As I stood outside of the millionth sorority house at my school with my heart pounding anxiously against my chest and with sweat from the hot August sun beating down on me, I thought it would all be worth it.
By it, I mean recruitment, which was the stressful, intense, and intimidating process by which incoming freshmen find a sorority to become a member of. I’d been racking my brain for the whole week, trying to think of ways to mold myself into the perfect “sorority girl,” the kind of girl that would get a bid from her top house. In the town I grew up in, it seemed like every girl I sat next to in class was one of those girls. From the outside looking in, those girls all seemed to have wealthy parents, they all seemed to love partying, and it certainly looked like they all considered themselves to be above everyone else on the social food chain.
In high school, I couldn’t have cared less about being like those girls. Now, as I was standing outside of the last house of the day, all I aspired to be like was one of “those” girls.
I wound up getting a bid from a house I really liked, and on bid day, I felt like I was soaring. I’d wanted to join a sorority so I could be a part of a sisterhood that was powerful, inspiring, and fun, and it seemed like I had found those things in this sorority. I was hanging out with active members of the sorority as well as girls in my new pledge class, and I seemed to click well with everyone. I fell asleep that night still feeling like I was flying, and I told myself that in this sorority, that feeling would never go away.
Maybe for some girls in sororities, that flying feeling lasts forever. It didn’t for me.
There was more than one reason it didn’t last forever, but I’ll begin with this. All my life, I struggled to find the perfect “friend group.” I bounced in and out of different groups throughout middle school and high school, but things never ended up working out for various reasons. I was desperate to find a group to belong to in college, and I figured joining a sorority would help me meet other girls with the same goals as me. I was determined to make friends who I could love, support, and cherish.
I never really found those types of girls in the sorority. It’s entirely possible and probably likely that I was just looking in the wrong places for those girls, but nevertheless, I struggled to find them. The girls I did find, however, appeared to have one interest, and one interest only: partying.
I think I only hung out with them sober a handful of times. The girl who I wanted so badly to be my big was the same way, and to be honest, I can hardly remember the nights I spent with all of them. I watched as that girl I wanted to be my big drifted closer to other girls who were more interested in going out, and it made me feel like I wasn’t acting the way I should have been. These were the kinds of girls I wanted to be like, and the girls I thought I wasn’t enough like. I wasn’t pretty enough, I wasn’t fun enough, and I didn’t like vodka shots or frat parties enough.
I can also recall one night when a couple of the actives told us what our sorority’s reputation was on campus. It wasn’t a reputation that the sorority had made for itself as much as it was a reputation created by fraternities to rank the sorority. Not only did the actives run through what fraternities thought of our sorority, they also gossipped about what every other sorority’s reputation was according to fraternities. There were a couple problems I found in this.
For one, throughout recruitment, all we had repeatedly been told was that the sororities at our school were unified in respect for one another. As the actives in our sorority were gossiping to us about which houses were boring and which houses were slutty, I didn’t feel respect. Instead, I felt hollow and depressed to know that I still wouldn’t escape being judged, even in college. Even the letters I wore were going to be under a microscope.
On top of that, I also saw a huge red flag in the fact that so many girls cared so much about what fraternities thought of them. Sororities were supposed to be about sisterhood; falling in love with your sisters seemed far more important to me than falling in love with drunk guys in basketball jerseys handing out cups of jungle juice. I genuinely couldn’t understand why so many of the girls were okay with letting fraternities rank them as opposed to creating their own identity.
Oddly enough, the event that tipped me over the edge happened before anything else I’ve mentioned did. I was so drunk that I couldn’t even tell you which fraternity I was at, but part of me is glad I don’t remember. In hindsight, I don’t want to know.
What I do remember is I was standing with my friends, dancing to music I’d never listened to and sipping from my cup. Of course, we were taking a million Snapchat selfies with those cups in hand to let all our friends know that we were cool and liked to party. I wasn’t really having fun, but I was trying to convince myself I was, especially since everyone else seemed to be having the time of their lives.
I eventually drifted off toward dancing with some of the boys, which was also something I wasn’t particularly fond of. The only reason I did it was because I felt it was expected of me.
It was fine at first, just harmless dancing. I guess it got intense quickly, however, and I guess I was okay with that for a moment. Then, without warning, the guy stuck a finger up my shorts, against my skin, and into me.
Bewildered, I didn’t know what to do or how I was supposed to react. My friends were grinding on other guys without a worry in the world, and here I was, panicking over something that maybe wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. Since I didn’t know what else to do, I resolved to let myself be violated by this stranger. I was uncomfortable, and the girls I considered to be my friends didn’t notice a thing out of place. What's worse is I didn't even know if I wanted them to.
When I made it back to my dorm that night, I didn’t head to bed straight away. I disappeared into the bathroom in the lobby, where I cried to myself and violently threw up. I didn’t want to wake my roommates.
Since I still had high hopes for my sorority after that night, I let the incident roll off my back at first. I tried to put it out of my mind, but I just couldn’t. Every time I went to a frat party, no matter who I was with, I had my guard up too much to even kind of have fun. I was so paranoid about a repeat of the incident that I found myself having crippling panic attacks at fraternities, even fraternities I probably wasn’t at the night of the incident.
I just couldn’t take it anymore. All of these things I’ve mentioned became too overwhelming for me to ignore. I hadn’t found people I truly considered to be friends in the sorority, I felt like it was taking up too much time that I didn’t have to spare, and I was so mixed up about the incident that I didn’t even know how to express my feelings. All I knew was that if I stayed in the sorority for a minute longer, I was going to really lose my mind.
So I dropped out before I was could wear a white dress and matching heels to be initiated in. I dropped out before I could learn all of the secrets and chants and songs that I knew I would never be able to take seriously anyway, and I dropped out before I could feel any more stress, any more anxiety. I dropped out before I let myself down any further.
I’ve since tried to put this all behind me, but I’ve learned that you never really put experiences like that behind you completely. Instead, I’ve used these experiences as inspiration to grow as a person, and I’ve learned to take better care of myself. And honestly, I wouldn’t trade those lessons for the world.I know that not every girl experiences these things in a sorority; in fact, most of them probably don’t, even girls in the sorority I pledged. I do know, however, that there are girls like me out there, who didn’t have the best experiences in sororities and don’t have many people to relate to. I’m here to tell you that just because you didn't find what you were looking for doesn't mean anything. Just because you don’t have letters in your Instagram bio or formals to get dressed up for doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean that you’re not the badass, independent rockstar you were born to be, because you can and always will still be that rockstar with or without a sorority. As long as you know that in your heart, you’re going to be just fine on your own.