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.
Spring and All.
BY M.M. Locker
I’m standing in my very farmy driveway at home on Easter Sunday, wearing a sorority T-shirt and Patagonia performance outdoor apparel shorts, juggling four raw eggs straight out of the refrigerator. My mother and oldest sister are behind me, also holding eggs, but not tossing them. My other sister is in her SUV, heading back down the driveway toward us, and as I yell “Happy Easter, asshole!” I chuck the first of the eggs at her car.
Because I hate frame narratives but still feel an urge to “go for it!” as my teachers past and present might say, one could potentially wonder how I got to this point of deliberate meanness on this very day of goodwill toward man, on which Jesus first coined the phrase “rise and shine.”
Backtrack to the first weekend of March, in a movie theater parking lot. I’m dressed in the garb of my university’s favorite theme, redneck, y’all, waiting on a line of buses that should be here by now. It’s 10 a.m. and I’ve had four Bloody Marys and I’m in jean shorts in fifty-degree weather. There are hundreds in the same state and style as me, already posing where they think the buses will stop, dying for a spot on the first one out. Our inspiring destination? A field.
Spring parties in fields are an Ole Miss Greek tradition, or I guess so anyway. We dress the way that the rest of the USA thinks we do on a daily basis, and wake up early to spend the whole day in this here dang old sunny haze of springtime and alcohol. Somehow I make it onto the second bus, but at the price of being separated from all my friends and the fifth bloody Mary that one of them holds.
The bus ride is long and uncomfortable, bus rides being something that I hate in general, but this one haunted by my childhood in the form of Alabama’s “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)” blaring over shitty speakers. Ten minutes out from the movie theater—halfway to the party—everyone’s cell phones start ringing, and people start screaming in a way very separate from the drunken sing-a-long style up until this moment. The third bus didn’t leave. No other buses are leaving. Someone has just been run over.
What a sick way to end the day for me, before the day’s even begun. I immediately want this party canceled. I want this girl who has been run over, the president of a sorority no less, to be fine and dandy and a-ok. The term “skin graft” starts making its way through the bus, then “broken leg” and constantly “blood, so much blood, man.” No one knows what the host fraternity is going to do about this accident or what new policies will emerge at Ole Miss because of it. All I want, though, is to be back in my bed or at least with a friend or maybe just for the bus to stop spinning.
We get to the field, and I literally beg the bus driver to take me back to campus. I’m alone and so, so, unrelentingly sad for this girl and her injury and the people who must have seen it all happen, but also for myself. He makes it clear to us, though, that he’s got to bail his fellow bus driver out of jail right now instead. I head for the beer, not refreshing on a day this chilly, but now my only company until another bus arrives.
For two hours, there are fewer than fifty of us, and that’s weird enough until it gets weirder. My fall formal date, if you recall (but I doubt that, because even I don’t really recall fall formal), is here funneling and asking me to funnel and I’m saying no my sorority wouldn’t like that very much and I’m already way too full, but he’s the only person I actually know so I stick around. I decide to cheer up, because you only live once! #YOLO! There aren’t always springtimes this beautiful or occasions to look so silly! Everyone says that YOLO shit, and you know what, it’s kind of true. Get out of your head, Marge.
At one o’clock, more buses (a different company) roll in and I know people! The tables and tables of steamed crawfish are finally laid out, the beer is replenished, and I KNOW PEOPLE! I know Abbey and Rachel and Meggie and Lauren and Trey and Caleb and John and Bill and Rudolph and Parker and this is BLISS. Ole Miss, y’all! Hotty Toddy! After a few hours of watching hay wrestling and wiping crawfish guts off the back of my hands and dancing to the strange music of the stranger cover band, I’m offered a ride back to town with some friends, and we go eat the best catfish I’ve ever had (seriously, email me about it if you want any deets), and then I fall asleep in the car, waking up with an allergic reaction to the hay, or the crawfish, or the emptiness, or it all.
Fast forward. Not too far. Three weeks later, to the second major spring party of the semester. My sister Janie and her best friend Natalie have come to Oxford to party with me, because they’ve never really adventured here at all. After waking up frightfully early on Saturday to attend a Jack Pendarvis led panel on internet writing and publishing, we get ready for the event, hosted by a different fraternity, and this time at a bar.
A strict bar nonetheless. At a swap here in October, the bouncer at this bar took up my real I.D. simply because another girl was holding it at one point, not even trying to use it. Why would she? I’m nineteen, man. So after reporting this to my mother—I, defeated, wanting to drive home and get myself a new license—she called the bar and threatened to sick the Better Business Bureau on them were it not returned. #gomom
But it’s okay to be here today, because Janie is 21 as hell. The theme is again, as for all spring parties, redneck y’all. I’m concerned about how much fun Janie and Natalie may or may not be having, because my sister is notoriously more chill than I am, in a lot of varied ways, and my lifestyle at Ole Miss is not one either of us would ever have predicted for me. A lot of my friends are spending the weekend in New Orleans with fraternity beaus or boys or randos, for spring formal. The friends who decide to stick with me for the weekend and show my sister a good time are some of my closest, but not exactly like my sister or me.
