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Overnight celebrity?

Published: March 3, 2011, 12:33 am ET
Collegian Columnist

I logged onto Facebook and in the upper left corner were an astounding 35 friend requests. After breaking for dinner and returning a couple of hours later, I had about 100 more.

Never in my life have I felt so popular. No, I did not become an overnight YouTube celebrity. Rather, I rushed a sorority.

Richmond’s upperclass women — who as a collective, mysterious force made me anxious in classes during first-semester freshman year, while at frat socials and throughout recruitment week — now actually were requesting to be my friend. Er … my sister.

After recruitment week every January, sisters in each campus sorority are overjoyed to welcome the new pledge classes. The excitement is overwhelming. As I scrolled through the 100+ comments on my Facebook wall, I felt accepted and special.

But this newfound “acceptance” seemed weird to me.

I graduated from a private all-girls school. From 7th to 12th grade, I tried to brush off the one group of about 10 girls who decided they were at the top of the social hierarchy in our class of 60.

Imagine being in 8th grade and having the queen bee — clad in her Lacoste polo and Nike Shox — screaming Gwen Stefani lyrics in your direction upon your exit from homeroom:

“I heard that you were talking shit
And you didn’t think that I would hear it
People hear you talking like that, getting everybody fired up
So I’m ready to attack, gonna lead the pack
Gonna get a touchdown, gonna take you out”

Slightly intimidating to me at 13? Yes.

I had only recently retired the sexy awkward, prepubescent librarian look. I gained some points on the cool scale after my optometrist announced my lazy eye was fixed. No longer four-eyed, I still didn’t know whether I was “legit” enough to fit in with these head honcho chicks who apparently thought I was “talking shit.”

Aggressive bullying aside, I met some amazing women at my alma mater and I cherish those friendships.

But trying to fit in with my class continued to frustrate me and always proved futile. I cookie-cuttered myself into the typical Agnes Irwin middle-schooler by blowing all of my babysitting money on Juicy Couture and Abercrombie outfits. I begged my parents for the newest pink Razor cell phone and applied Lancome lipgloss like it was my job (…who was I trying to look hot for?).

By 10th grade, my yearning to fit in turned into angst. I rebelled against the homogeneity and exclusivity of my grade by making my AIM away messages Brand New lyrics. I decided to further my oh-so-edgy image by dying my hair purple one summer with my equally fed-up friend. The box said semi-permanent dye but my blonde locks retained a purple glimmer when I stepped under fluorescent light for the remainder of the year.

The exclusivity of the one group of girls affected the rest of my class more than anyone would want to admit. I had a lot of friends, but there was always tension between those who sucked up to the “in crowd” and those who swore them off (i.e. me in 10th grade).

So — as revealed by my nonsensical, convoluted babbling about my all-girl school days — I didn’t exactly think I was going to rush a sorority when I came to Richmond. To voluntarily put myself through the never-ending spectacle of winning the favor of girls whose opinion should be unrelated to my sense of worth? No thanks.

But I did. And I’m happy I did. But initially I struggled.

I struggled first with deciding which sorority to choose. In high school I was somewhat of a floater and had friends in different groups.

Once I decided and bid day passed, I struggled with what I saw as my membership in a social scene that had rejected some of my friends. Three LoRo hallmates were my partners in crime throughout first semester. They dropped out of rush because of cuts. They are pretty, funny and down-to-earth girls. We had fun without sporting letters that somehow meant we belonged and weren’t socially awkward.

What didn’t the sororities see in them? And why did I feel the need to join an exclusive group? My all-girl school years resonated with me and while I watched my friends cry because they felt unwanted and alone, I was sympathetic.

But recruitment is a unique process. At my high school, it felt like the group of girls came together arbitrarily and decided they ruled the school. At Richmond, the Panhellenic Council does truly strive to give each interested woman the opportunity to find a niche in Greek life.

But not everyone leaves recruitment smiling. A five-minute conversation does not give a sister enough time to get to know a potential new member beyond the surface. I left many conversations thinking, “Wow, did I say anything memorable?” I mean, how enticing is a conversation in which the chitchat includes: “Hi, I’m Jenna! I’m from Philadelphia. … Yeah, the suburbs. … Um, I got my wisdom teeth out over break. … Yep, I am addicted to The Kardashians too!”

I wonder whether the exclusivity of sororities is a component of their allure for the many college women that decide to participate in recruitment. I would argue it is. Everyone wants to feel special.

But, if you are cut or it doesn’t work out, screw it. Turn the tables. Do what I did my senior year when I knew I wouldn’t get invited to the exclusive post-prom party. Throw your own. It may end up being the “it” event.

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  • Marycrobinson

    Jenna – Love it. Very well-wriiten and en pointe!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YZFDIMJV36C4NAHVRL57SSX5RM Steven

    Would have loved to see the purple hair! I hope it to be one of many great articles. Your unc bee!