In February of 2012, I celebrated 20 years of being a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. I'd like to say that I was a super cool and super popular member, but there have been many days that I've wondered how I got in.
It was not my intention to join a sorority when I went off to college as a 17 year old. I don't even know what was on my mind other than freedom from my parents (sorry mom, you know it's true) and seeing a bigger world. Let me be honest, I was in a girl's dormitory (nicknamed the "Virgin Vault") and my college, though a great university, was less than 20 minutes, yes MINUTES from my parent's home. It was a step.
My freshman year was about being out there and making the school with 40,000 plus undergraduate students smaller. I got out there and was a fool and needed to be tied to something bigger than me. Fortunately, one of the girls across the hall watched "All My Children" a daytime soap opera, you know what, if I have to explain this to you then you're either wasting your time on reality tv or thought that "Days of Our Lives" was the best daytime soap. In either case, I will not permit comments that support the latter. I digress...
My friend across the hall had gone through rush (now recruitment) and was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, her roomie went Chi Omega. Even still, it did not tickle my fancy. Even though they were kind to me and we shared some similar interests, joining didn't cross my mind until a year later.
I moved into an apartment with some girls my sophomore year - still don't know how we got my dad to say yes to that - and one of my roommates was a Theta. She brought me to an informal recruitment night and I saw some girls from my high school that hardly spoke to me. I know of voting and it was kind of cut throat back then, laborious almost; that process with some of the women who'd be initiated as freshman that I'd gone to high school but did not know and me getting in, I was surprised. I think that I was comparing it to the big fall rush which was something else. And after having been on the 'inside' the fall after my initiation (going into my junior year), I was sure that I would not have made it and that the system would not have accepted me. Really, to be honest, I don't think that I was built at that time to go through such an intense matching process.
I was also bringing some baggage to the experience. As a junior or senior in high school, I think, I went to visit a cousin, his wife and their new baby during my spring break down in Texas. They were still in college and I got to tag along. She, his then wife, was in the middle of her own pledging experience. To be clear, she had already gone through the selection process of rush, chosen the sorority for her and they matched and chose her for them and then...they hazed her. Read this article, even if someone participated in one of these types of events to pledge membership (while also paying for this ridiculousness) you weren't going to find me there. I mean, she was out late at night, they could hit (as in punch, slap or whip) her for non-compliance or just because they wanted to and cursed at and humiliated her, in front of me holding her baby and in front of her other peers while on campus. Look, I have been known as a people pleaser, but this sounded a lot like the whuppings I earned as a child. Why would I pay someone for all of that? Seriously, I could've gone home and pulled a switch off a tree. It left a horrible taste in my mouth and I will admit, I stereotyped all black sororities as wild and ridiculous and vowed inwardly that I would never be a part of such nonsense. And can proudly say, I never have.
So, when I went to Kappa Alpha Theta - Theta for short - and found the women talking respectfully to one another, hanging out in this beautiful lakefront house, eating pizza and laughing about things that I had interest in, I thought...I can do this. Yet, another thing I am still astonished that Willie Collins - my dad - was willing to say yes to and pay for my dues. Yes, it was another environment on an predominantly white campus where I was the only one or one of few.
I quickly became a part of the social scene within the sorority and held the position of Social Chair as a senior in college. I was not very good at it. Once, I tried to develop a new relationship with some of the not so cool fraternity boys waaaayyyy off fraternity/sorority row and let's just say, my role in the position was questioned. For a good laugh, I even tried to make the event with them mandatory. It is a memory. Awkward...
Anyway, today is International Badge Day and I knew it was and I did not wear mine. I'm in the midst of a personal storm and could not make time to put on makeup and my outfit was so ridiculous that I spent the majority of the day with my cream sweater wrapped across my chest covering the lint that shed onto the black long-sleeved shirt; it looked like I wore my cat to work and we don't have a cat.
But, I thought..I can answer the questions that I read from this link up about this special day.
