My umbrella tumbled down the street in the pouring rain from the steps of the sorority house as the rest of my fellow Potential New Members rushed to claim their obedient umbrellas from the where we left them. My umbrella seemed to be the only one that decided to go rogue. As my umbrella did gleeful cartwheels away from Panhellenic Fall Formal Recruitment down the cobblestone street, I joined a girl underneath her loyal umbrella sloshing through muddy puddles in my Tori Burch white sandals to the next house. I wish I could say that recruitment was as magical for me as those glitter-drenched, perfectly choreographed, pop-EDM-backed recruitment videos, but all I could think was shit.
I didn’t start my freshman year with visions of matching T-shirts and calling cards dancing in my head. In fact, spending the first two weekends of college competing to get into a perky, stylish and exclusive club with a thousand girls who were perkier and more stylish than me sounded comparable to attending a four-year-old’s princess birthday party. Both proved loud, sparkly and the last place I wanted to be. Attending private school all my life didn’t help either. Small schools had crippled me. I only changed schools and make friends twice, going from a grade school of 400 to a high school of 1,200. Once when I was four and my mom did most of the work for me, and once when I went to high school. I kept those friends for the entire time I spent at each school. Now, I found myself on a campus of 40,000, with no obligations or moms to force me into the same room as people my age. I needed a push into being social, and the barking and squealing Rho Gammas of Fall Formal Recruitment were just the girls I needed.
I expected my Rho Gamma would be the one holding my hand to frolic through fields of flowers like the recruitment videos. My recruitment experience looked more like a training montage of the Navy Seals, but pinker, and my Rho Gamma was my general barking orders to line up alphabetically and not to forget my calling card. I struggled through obstacles just as grueling: agility in the form of leaping over puddles in heels, endurance in the form of keeping a thousand-watt smile on my face at all times and obedience in the form of taking orders from the Rho Gamma. Plus, buckets of rain for an entire weekend, just for good measure. I couldn’t help but think my superiors, the sisters, could tell I wasn’t a five-star recruit. I never considered myself a sorority girl, why should they?
The other recruits handled the experience with ease. Their mascara didn’t run down their face like black spider legs in the rain, girl-flirting came as naturally to them as ordering at Chipotle came for me and they had stats and reputations of houses memorized like I memorized lyrics to every Beyonce song. The sisters impressed me even more. All of their outfits matched perfectly. They sat on the floor in skirts and heels looking like someone Julie Andrews would be proud of instead of a baby giraffe failing at its first steps. They somehow naturally marched me around the house in perfect choreography with their hands pinned behind their backs while only slightly looking like wind-up toys.
Meanwhile, I held a conversation for longer than bearable about butter. Literally. I had six exchanges about butter. “I can’t believe she’s still talking about butter,” the look on the other girl’s face read. I didn’t blame myself though; those videos that show pretty girls candidly laughing never have sound. How was I supposed to know what they were talking about before they flipped their hair back and giggled? I also implied another girl deserved her speeding ticket (thanks, CPD dad). I tripped up stairs. I knocked over picture frames. I overslept and missed a party at one house. I maintained a “messy bun” one day that looked more like Lil from Rugrats’ hairstyle. It’s a wonder no one suggested I rush Gamma Delta Iota.
The magic didn’t kick in until I found my house. I won’t lie and say the connection was instant though. I only remembered it as being the “nose ring house” because the girls were allowed to keep in their extra piercings. I talked to this house at the end of my first day of recruitment. By then, I had developed a twitch that ticked every time a girl asked me about my major or my hometown, and my face shined like the top of the Chrysler building. But here I relaxed on the couches without feeling like my posture and appearance were ruining the décor of the house. This was the house where one sister and I talked about being the type of girl who makes friends with guys more easily than with girls, even though she was here in a sorority. Here the girls made me laugh real, embarrassing laughs, and I saw one of the sisters trip up the stairs before I did. realized I found the place I’d soak in glitter and pop-EDM when it came time for me to graduate the hell of recruitment. I found my house.