reflections of a former sorority girl
every time i see a woman in her mid-late 20s driving a car with her sorority's letters emblazoned on the back with some heinous sticker, i can't help but ask myself, "really? you're still clinging to some sort of collegiate alcohol-and-sex-fueled affiliation? you don't have, like... a real life now?"
proponents of the greek system will be quick to lambast me, arguing that there's more to being in a sorority than doing beer bongs on the roof of a frat house while several "brothers" you've hooked up with rate the quality of your body and or sexual performance. sure, there's "sisterhood" and "community service" and "scholarship" and blah blah blah, but let's get real here about the most popular and frequent raison d'etre of the greek system at the majority of colleges in the u.s.: PARTY-TIME!
as a sorority-dropout, i doubt anything i have to say about life in sororities is actually all that groundbreaking. there's excessive drinking, promiscuity, gossip, infighting, and every other stereotyped scenario you've seen played out in the media in the last 30 years, but i'd like to offer the unique perspective of someone who drank the (low-cal sorority girl) kool-aid... and then dropped all guises of sisterhood like a bad habit. yes, i was once a girl awoken by frat boys at 10am saturdays with shots of pucker that led to day-long drinking sessions. indeed, i have been to a sorority "barn dance" (admittedly, only one), replete with making out on a hay bale, climbing over a fence, tearing my shirt and landing in a puddle of mud, and hitting on the DJ (because i claimed he looked like nick carter. dear lord, am i the most embarrassing human being alive?).
so, i've been there, i've done that, and now, i've got something to say about: THE SORORITY GIRL UNIFORM.
i think women's fashion in general is driven in many ways by the culture in which we live; one which encourages women to compete (with each other) for men - based on the way they look. dress like this and you'll be successful, beautiful, and you'll snag (and keep!) that man, says our cultural influencer, the fashion media... which in turn distributes trends to the masses, and in this case, sorority girls, who are like, clearly SO pumped to be hot, ace their exams, and date the cutest football player (full disclosure: i was IN LOVE with bennie joppru).
consequently, there is definitely a fair amount of pressure to dress and look a certain way when you live in a sorority house with 60 other young women, who will, in fact, judge you. as a matter of fact, the entire sorority rush process is based on judging other women; from five minutes you spend with an awkward 18 year-old, you're expected to essentially score these girls, and cut them accordingly (ok, again with the full disclosure: i ran rush at my sorority one year. i was maybe the biggest and judgiest bitch ever. i'm only slightly repentant).
in the early 2000s, when i was a sorority girl (in michigan at least, ok?), the cutest-ever outfit was some sort of sparkly top accompanied by tight, bootcut black pants. preferably from express. depending on the party and some nights of the week, the sisters would swap jeans for the black pants, but there was sort of always a homogeneous look going on.
when living in the sorority house, every night out is prefaced with the usual ritual of putting on the uniform, including glittery eyemakeup and dangly earrings, then pre-partying with shots, usually accompanied by some sort of game. my friends and i were particularly fond of the classic, "never have i ever," and actually created our own bitchy little clique using this game as "initiation" to our exclusive group, which offered benefits such as eligibility to be awarded the "sketchy crown," an alternately prestigious and shameful title bestowed upon the girl who had been, essentially, the drunkest slut as of late. that is, clearly, a reflection best saved for another time.
anyway, back to the uniform and deflecting attention from aforementioned embarrassing information, one day, my sophomore year, a fellow californian and i had had it; i had likely just taken off my skintight red pants and requisite square-toed boots (actual outfit worn by yours truly. sigh.) when we decided that we had HAD IT with the incredible amount of effort constantly demanded of us. we didn't WANT to wear heels anymore. we didn't WANT to wear those godforsaken black pants with no fucking pockets, therefore demanding that you carry an appropriately tiny little coordinating clutch in which to carry all of your belongings.
we called it "california casual." it meant jeans; it meant (diesel. yup.) sneakers; it was, essentially, a big "up yours" to the sorority status-quo, and holy jesus i loved it. of course, i was by no means taking some sort of stand that forever changed the face of fashion, sorority-driven or otherwise, but it was empowering, even then, to tell my sisters, "no, i'm not going to blow-dry my (dyed black-and-purple) hair," or that, yes, i did think a tennis skirt was appropriate attire for a frat party.
breaking ranks with the sorority girl uniform may have been a small act of resistance, but i think it was pivotal in my youthful understanding that i was not, in fact, what good sorority girls are "supposed" to be, at least at a school like the university of michigan. in that rah-rah, go greek and go blue environment, sorority girls wear sweatpants with their house letters proudly emblazoned across the butt to class, know all of the guys in their favorite frat by first and last name (in a pre-facebook era!), and look forward to greek week every year with a fervor matched only by their appreciation for low-fat frozen treats.
and, of course, they party. so there i found myself, wearing any of my several pairs of straight-up ARMWARMERS, drinking shitty beer with drunken douchebags, when i realized... this isn't really my thing. i mean, i made some good friends, and there were some good times had, but the whole "sorority girl" identity didn't fit with the person i really was. i mean, i was never really that into the whole thing anyway, and i couldn't ever envision some future version of myself attempting to "network" via some feigned sense of sisterhood that essentially bore no more weight than a thimble in my book (this is similar to my feelings on jdate: i would never want to date anyone specifically looking for a jew. i guess that makes me a typical self-hating jew?).
i broke ranks with the sorority fairly easily and quickly, save a handful of people whom i still keep in touch with (two of whom are big homos = shocker to nobody), and really, never looked back. eventually, after tiring of the endless postings of elaborate wedding and engagement photos (WHY with the engagement photos? barf), i defriended most of them on facebook, and there's no more of a trace of the sorority girl in me than some highly-incriminating photos in albums (remember disposable cameras? people actually had prints!). of course, in half of those photos, i'm wearing the uniform. eventually, i'm not. and then, i'm not there at all.