1. What does being Greek mean to you?
This is difficult for me to answer sometimes because of all of the negative associations that often come from being Greek or associated with it. I've actually heard some refer to it as a cult and watch them frown upon y membership with heavy brows (even the ladies) as to why I might spend my time and money on something like this. Having recently had a challenging volunteer experience with my sorority, I am probably also bringing some baggage to answering this question. Ultimately though, there is something that keeps me coming back and I think that single, solid thing is the women. Not all of them, but those special ones. You know what I mean. The women that you probably wouldn't have met but when you do connect it's like you were separated at birth, but less painful. I appreciate a system that at its core still brings people together to help them with their individual growth while providing opportunities for collective growth/change and the potential for building life long relationships.
2. What did you learn from your sorority?
I have learned and continue to learn that the learning never stops. Yes, the bulk of growth and development that has occurred for me in relationship to Theta has been as a volunteer in my alumnae experience. Working with college students over the last 15 plus years while growing older and further away from their thinking and experience has taught me a lot about clinging to the ritual and its meaning and developing ways to bring that into all I do - within the sorority and outside of it too. My personal growth is important, prioritize it, I have learned that.
3. What's your favorite memory about being in a sorority?
For me there are a few. One was initiation. And all I can say is that it was beautiful and touching and I wanted to cry and smile all over myself throughout. Another memory was living in the house. Coming to this beautiful lakefront chapter house solidified my surprise (remember, it was different than what I'd seen) membership and my sisterhood, my connection to something bigger. Three is a memory I have from last night, Facebook messaging a sister that I've only known for the past four years - ish and cracking one another up over "people ridiculousness". She gets it and makes me feel like I do too. Fourth is a Theta weekend in the works, the first of its kind for me. Though it hasn't happened and is not yet a memory, with the caliber of these women, I am trusting that it's going to be a great memory.
4. How has your sorority continued to impact you after graduation?
I think of this in terms of what have I done to give back to the sorority. Impact sounds like something passive, something that has happened TO me, rather than something that has shaped or helped develop me. So, I write about it in terms of the opportunities I've had to serve and lessons learned. I have held many positions for Theta, certainly not as many of some women, but I'm proud of the service I've been able to provide.
- Advisory Board Chair, 2 times a decade apart, both times for the local chapter that I was initiated into
- Administrative District Director, remote volunteer experience
- College District Director, remote volunteer experience - I lasted for about a hot minute (4 months)
- Special Assistance Mentor (SAM) to a chapter in Michigan - remote experience
- Leadership Development Committee Chair - remote volunteer experience - still wishing for a happier ending
- Attended three Grand Conventions in service to the Fraternity (if you read our webpage, you'd understand)
- Dues paying member of my area Alumnae Chapter
- Life Loyal Member - I'm in it!
It is still kind of weird to wear my letters as an alumnae, hard to explain why, it just seems so 'college', but I have a couple of t-shirts with them on it. I should order a sweatshirt. Don't know where I'd wear it exactly, but still think I should own it.
Anyway, no matter the negative press, sororities and fraternities are doing great things. Service, Philanthropy, Fundraising, excelling at Scholarship, Leadership training, Something of Value and the list can and does go on and on, especially if you're looking. If you are Greek and looking for an entertaining read, read this review about 'Total Frat Move' by Kimberly @ The Simplicity of Being Curious . Doesn't sound like a starter for those with hesitations and reservations about this foreign group, but this sorority sister's blog is pretty creative.
Am I glad I did it? Joined a predominantly white sorority? Certainly there were black sororities on campus when I was there. There was a Black Student Union which I never stepped foot inside (seriously can't even tell you where it may have been located). It was a largely good experience for me though I wish I'd been more attuned with black culture and had been more courageous about bringing forward other suggestions of foods for the chef (yes, chef) to make other options for television programming to watch or when people starting flashing gang signs in party pictures to ask them what was wrong with their fingers (none of us knew about gangs, I mean come on Madison, Wisconsin) and to challenge the status quo. Maybe I was pushing too much to fit in or maybe I was just where I belonged. Either way and with the many bumps along the way, I am proud to be a Theta and think that many of the experiences helped shape me into the woman I am today.
Maybe tomorrow, I'll wear my badge.