20-Year Old Sorority Rush Memories: Time To Let Go

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It was so hot that my hair, which had obediently twisted around the hot rollers just an hour before—fell limp and straight below my shoulders.  My head was woozy because I didn’t eat enough breakfast to gird me for the upcoming task of enduring hours of pretty, over-scented college girls singing in my face.

I’d made it to Day 4 of sorority rush.  Whoever decided that the third week in August was a good time for Texas co-eds to traipse up and down sorority row every day in increasingly fancy clothes should be subjected to a virulent strain of flesh-eating disease.  Or something worse—like sorority rush.

With two more days to go—the big finale was on Saturday—I was encouraged to “figure out where I thought I belonged.” All I knew was that I wanted to join any house with fully-functioning air conditioning and ice cold beverages.

During a break I sat on a bench in the relative shade of the Zeta Tau Alpha house.  I’d arrived early, hobbling across two hot parking lots hoping that my strategically placed Band-Aids would stay put for the next three hours. I fanned myself with a piece of paper I’d found in my purse and prayed that the day would speed by.

Three seats down from me, some girl was holding court.  She spoke with the authority of an expert.  The Dr. Ruth Westheimer of sorority rush at big agricultural schools in Texas.  Forgive me if I ignore you, I thought.

I’d already heard Dr. Ruth proclaim she was a triple Pi Phi legacy, which explained her smug tone.  My mom was in a sorority too, but it wasn’t one that had a house on my campus so there was no way to spend my legacy currency.

“For example, you are supposed to be wearing panty hose today.” I could feel her eyes on me when she spoke; her words a sniper aimed at my insecure little heart.  Bullseye. 

I looked down at my freshly shaved legs—I could feel the fresh nicks stinging as sweat snaked down my leg. No fucking way was I wearing panty house on Day 4.  I was willing to on Day 5 when most houses served cheesecake and tried to make you cry by singing songs about friendship.  But Day 4? Nope.

“If you want to get into the best houses …” She prattled on, other girls gathered around her drinking her wisdom like a fragrant mimosa.

I wasn’t going to look, but then, of course I had to.  If I was going down in a fiery shame spiral, I wanted to put a face to that grating voice.  I shouldn’t have looked over. I should have directed my attention to the sweet looking girl from Arlington on my right who stared straight ahead as if we were headed to a firing squad, not a sorority party.  She wasn’t wearing panty hose either.

For the next four years, I ran into Dr. Ruth around school regularly; the sight of her always accompanied by a dull zing of shame and rage, even though I’d found a place where my naked legs  were welcome.

As I clicked “accept” to her recent friend request last night, I remembered that sweltering afternoon and decided it was time to let go.  I’ve carried this story long enough.

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26 thoughts on “20-Year Old Sorority Rush Memories: Time To Let Go

  1. Sorority rush was not a pleasant experience for me, either. I always wonder if the Little Miss Triple Pi Phi Legacies of the world actually came out ahead, or if they’re just normal like everyone else. You’ll have to let us know now that you’re friends with her on facebook 🙂

  2. My Mom begged me to rush. I had no interest but since my parents were footing the bill on my college education, I felt like I had to. Rush week was hell. I was dropped by all but two (makes you feel real good your first week at college) but ended up a ZTA. I only made it two years and then life got too hectic but I’m glad I did it. My best friends to this day were made through that sorority. I remember those girls though, the Dr. Ruths of Charleston, SC. I’m so glad I didn’t end up with them!

  3. When the girls who made me cry in high school over my perceived inadequacies asked for my facebook friendship last year (after our 25 year reunion), I accepted, but it was tough. Why should they get a pass now for ignoring me for 6 years? NOW I’m good enough to be their friend? I don’t know… it was – and still is – a struggle.

  4. Wow . . . I wasn’t expecting that last night. Beautiful! I am thankful that the powers that be (and that were) at SMU, while a bit old-fashioned, decided to hold rush in January. I’d have DIED in August.

  5. You wouldn’t believe how much rush has changed in 20 years. I’m a Greek advisor now and I have to resist the urge to tell the girls how easy they have it in terms of the dress requirements. I doubt many of them have ever worn skirts beyond mid-thigh, much less pantyhose. I remember those pantyhose wearing parties in August all too well. As for the mean girl syndrome, it’s ironic that the places where women should be supporting each other, it is often the most prevalent.

  6. Hey it’s Tamara . . . can’t change my user name. WP can be challenging . . .

    You’re such a great writer, thanks for sharing. And a much bigger person than I. I had a FB “Friend” request from someone who dumped me as a friend in junior high because I wasn’t one of the popular girls. Apparently I was a hinderance to her social ambitions. So I said “Yes” thinking time heals. I unfriended her a month later. I couldn’t get past it.

  7. I never joined a sorority, mostly because I went to a drive-through of a college that catered to single parents and the urban poor. However, had someone insisted I wear pantyhose during a sweltering summer, I think I’d have verbally gutted them with a shiv.

  8. I guess she eventually forgave you for your extreme transgression of pantyhose-less legs in her vaulted presence. I mean, to send a friend request, she must have let that go as well. 😉

    My college did not have frats/sororities. I do not regret that at this moment.

  9. You have such a way of making the what you were/are feeling so relatable. I don’t remember my rush being a big deal. However, my daughter started out as a Northerner at Clemson (SC). Rush, and life as a Midwestern city girl at a rural southern college, didn’t go well at all. Rush = A Week of Sobbing! They would tell her as she walked in the door, we don’t take Northerners. Um, okay? She transferred to IU and life turned rosy. Me? Never wore hose in college. Never wear it now. No one would take me in my current state. You “turned out” better than her, I’m sure of it!

  10. What a perfect ending. The way you set it up and stretched out that last bit was an excellent bit of story telling. Also, your phrases “A fragrant sip of mimosa” Just so excellent.

  11. Love this. I have dreams, ok nightmares, that i missed too many Monday chapter meetings and am asked to leave the sorority. I wonder what is about?

  12. The only encounter I had with the Greek system was at Whitman. Never joined, but I made some friends with some ex-Phi Delts through the rugby club. Then, I was mercilessly harassed by sorority girls until I left the school. Begging your pardon if I don’t have the most fond view of the Greek system.

  13. Yikes, we didn’t have sororities at the college I went to, but this is exactly what I imagined rush week to be. It’s no wonder you’re still thinking about it 20 years later.

  14. Another excellent post. I was never interested in the sorority thing, probably because I feared the girl whom you described here. This line made me laugh out loud: Whoever decided that the third week in August was a good time for Texas co-eds to traipse up and down sorority row every day in increasingly fancy clothes should be subjected to a virulent strain of flesh-eating disease. Or something worse—like sorority rush. You are so funny and talented!

  15. Great post 🙂 You have such a naturally humorous and easy-going way of sharing stories. It’s a real gift. I avoided all sororities by getting knocked up when I was 17 😉 The only place I rushed was to the store when I ran out of diapers!

  16. Being the bigger person is so difficult at times. Kudos to you for coming out on top. By the way, does she read your blog?

  17. How funny – I have a post about sorority rush sitting in my drafts folder! I went to school up north so rush was quite a bit different – I went to only one event and wore jeans and a hoodie, lol. I would NOT have made it in the south!

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