The alarm on my cell phone went off, signaling that the day had begun. I rolled off the twin sized bed and my feet landed on the cool tile of the dorm room floor. Some of the morning light streamed in between the blinds.
Feeling grumpy I bent down and pulled out the denim skirt I had decided to wear for the day. Then, I grabbed my compulsory, salmon-colored shirt for the day. The Panhellenic university group had given out two designated shirts, salmon and brown-colored.
I walked into the suite’s bathroom to prepare for the day. It was hard to believe that in two weeks I would have to share the bathroom with three other girls. Until then I had to share the space only with my suitemate, who also went through rush.
After getting ready, and making sure that my makeup was perfected, I walked out of the tiny dorm room and into the narrow hall. The corridor was fairly empty and quiet. I took the elevator down from the ninth floor down to the first and made my way out onto the mall.
Despite the early morning, I felt hot. Nothing like summer in the South.
A large, white canvas tent stretched out across the mall and a crowd of girls in brown and salmon shirts filled the space. Some girls wore shorts and some had skirts on like me. They all talked, standing in alphabetical order by last name.
I took my place in the Johnson line and stood there, uncertain of what to do next. Small-talk was not my forte and I had not really wanted to go through rush. All in all, I was a bitter college girl completely out of my comfort zone. Going through rush had not been the way I wanted to spend my last week of summer, or my birthday for that matter. Still, I wanted to at least try. That way when my mom asked I could tell her I had spoken to someone.
That day all the girls signed up for rush would visit each sorority house, 11 houses total. It would be a long day.
“We can be the Johnson group,” a peppy girl said a few people behind me.
She had long dark hair, wore the salmon-colored shirt, and a headband. She smiled brightly and I knew she would do well this week. The girl had the charisma and attitude that the sorority houses probably looked for in pledges.
Her poise instantly made me feel out of place and I did not feel as if I belonged with them.
Then the day began. Slowly each line of girls walked off towards the Panhellenic houses. The houses are beautiful and grand. They are well taken care of and a little intimidating, most two stories high.
We walked into our first house, filing in one after the other. I smiled at the greeters until my cheeks hurt. Then, one of the current sorority sisters took me aside and began talking to me. Another one stepped in and the conversation continued.
I had no idea what to say to the sorority girls. This had been my mom’s idea because the university, in her opinion, was extremely Greek-focused. So, she wanted me to have a place in the university. Unlike most of the girls with me, I really had no desire to join and had not done my research on any of the houses.
At the next house we waited outside on the driveway in single file. I tried to make small talk with some of the girls and failed. Never had I felt so socially awkward. Then the girls walked out of the house. At that moment I felt ugly, short, and fat. The girls walking out had on beautiful dresses, had long legs, and walked gracefully in heels.
“They look like models,” a girl in line said, sounding just as in awe as I felt.
Indeed they did.
Great. If I had felt awkward at the first house, then the second house was 10 times worse. At five feet and barely three inches, I looked like a midget compared to the sorority girls standing next to me.
I stood next to two of them and tried to make small talk. They asked me about my likes, what I did in high school, and how I spent my summer. I answered as honestly as possible. When I told them about myself, though, I felt inadequate. None of my extracurriculars seemed exciting enough and my social life came off bland.
The day passed slowly and the temperature grew hotter and hotter with each passing hour. I stood in line outside each house and was grateful to receive the water, but barely had time to drink it as I made small talk with the sorority sisters.
“What did you do this summer?” one of the girls asked me later that day as I stood in their living room.
All around me the room was filled with girls in salmon or brown shirts. We were all paired with a sorority sister, maybe even two.
“Well, I mostly spent the summer relaxing,” I told her.
She looked a little disappointed. She probably wanted to hear about how I spent the summer with Habitat for Humanity or at a soup kitchen. Yet, all I had was that I watched Year One and Transformers 2 with my friends.
I hurried to tell her that the summer before I had gone to England with my mom, and about going to Presidential Classroom. But, as at the previous houses, I felt like everything I told them sounded dull in comparison to the student council presidents and socialites around me.
