by cheri block
Long ago when I was a naive girl, I tried out the Greek sorority system.
* * * * *
“Hello, Cheri. My name is Leslie. Welcome to Kappa Kappa Gamma. That’s a cute dress. How are you? This is Selene.”
“Hi. I’m fine. Hi Selene.”
“Selene, [Leslie smiles in an automated way, her chin moving her face to the left] Cheri might like some punch in the sun room. Take her there to meet the other girls. “
Looking at the other girls in the sun room, I see that it is the place where rejects will be quarantined until the pipes chime. There in the sun room, Kappa members talk and giggle among themselves, asking superficial questions to rushees who are chubby, middle class, homely, Jewish or Oriental.
What am I doing in the sun room? I wonder. I can see the bluebloods in the living room, throwing their heads back, giggling, and making small talk about small topics.
The hollow pipes signal: time is up. In a regimented flurry, we are hustled out through the large white front door with a gold knocker and onto the walkway. The Los Angeles sun is hot.
This same scenario—cool young white women, long necks wrapped with designer scarves and pearls, ushering in desirables and undesireables–continued house by house. Theta’s, Kappa’s, DG’s, and PiPhi’s– all searching for their next pledge class, a strand of white wealth, just like the pearls.
At the Panhellenic office at the University of Southern California I arrive early the next morning, waiting for my bids. I would soon have twelve in my hands, hands with nails trimmed and neat.
Envelopes delivered to eager young women, eager to find a niche with a name.
Girls scream and run to each other, comparing their invitations. Twelve sorority houses at USC—twelve possible invitations. It’s all so exciting!!
I wait in line. A woman hands me my envelope. It’s thin. I open it. Only three bids there. I am crushed and confused.
Gamma Phi Beta (my roommate’s house)
Chi Omega (losers)
Alpha Epsilon Phi (Jews)
I run home to my dorm, crying. I call my Dad and Mom who listened lovingly, surprised at the outcome.
That day, I changed and haven’t been the same since.