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.