“My bouncing is way off.”
“Your bouncing? What's bouncing?”
After practicing my bouncing and clapping, and chanting sorority ditties for two weeks, I had no idea why anyone on earth wouldn’t know what bouncing was.
“It's kind of like jumping up and down without leaving the ground,” I answered.
Bouncing was for certain the bane of my existence. This was my second year in a sorority, and the year that I was going to be on the other side of rush, or Recruitment as they like to say. In my whole time in the sorority, I had made about two friends, or at least “people I could talk to.”
My childhood had left me feeling, still, like that awkward overgrown kid with shaggy bangs covering her face. Yet by this time I had blended in with everyone else, except for the lingering awkwardness. Recruitment preparation had begun in the spring with the passing out of “The Little Black Book,” which described in detail the outfits we were supposed to wear for the four days of Recruitment, with example pictures, the required jewelry and its color, specific shoes, and whether or not we could wear a headband.
On one of the first days of Work Week (actually two weeks of all-day training before rush) I realized the severity of my lack of coordination. The sorority president separated three other stragglers and me into an empty hallway and made us bounce and clap together. The harmony clearly wasn’t there. Just at that moment, with the four of us bouncing up and down like a game of Whac-A-Mole, the rest of the sorority decided to move rooms. I was humiliated enough without having every girl in the house walk by and see my secret shame.
During short breaks we would have “dress checks,” standing outside the director of rush’s room to see if our outfits were up to par. I went into these events nervous, like I was about to confess my sins to a priest. It could only have been worse if I had no clothes on at all – maybe.
One girl came out visibly upset, explaining, “She told me I get a little bloated in my stomach when I eat too much salty food.”
Fearfully I entered. After looking me up and down, they asked, “What are you wearing underneath?”
Wondering what could be bulging, I admitted, “I already have Spanx on.”
“Oh, OK. That’s fine.”
That’s fine? I spent time, effort and cash to get that’s fine? Clearly this was a joke or a bad dream.
Spanx is an undergarment used for body-shaping, a modern girdle. It sucks the fat in from the thighs to right below the bra, leaving a slim shape free of panty-lines.
When Recruitment was over I called my dad for comfort and balled about how much I hated being there. My mom, a former sorority girl herself, offered little comfort, other than telling me to embrace my time there.
Dad said, “Honey, you’re just like me. You just don’t care.”
For some reason, I found those words empowering. Yeah, I don’t care, that’s right. I told my friend back at the house about my tears.
“It's okay," she said. "I've cried to my mom every day.”
My mother didn’t understand. She loved her sorority. “Emily, all my best friends today, I met in my sorority. You just need to be more outgoing. Just say hi to the girls in the house.”
When I moved into the house, I watched as she went around introducing herself as Karen [insert her sorority’s name]. I went through rush on my own volition the year prior to work week and moving into the house. I couldn’t completely blame my current circumstances on my mother, even if my joining was mostly her idea.
On my Bid Day (the day in which you find out what house you pay your money to for four years), the writing was on the wall. EMILY, LEAVE! As some houses went bowling or roller-skating or on some other tame expedition like that, mine had a DJ and a slip’n’slide in the backyard. Having just met all these people, I wasn’t totally ready to run around half-naked, greased up in Crisco. I am sure I blamed myself as I often do. There wasn’t something wrong with this situation; it was me, and my inability to be “outgoing.”
How did sororities evolve to this? I thought it was about scholarship, sisterhood, and class. But apparently it is about date parties, status, saying one thing but doing another, and making up pretend things to care about. I have seen pictures of the founders from the late 1800s. I couldn’t imagine them with Spanx on under those matronly dresses, or going to weekend fraternity parties themed “Golf Pros and Tennis Hos.”
Now I am a junior living in the house, and I do blame this one on mom: as the younger girls pass me in the hall and ask who is that girl?, before I am even out of earshot and as I get snapped at for touching food without tongs, I have to stop myself from jumping and down screaming, “When I grow up, I’M LIVING ALONE! I’M LIVING ALONE!”