Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sorority girl

A few people seemed surprised to learn that I was in a college sorority when I mentioned it in a post a couple weeks ago. I worked, for a year, for the sorority after I graduated. It was a great time in my life, but I rarely mention it these days. I've found that people have a lot of crazy ideas about sororities.

"smart, pretty and all bad!"

The stereotypes include snobby society girls, rich girls who "buy" friends by joining a sorority, dumb bunnies, party girls and worse . . .

"where nothing is off limits"

I have to laugh at those images, when I think of the girls who were in my sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi. We were a pretty simple bunch of girls, not rich, not glamorous and far from the seductress of the book cover above. The Greek system was small on our campus—only three sororities that were categorized, not always accurately, as the "beauty queens", the "fun girls" and the "smart girls." We were the smart girls.

Sororities were going out of favor in the '60s when I was in school, but for some of us they represented a bit of old-fashioned structure and support in a chaotic time. We were folded into a warm and supportive group and nurtured by the older members. We were encouraged in our studies and tutored in the social landscape of the college world. The traditions of our sisterhood required us to promise loyaltyand respect and to treat each other as we would wish to be treated. We tried and mostly succeeded. We had parties and raised money for charity and competed with other groups in singing competitions and skits and float building, but the things I remember most were late night talks and someone who cheered you on when you needed it and cried with you when your heart was broken and saved you a seat in the dining hall and times we laughed so hard our stomachs hurt. I remember kindness and acceptance. Like I said, a good time in my life. And then we graduated and went on to our real lives in the real world and some of us have never spoken again, but some remained, as we promised we would so long ago, lifelong friends.

Ready to go onstage for "Songfest" in our matching
white dresses and gloves. 1967
Yep, that's me.

So, now I've come out of the closet—any more sorority girls out there?


Added note: I figured the comments would bring out a few sorority horror stories. I do know that different groups have different personalities and nastiness can show up anywhere. Just not my experience. For Helen and anyone else not familiar with Greek organizations, the Wikipedia entry seems pretty right on to me. Most started in the 19th century when Greek was still taught and most Greek letter names are the initials of a Greek phrase or quote. I could tell you what AOPi stands for, but then I'd have to kill you. ;-) (Actually, to tell the truth, I don't remember.)


  1. Such lovely sentiments. Yep, me too. I'm a Tri Delta.

  2. Well, you know I am one of them. That song fest picture brought a smile and tears. I am trying to be active in an alum group here but am finding it difficult because I am not finding the bond that we had in our little group in the 60's. I cannot say for sure that my college sorority sisters are my best friends ever but I can say with all of my heart they are among my dearest friends ever.

    We are blessed to have these friendships that have lasted through the years. The kind where years have passed since we last met but when we meet again it is like no time has passed.

    Thanks for memories St. Claire or is it Bess?

  3. OMG, I would have pegged Deborah as a Tri-delt. Me? I was Gamma Delta Iota. Gosh darned independent - only we didn't say it so genteely!!

  4. Anonymous9:48 AM

    I'm afraid sorority girls at Syracuse were categorized somewhat differently by Fraternity boys. At least, that was the info I got. Of course, it might be because I wasn't part of a sorority and so my contacts were mostly through the guys.......

    My freshman year I lived in an old house (an alternative to the dorms) with about 25 other people. We never did song fests (at least not dressed up ones) but we certainly sat up late and gabbed and goofed off and tutored each other. I was from the Pennsylvania hills, so the city girls (NYC in Syracuse New York) hemmed my skirts, lent me blouses and fixed my face for my dates -- with the frat guys!

    Later, as a transfer student at Penn State, I was definitely a GDI -- got involved with the Outing Club (the use of the term has altered in the intervening years.) There were initiations there too -- mud on your nose after your first caving experience; a free beer after you fell into the river on a canoe run.

    Ah, the good old days. Are those books out of your personal collection, Terry? snort

  5. I never did understand the sorority system - we don't have it over here.Maybe you'd like to post a fuller explanation for all your ignorant international freinds. In particular where do all the greek letters come into it?

  6. A girl I knew, Joan, committed suicide in 1959 because she did not get into the sorority she wanted at the University of California. I was shocked but not surprised. I purposely went to a college that did not allow girls to join sororities until their sophomore year. I knew I could not stand the pressure.

  7. Not me. In the mid-80's at UofO my dorm roomie and I used to laugh at the girl across the hall who was rushing, and who made sure we all knew how much more special she was than anyone else. She kept all her clothes and shoes in little plastic bags/boxes, and cried half the week because she was SOOOOO homesick. She went home to Lake Oswego every weekend on Friday afternoon,in the graduation convertible Daddy bought for her, her mom did her laundry for her, and then she came back to the dorms on Sunday night to cry until Wednesday. My relatively ignorant Freshman self thought that all the "sorority girls" were like that and so I had no interest in being a part of it. I undoubtedly missed out, but she was sure a piece of work and didn't do much for the sorority image. LOL!

    The other image that I have is the travelling missionaries came to campus and insisted that the biggest den of iniquity on campus was SAE fraternity. That was so funny. They came every year. The SAE guys would always cheer at that point in their rant because they had "won". :)

  8. I appreciate your thoughts... I was (am?) a sorority girl, and it frequently surprises people I know now. I definitely don't fit the stereotype, but it was a chance to form close friendships, gain leadership experience and have a whole lot of fun! I pledged Alpha Gamma Delta, but it's funny... the song/chant I remember MOST from my Rush is one from AOPi. :)

  9. Anonymous10:22 PM

    I also get a lot of raised eyebrows when people find out I was a sorority girl (Alpha Phi). My very closest friends are those who were my inner circle in the sorority, including my best friend since high school who became my little sister.

  10. Anonymous5:35 PM

    As the daughter of a "sorority girl" who went to a college that in and of itself was "anti-sororities" I feel I have always been able to make good friends and form bonds without the need of the greeks. In fact one of my closest "sisters" from college who lived across the hall and sold dog food with me late into the night just shared pictures of her leadership qualities opposing proposition 8 in Berkeley where she is working on her Phd.

  11. Anonymous6:41 PM

    Delta Delta Delta ("can we help ya, help ya, help ya?") was a blessing in DD#1's college life. 600 miles from home, not knowing a soul, a sorority gave her the chance to meet and become part of a group that stayed BFF's, much quicker than she might have otherwise. It was an anchor for her and gave her leadership opportunities among the huge state university student body. She outgrew the need for the sorority, but those friends are still her dearest from college. Different strokes, folks. It was a positive in her life; not so much for DD#2.

  12. Anonymous5:16 PM

    I love your note! People come up with such outlandish stories sometimes... it makes me wonder. I am a Phi Mu, and joining the Greek Life community has been the best decision I have EVER made!