were wearing. They threw stuff on us and basically had us mud wrestle. Some of the members brought special concoctions that they had been fermenting in their garages. It was a smell I will never forget. My most vivid memory was getting home - my family was thankfully out of town that weekend - and huddling by the heater, totally relieved and trying to figure out what exactly that smell was.

After becoming full-fledged sorority members, we really had fun. We sponsored social events - formals, broom ball (played on an ice rink like hockey but with brooms), ice blocking (riding blocks of ice down a hill), etc. We learned how to run the weekly meetings, host the luncheons and make the presentations to the new girls. I gained confidence . . . maybe too much. A good friend of mine - a guy - would say in this really sarcastic tone "really, you're so BIG TIME?" I was president of the sorority in my senior year and despite a couple significant lapses, avoided most of the mean girl behavior.

The only two people I've maintained friendships with since high school were my sorority sisters but we don't really talk about that.


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