Take Coco for instance. We didn’t become good friends until our spring break adventure, if that is indicative of anything. She’s from Highland Park, Dallas, the end-all be-all of elitism without class in Texas, but she’s genuinely sweet and ridiculously funny and generous. But Coco does not have a lot going on in her head. #shitcocosays has become a famous hashtag among our friend group, including quotes like “… when Lance Armstrong landed on the moon…” and “do we know a Rob Lowe, guys? That name sounds so familiar, like is he a Sigma Chi?”
Or how about Maisy? Her dream in life is to write a Q&A column for Cosmo. Her other dream is to marry a baseball player (she is a self-declared “cleat-chaser”) with a large income and larger other things. She’s not dumb like Coco, but she’s different from anyone Janie and Nat have ever met.
But while I love Coco and Maisy to death, my genius gorgeous perfectly well-rounded but maybe just a little bit impatient sister cannot handle them. At first she laughs at Coco like I do, but when we get to questions like “How do you spell formal?” Jane widens her eyes, shakes her head, and does not understand or condone my decisions. She doesn’t get my friends. She understands my school even less than I do. She knows about the girl who got run over last party, and she then shakes her head some more.
Transcend another two weeks and I am finishing a French quiz, ready to pack up my Pathfinder for Easter break, when my mother calls. She says she’s headed to get a raccoon trap from Animal Control because we have a pest on the patio. #farmproblemz, I tweet to my followers, thinking this is funny and will be handled by my 5:00 arrival.
The thing’s rabid, which our literate and Alabamian family only recognizes because of that one epic scene in To Kill a Mockingbird. We’re worried about the safety of our dog and cat, and I’m pretty frankly worried about my own as well. Have you ever seen a raccoon in the wild using its little hands? Scariest shit ever. My mom and I watch the sleepy, sick, disgusting, not cute in any possible interpretation of the word despite what people may believe, vermin through our glass door. She tells me to whisper so it doesn’t go crazy, even though there’s a solid wall of limestone between it and us. She decides to set the trap. I won’t let her go alone, more out of guilt than nobility. We wield brooms and mops like something menacing that they could never be, and we tiptoe onto the patio, careful not to get the thing too frenzied.
Twelve hours of house arrest for self-preservation later, my two sisters are home from their colleges as well, and we try to develop a game plan of how to spend our time not focusing on the threat of the raccoon. Janie is moody as hell for some reason, almost pissed at my overreaction to the animal. Elizabeth, the oldest and hands down the kindest of us all, is throwing ideas all over the place. We decide to go see Titanic 3D because we’re all female and want to wish ourselves back to 1997 and Leonardo DiCaprio’s prime. But the theater knows my weekend has been strange enough already and decides to freak out our 3d-glassed eyes by showing the first five minutes of American Pie Reunion, or whatever it’s called, instead. Spoiler alert, AP fans: first scene is some serious masturbation, not something you want to watch with the whole family. I mean, hell, I went to see Black Swan alone with my mom; it isn’t like that’s a big deal. But the uproar of the audience was. Florence, Alabama, sure wasn’t too dang ol’ pleased with that there cinema now, folks. Janie didn’t laugh like the rest of us did.
So on Sunday, Easter, we’re all low key and eating sandwiches and straight hanging out. No church, no eggs, no rabbits. (No raccoons anymore either, it disappeared.) Janie isn’t talking or being very fun—like, not at all. We’re all sitting around when my mom finally gets kind of mad at her for her attitude. And Janie, you know, is 21, so she has a house and a boyfriend and is becoming an adult, so she just decides to dip out; she’s not in the mood for a family weekend. She leaves without saying goodbye to Elizabeth or me. It’s one of the most awkward things, out of many very terrible and awkward things, that have ever happened in our family.
But my sister left a new dress in my room, which I’m sure she wants. So ten minutes after her dramatic exit, we call her, and she heads back. I don’t really know how to lighten the mood if she talks to me, or how to appear equally pissed instead of confused if she doesn’t. We go outside to meet her. We know she won’t come in.
This is how I get to the point of standing with eggs in hand. That’s as Eastery as the day gets. I’m mad at how weird the weekend is, at the raccoon for keeping me indoors and not making everyone laugh, but at this moment mostly at my sister for not just the simplicity of moodiness but for the criticism of my life, my parties, my friends, my choices. She’s my best friend in the world, really, Janie is, but at this moment I see nothing but a target. She doesn’t crack a smile until I launch the first egg.
SUGGESTED READSIt’s All Greek to Me: A Column on Sororities in the South: What I Want
by M.M. Locker (10/5/2011)
It’s All Greek to Me: A Column on Sororities in the South: A Glass Half Empty
by M.M. Locker (10/24/2011)
It’s All Greek to Me: A Column on Sororities in the South: Night & Day
by M.M. Locker (11/30/2011)
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