It’s All Greek to Me:
A Column on Sororities in the South
2011 COLUMN CONTEST WINNER
Mary Marge Locker is a freshman English major at the University of Mississippi, but she dropped her only English class this semester. Because of this, she has time to focus on the more important things in life, like social organizations. She wants to be in a sorority and doesn’t know why. Maybe so she can snag herself a frat-daddy. Maybe so she can have friends. Or maybe just so she can be associated with something. So yeah, Mary Marge attends a university to which she does not belong, because no girl is any girl at Ole Miss until she’s found herself—and made a home for herself—in a sorority.
BY M.M. Locker
Rush. I’m not allowed to tell you how it works, or why it seems to work so well for us, but what I can tell you is how I feel. I feel different. Having feelings is what happens to make a person a person, but I don’t like to be a person, I like to be a narrator, so this could be hard for the both of us.
Rush is not what I thought rush would be, now that I’m on the other side of it. Yes, that’s right, yours Mary-Marge-fucking-truly, is no longer the recruited but the recruiter. Yes, bid day is three months away, but we’re already more than halfway into our workshops and name-dropping and routines. They began in February, these twice-weekly meetings about rules and regulations and on the best days the girls we want in our sorority. It goes from being nerve-wracking to exciting to tedious to sickening. My feelings bob. If I cannot legally explain the process, its effects on me are the best I can do. My feelings my feelings my feelings.
Rush Workshop Week 1:
I ask if anyone thinks Neil Peart might show up. Nobody laughs. I laugh anyway.
Rush Workshop Week 2:
I’m excited. I like the idea of meeting new girls and getting them to love my sorority in the way that I appreciate, if not love, it. I ask my friends from Memphis and Jackson and big, popular cities to choose girls for me to talk to and potentially hang out with—girls with whom I will identify. They seem to get what I mean. When they name an upcoming freshman to me, they quickly say “She’s artsy!” or “She’s smart!” I don’t get Homecoming Queens or cheerleaders. I am okay with this, because I am in my comfort zone. I get on Facebook and I get on my game, and I let everyone know how great Sorority H is, if even just through Instagram and status updates.
Rush Workshop Week 3:
Still excited. My feelings are good ones. I’m paying attention the whole two hours, except when we have to do miserable things like scream and cheer at the top of our lungs. But even zoning out, I’m trying. Hard. I want to get things right the first time so we don’t have to do them again. When I realize how few of my pledge sisters share this perspective, my feelings take a bit of a dive. There are girls like Sally and Ali with the potential to make any girl want to join the whole. There are others who would make any girl turn and run, out of effort or out of indifference. Do I want to be eager and cool or uneager and cool? It doesn’t work that way.
Rush Workshop Week 4:
I don’t feel good or bad about it now. I resign to it. I let it infest me; the names of potential new members make their way through my brain and to the rest of me. The cheers stick in my head. I only speak when spoken to. This shouldn’t stir up anything in me, but it does and I quit while I’m ahead. Yeah, I used to want the rushees to love me and need my approval, but I’m still seeking the approval of myself, I guess.
Having feelings is overrated. I can overthink these things without being attached, right? Right. I’m good at it. There is nothing I am better at than explaining myself, but that doesn’t require feelings.
Rush Workshop Week 5:
I get this bigtime itch to start telling the potential new members what it really feels like to be an H, or, rather, a sorority girl at Ole Miss in general. The things to love and the things to mind, the classifications to embrace or to deal with.
The things I like: parties, themed parties, the way I appear to other girls in other sororities, my big sis, camaraderie (or maybe just the vague, inebriated in-between feeling of stooping to the need for camaraderie), and the boys who work in the sorority house.
The things I dislike: dues, being around people I like who are not in sororities or fraternities because of how they might think of me (like the boys who work at the sorority house), stigmas attached to my designation, mostly the dues though.
Financial angst. Personal angst. It’s a hardknock life for this H-girl.
But when I whine about the bills with anyone who can commiserate or I dance to the jazz band at social functions with crazy friends, I do these things and people say to me, “Don’t put this in your column.” I have never addressed the column in the column, and how it has freed me and counseled me and stigmatized me and given me more clout than I otherwise ever could have earned. But it has taken people away from me. My otherworldly obligation to the truth, more hurtful to myself than humiliating to others, has made people afraid to be near me. Maybe it would be like that anyway, if I didn’t have the column. Maybe my nerve and my angst would make me honest anyway, to a point of abrasiveness or honor. Or maybe not. Maybe that one guy would still want to talk to me if he hadn’t seen himself painted into a picture I wrote.
It didn’t ever click to me that people I know would be reading this. Except my family who loves me, and maybe one or two friends from home. But no, on the very first release day, a blog forum of Ole Miss students and alumni formed to argue, through the context of 100+ posts, about whether or not I was/am a real person. (My math teacher clarified.) I don’t reply to these people, not because they are not kind or intriguing, but because I do not speak in person the way I speak in this, and, you know, that could be disappointing. Like I said, my life is hard.
A guy could maybe kiss me in Oxford—hell, maybe all the way in Arkansas if I handle myself well—and before even considering doing that a second time, he says, “Swear this won’t be in your column.” Whether or not he reads this, or knows how to read, someone else will and someone else does. This is a poor example. Feel sorry for me. Guys want to kiss me, but if they do they want to do it Scott-free. Is this different from any other college girl’s life? No. Simply a version more publishable.
I want to know how I really feel about my sorority, so that if I find some new freshman that I like or adore I can explain why she’s an H-girl inside just like I am. If I am. You’d expect me to know by now, huh? Maybe if I were not an English major I wouldn’t overanalyze and describe and describe and describe to a point of exhausted self-examination, but no such luck. I do not teach, I write. I observe, but at some point I have feelings too, which is embarrassing and not what I wanted.
So should I betray myself or my sorority? Should I rush these girls and say YOU BELONG HERE because I like them, or should I tell them to be them and to be free to choose without any sort of pressure?
You don’t have to understand. Because you don’t, because I’m writing to and at all of you for once and without a real topic, I am resigned to talking about how I feel, not what I know. The rush of adrenaline. The rush of blood. Rush in general. The rush of being needed. The rush I felt on my own fluttery recruitment days walking between sorority houses, for the singular time that I would enter some of them. The rush of lips that won’t make their way into times new roman because they don’t want to. I keep them out of the way, or out of the future, or both. I want to say, hey, read this, and show all of the rushees what I have said during and about my freshman year, but this would taint the lifestyle and make me look a way I do not want to look to the newcomers—consumed.
So dear column, my diary—what I did not want you to be but what you have become—I apologize. I am not writing about my life, but about my feelings. Let me come up with an excuse.
I only have a month left as a teenager? I’m alone in Arkansas and it’s weird? The real reason is because, finally, I have to. I cannot sit on the sidelines and wave at the world to which I belong—I cannot judge anymore without feeling it. Without attachment. Without love for the individual new freshmen and love for the group as a whole, and without feeling something when I’m with them. It would happen at some point. You were all waiting. So now, here I am, with an H on my sleeve, and it hasn’t made me feel better, but it has made me feel.
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