Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sisters and Memes

Or, cop-out blogging. Because I am exhausted and a big, raging ball of hatred for that job and I've only tackled four of my six days in a row (something like fifty or sixty hours going into this run of days. thank you new guy who requested and was granted a four-day holiday weekend.)

Okay, first off, some talk about my sorority. What the readers ask for, the readers get. Before I got to college, they seemed really abstract and stereotypical to me, too. And then, I went to college. I met several wonderful young women who "dirty rushed" me. Rushing is learning about a Greek organization to decide if you want to be a part of it, and if the organization would like you to be a member. Dirty rushing is, technically, illegal in the Greek world. That means that you pick a person and tell them about you great your organization is, how great that person is, and talk a wee bit of shit on other organizations. It turns out, real life is better, and worse, than the media tells us.

I am a sister of Phi Mu women's fraternity. We were founded in 1852, before the word "sorority" was coined, and while others switched over, we stayed true to our roots. There are two types of Greek organizations--local and national. National Greek organizations are regulated and monitored by the Pan-Hellenic Council, which strives to provide a positive experience for pledges, prevent hazing, and to keep things running smoothly and safely. National organizations tend to be pretty huge--having dozens or even hundreds of chapters spread across the country. Local organizations are not recognized nationally, and usually exist only on a single campus.

I could take you through the logistics and experiences of rushing (learning about the organizations on your campus while they learn about you) and pledging (pledges are now called "provisional members" to cut back on hazing), but that gets to be tedious. Pledging is supposed to be an educational time, but there is a lot of hazing going on out there. It's pretty scary and disheartening to know that this is going on, and the Pan-Hellenic Council is doing a lot to stop it. The definition of hazing has been revised a lot, and is quite long in the official documents. Basically, hazing is physical, mental, or emotional abuse. I was not hazed. I had a friendly, fun, supportive pledge period. All my sisters were really nice to me and my pledge class, and we were always made to feel special and welcome. I know for a fact that the two other women's organizations on campus didn't embrace this approach. And you know, if I had been asked to go through what they did, I wouldn't have letters. I believe in learning about your group to earn your letters, but I don't believe in suffering for them.

Phi Mu is about love, honor and truth. This is our creed, which we start every meeting off with, and agree to try to model our lives after.

To lend to those less fortunate a helping hand.

To think of God as a protector and guide of us all.

To keep forever sacred the memory of those we have loved and lost.

To be to others what we would they would be to us.

To keep our lives gentle, merciful, and just,

thus being true to the womanhood of love.

To walk in the way of honor, guarding the purity of our thoughts and deeds.

Being steadfast in every duty, small or large.

Believing that our given word is binding.

Striving to esteem the inner man above culture, wealth, or pedigree.

Being honorable, courteous, tender,

thus being true to the womanhood of honor.

To serve in the light of truth avoiding egotism, narrowness, and scorn.

To give freely of our sympathies.

To reverence God as our maker, striving to serve him in all things.

To minister to the needy and unfortunate.

To practice day by day Love, Honor, Truth.

Thus keeping true to the meaning, spirit, and reality of Phi Mu.

Not to sound overwhelmingly corny, but I love the way this is worded, and the ideals that it embraces. When you are initiated, you learn the deepest secrets of your organization, and take an oath to uphold the wellbeing and ideals of your group. A Greek organization is kind of like the mob, once you join, you are a lifetime member. You can have your letters taken away if you do something egregiously wrong, such as attacking a sister. Or you can choose to leave your organization, which is called dropping letters. This isn't something that is done lightly. Once you leave, it's final. You're basically turning your back on your organization and your sisters.

When I first started at college, I was desperately lonely. I had friends, but I was away from the young women I'd spent the last fifteen years with. I very much wanted to find similar bonds, but I wasn't naive enough to think it could be found overnight. I met Janiel, who is my big sister (when you are a pledge, a sister takes you for her little. she's a mentor, a friend, and a coach when you need some help. you have a family within a family, basically.) through the school concert band, and she adopted me. Carolyn, the sister who's getting married, lived in my dorm. She made sure I met all the sisters and spent some time up at the fraternity house. I learned about Phi Mu long before rush week, and I found out that not all Greek organizations are full of crazed, anorexic, alcoholic, whores. When I went through rush week and met the other groups on campus, they just didn't measure up to what I saw in this sisterhood. It wasn't overnight, and I worked a lot for my letters, but ultimately, I was initiated into a sisterhood. I found exactly what I was looking for. Now, there is some bitchiness, some unpleasantness. No group of sixty or seventy people is all love and fuzzies all the time. But I knew that I had people who I could rely on and who could rely on me. My sisters are wonderful women, and I am proud to be among their number. One of my biggest regrets about leaving college when I did was that I was never able to take a little.

There are some things I can't tell you about (sorry, rosered, i am without a drink at the moment), because I swore to keep them secret. But, well, my fraternity is pretty darn cool.

I hope that's been helpful. If you've got some more questions, leave a comment, and I will clarify or share some stories. Be careful, though, I could go on about this for quite a while.

And now, a meme.

The rules: Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

1) What was I doing ten years ago?

Well, ten years ago I was in grade school. Nothing very exciting was going on, I was just being an obnoxious little overachiever getting ready for high school.

2) What are five (non-work) things on my to-do list for today:

I am filling my delicious oasis of free time with

1) snuggling with Jim

2) blogging

3) eating some pizza for dinner

4) reading some more of Emma. Not my favorite Austen novel, but I'm out of new books.

5) trying to con Jim into giving me a foot rub

3) Snacks I enjoy:

I love potato chips, or tortilla chips with salsa and sour cream. I can also tear through a chocolate bar with almost frightening speed. And cheese and crackers and fruit is my go-to snack, when we have all those things in the house together at once.

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

I would endow my former college with a sizeable amount of money, on the condition that they fire the entire financial aid department and hire some compassionate, competent people. Next, I would go to school and get me a couple of doctorates. I'd buy myself and my parents a house, and start a women's shelter or two, as well as a couple of scholarships. And I would travel. Lots.

5) Places I have lived:

I spent the first nineteen years of my life in Somerdale, New Jersey. I lived in Reading, Pennsylvania briefly, and my parents were good enough to let me come back home to heal after that. I am now ensconced in Royersford, PA. It's lovely up here, and I do believe I could happily settle down in this area, once I get some traveling in.

6) Jobs I have had:

I started out my working life as a cashier at the local mom'n'pop auto store, then progressed to a parts person. I then got absorbed by Autozone, and ended my time with them as a Parts Sales Manager, which is a nice way of saying I was a short step above peon. I am currently a Service Advisor with Pep Boys.

7) Peeps I want to know more about:

Everyone! If you haven't been tagged yet, consider it done. I love these things.


Amy Lane said...

Yay, Em--I'm glad you got tagged!!! Thanks for the bit on sororities--I went to a commuter college and was always working 40 hours a week--I was hoping my daughter will have a better experience than that, and I was wondering if sororities could be a part if that--now I know, that if she's lucky it will be!

Rose Red said...

It's really interesting, the sorority stuff - so very different to the experience in Australia (although similar in some ways if you live in a residential college on campus, which I did for 2 years).

Donna Lee said...

I'm glad the fraternity thing is still such a positive thing in your life. On my campus, they were few and far between and I was not a joiner. I found my niche with a small band of misfits who were trying to do some good by running a 24 hr/7day a week counseling/call in service. They and my roomates became my family away from home.

Bells said...

wow, that's entirely outside my experience. I live at home all through uni so can't even say I had a similar experience to RoseRed. It sounds kinda scary!