The girl passed me onto someone else and I again I had to tell another person about myself. The first girl was probably glad to get rid of me. Our conversation had not been all that thrilling. The new girl smiled at me with her white teeth, perfectly straightened hair, and immaculate makeup.
Were none of the sorority girls flawed?
Outside the house, people in cars drove by to watch us parade from house to house as if we were a circus. Thankfully, none of the fraternity guys threw food at us as we walked by or held up score card numbers like I had heard some did.
However, a group of guys had put out lawn chairs and sat in them outside their homes, watching us go from house to house. They called out to girls and drank beer. Some girls walked around them, going clear to the opposite sidewalk to do so. One girl walked past them, her shoulders back and her head held high. I am not sure if she was more brave or attention-seeking.
I took comfort in texting my then-boyfriend and telling him about the day’s events. However, I did not appreciate his comment about a drunk Katie not being a good thing. His words made me think a little on how maybe not every sorority girl planned to drink her weight in alcohol. That some girls got grouped with the stereotype and were guilty by association.
The day took an interesting twist when we made it to North Greek Row. A small tent had been placed outside the grand, white stone house and our group stood on the grass, tired and hot. My makeup no longer mattered and I had my hair pulled back into a ponytail. I wished that I had worn shorts rather than the jean skirt so I could sit on the ground comfortably. My feet hurt in my flip-flops.
A man rode by on his bicycle and made it a few feet before turning around to come back to our group. He had on a black and yellow spandex riding outfit and looked to be in his 30s. Around his neck he wore a camera.
He held it up, snapped a picture of us and said, “This is why I carry a camera.” Then, he turned around on his bike and rode off.
We all stared after him, completely taken aback. Then suddenly it felt as I was part of the group, as we ranted about how creepy the guy had been.
It turned out that that would not be the only weird thing to happen that day.
Exhausted, I stood outside one of the last houses. My face hurt from smiling at the sorority girls. My feet hurt from spending the whole day walking all over campus. All I wanted to do was crawl back into my crappy twin bed and sleep.
The sun had begun to set and we all stood on the curb, dying to sit down on the soft grass.
A police car pulled up into the half-circle driveway and that is when we saw the older woman, maybe in her late 50s or early 60s. She shouted at the officers, waving her arms around and running.
The police officers managed to get the woman into the backseat. As they drove away she gave us a thumbs-up and wore a wide grin.
At the end of the day we stood outside the computer room where we would go to vote for the houses we liked and did not, but the door was locked so we had to wait an extra-long time to mark our votes. Until then we would wait for pizza. However, the pizza came late. The anticipation for food nearly had us growling in hunger. Twenty or more hungry girls is not a very safe zone to be in, especially not after they have spent eight hours or so walking around campus.
Finally the pizza arrived and we were let into the computer rooms. I scarfed down my two slices and went in to sit at a computer. I had to think back to all the sorority houses I had liked and the ones I did not. They had all blurred together, each girl similar to the next one and each house nearly impossible to differentiate from its neighbor.
I put down my top choices. While we were marking our decisions, the houses were doing the same thing to us. I wondered if they liked me as much (or little) as I liked them. Would they want me to come back for Round Two? I hated feeling insecure, hated that it all depended on whether I could promote myself and look cute. However, this whole thing was not too unlike the future interviews I would have for jobs.
We finished the day sitting in a large auditorium to go over the next day’s plans. Salmon and brown-shirted girls sat in every available spot. I sat up on the balcony with the rest of my group. On the screen YouTube videos played as we waited for the official Panhellenic people to arrive.
I could not believe that I had survived the day. It had been awkward and uncomfortable, but would make for a funny story later on. Plus, I had experience if I ever I planned to write a story about a sorority girl. I learned that not all the girls fit the sorority girl stereotype – intimidatingly perfect. The houses had philanthropies and had set hours of studying for the “sisters” to complete. Still, the whole process made me feel like a Stepford wife.
That night I fell into bed, still a little hungry and very worn out. I called my mom and told her about the day. She wished me a happy birthday and I tried not to sound too unhappy about my situation. I just had to make it through the next few days and then I would be free.
Although I did not see myself joining a sorority, I had a whole new respect for what they went through. Rush was like a marathon, only in nice clothes and with drinks.