The Greeks

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.

About Cheri

Writer, photograph, artist, mother, grandmother and wife.
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26 Responses to The Greeks

  1. Yep. Have you ever wondered, with a little hopeful schadenfreude, what has become of the Lesley’s and Selene’s of the world?

  2. andreaskluth says:

    Well, I anticipated exactly that scenario when I was 17, turning 18, and chose Williams (which had got rid of the Greek stuff) over Dartmouth (which was reveling in it).

    It’s dehumanizing. I mean…. I mean… Selene, being in with the Greeks, didn’t even know she was the “moon”, I assure you.

  3. Cheri says:

    Good call on your part.

    Most of the girls I met during my 1.5 years at USC were mainly interested in that man in the moon and how to find him. I left there because I really didn’t fit in, in a number of ways.

  4. Man of Roma says:

    I would like to comment, but this post is a bit Greek to me (pun intended). I know nothing of sorority (or fraternity) life.

  5. zeusiswatching says:

    Frat life was never a part of college for me. I picked and slogged my way through school. I was already married and working.

  6. During my years in classical studies in Québec’s French school systems all those letters were strictly confined to our Greek grammar book and I am very grateful for that. Even in our English system, we have both, they still are nothing else but Greek alphabet letters.

    • Cheri says:

      Good. That’s where those letters belong–in the Greek alphabet.

      I wish you were in my purse this trip: I need Greek and French. You are the perfect blend.

      Judge Blah speaks English and Legalese.

      I do my best.

      Any tips?

      • dafna says:

        “Any tips?” google translator i Phone

        you touched an old memory, i lost a friend to the greek sororities – Rina Calderon (first -gen jew like me), the daughter of Nissim Calderon (CEO of Goodyear). a girl who was so eager to be accepted by the sorority that she ditched her “friends who did not fit in”.

        have a nice trip.

  7. Cheri says:

    Hi Dafna,
    Welcome, welcome to my little blog.

    Thanks for the tip. I hadn’t even considered my iPhone. I’m not sure why…it does everything else.

    Oh yes, the Greek system in some universities is brutal, brutal, brutal to anyone who isn’t WASP.

    Other places it seems to be living groups, or so I hear.


  8. andreaskluth says:

    Does the following — to those here who are historically minded, which seems to be the majority — not sound funny?

    “The Greek system is brutal to the Jews.”

    We could be in 164 BCE, discussing the Maccabee revolt against the Greek Seleucids…..

  9. Cheri says:

    Hellenistic Greece was not good to the Jews. They roasted pigs in front of Jewish students and other despicable actions. Things might have been different if Aristophanes was named Ari Stophanes, a good Jewish comedian.

    🙂 😦

  10. Richard says:

    I feel excluded.

  11. Cheri, in your purse I would be dead weight. I do speak and write French but, to me, Greek is Chinese. Sorry!.

  12. Cyberquill says:

    Every time I hear Chi Omega, I think of Ted Bundy. Their PR department should have changed the name after the infamous rampage.

  13. Cheri says:

    OK. I am set. I just downloaded every iPhone application for French, Greek, rioting, culture, airsickness, travelingwithhusbanditis, and farmer’s markets in Greece and France.

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