With Friends Like These

Inside a real college sorority

Fines were handed out like parking tickets in a barrio. Didn't have time for the Monday night meeting? $25. Couldn't make 75 percent of recruitment and marketing meetings? $10 for each meeting short of 75 percent. If you had no money for a social, then you got chores like reorganizing some of the house closets. If you missed rush, that cost you $100 per day.

I was seriously ill for a month of my junior year and had to stay at home. Several of the girls didn't believe I was sick, despite the fact that I was bedridden and had to miss more than one meeting. On my return, I was called in to Honor Board, who told me I did not have my priorities in line. They said they had seen my boyfriend's car at my house during that time, so I couldn't have been that ill. (My boyfriend, a non-Greek and therefore persona non grata, had come over to take care of me because none of my sorority sisters had so much as called to see how I was feeling.) As punishment, I was given several chores to make up for the time I had missed, such as reorganizing the closets and shelves and repainting several of our wooden signs. I was told that if I didn't complete these tasks in several weeks' time, I would be fined. And, of course, I was fined: still feeling the effects of my illness, I could not physically complete any of these duties. The final cost: $210.

Of course, the real final cost of my time in the sorority was just under $10,000.

Okay, so what did I learn? Well, No. 1, I didn't want to be anywhere near Orange County when this article appeared. That's why, as you read this, I am in another country. Really. They still hold that kind of power over me, but I'm hoping over the next few months to crawl out from under that rock. The sorority has other ideas, of course. They've already contacted me to contribute time and money to my collegiate chapter as an active alumna. I've politely strung them along without saying yes. Here's hoping there's no directory assistance in Europe.

And what about those "connections"? Well, the sorority actually did help me get my first internships, but I now realize that I could have gotten just as many connections if I'd simply put all that time and effort into going to class and talking to classmates and professors.

But what's done is done. And I am done. Looking back, I guess the sorority did do me some good. Having gone through the cruelty, the pettiness, the sometimes illegal activities, I do in a strange way feel stronger—strong enough to put up with the world's biggest pains in the ass. For someone who plans to work in corporate America, that's valuable training.

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