Are y’all enjoying my silly and weird “Screen Week?” I am! I watch way too much TV, Netflix, etc., and every time I get sucked into a new show or really connect with a movie, it inspires me to relate to my own experiences and post.
Warning – this post is long and it gets really personal. Intense stuff up ahead!!
Sometimes a TV show can get into your head and just really affect you. Maybe the content is too close to home, or an experience portrayed resonates within you. I like to use TV and movies to zone out. But sometimes, it’s more than that – it can be catharsis. And that’s what’s been happening to me recently. A show has shaken me up and helped me to work through some old old issues.
The show “GrΣΣk” from ABC Fam, now available on Netflix (well, like six seasons are on Netflix now) is the latest series we’ve been sucked into. Netflix kept suggesting it for us, and so finally, we gave the first ep a whirl.
It’s corny, cheesy, a lot of the acting is terrible, yes. But it’s funny, light, and it’s just something I so easily connect to.
Yeah, I was in a sorority in college. Alpha Chi Omega, Theta Sigma chapter at University of North Florida.
Hard to believe, maybe, for those of y’all who know me in my mid/late 20’s, my post-collegiate days. For people who went to high school with me, it’s also probably hard to swallow. I was quite the rebel rebel back then, so seeing me jump in and conform to an entity like the greek system may seem far-fetched… But not only was I a sister, but I loved it.
And why discussing that part of my life is so hard – it didn’t end very well for me at all.
Ready for story time?
When i first came to UNF in the fall of 2001, I was a swimmer. I walked on to the D1 team, and it was great. The upside is that I was swimming faster than I had in a while, and I liked the swimmers. The downside was that I couldn’t balance it all – I was falling asleep in class. I ultimately had to drop a class (it was a night math class, and I couldn’t keep my eyes open, those 5am practices had taken their toll on me). When I dropped the class, I ruined my swimming eligibility by not having a “full time” course load.
So, I wasn’t eligible for rush my freshman year – and I think even if I could have been, I was NOT interested in that. I was the one who was anti-greek. I didn’t want to “buy my friends” or “conform.” I found the greek system to be elitist, stupid, expensive, and just a way for lame people to pump each other up.
So even once I was able to rush my sophomore year, I didn’t because it “wasn’t me.”
The wacky thing is that I was dating a greek man! My then-boyfriend, Eddie, was a Sigma Chi. I had so much fun hanging out with him and his brothers. And a lot of the gals that hung out with that crew were greek too.
The greeks I was meeting and becoming pals with were fun, awesome, they were more down to earth and fun to be around than I’d ever have imagined.
I started just conforming anyways. Next thing I knew, I was dressing like them, I was going to the scrapbook store and wearing pearls. I was into it! I loved going to Sigma Chi parties and events.
Then, there would be greek-only stuff, and I HATED it. I hated how many secrets Eddie could keep from me. Looking back, it seems so silly – it was just his own chapter’s business and ritual. But for some reason, not knowing what went on every Sunday night really really got to me.
Then a friend consoled me, saying that when greeks and non-greeks try to date it never works out. The non-greek (the GDI) gets left out of too much and gets resentful. It’s hard when your boyfriend has to go to a social that his fraternity has arranged with a sorority, and I cannot go. Oh man, that would make me so jeals back then.
My BFF at that time was a greek gal, Kendall. I wanted to be a part of what she was a part of. I wanted to rush to get to do all the greek stuff with her.
So, I decided to rush my junior year. (Sadly, things with Eddie didn’t last – but I do owe him so much, as it was that formative time that really encouraged me to become greek myself and get to go to socials and have my own secrets).
I rushed in the fall of my junior year.
Going into it, I had all of these AXO friends. I rushed solely so I could join them. The thought of joining another sorority didn’t even cross my mind. The greek system at UNF was really small back then – there were only 3 main sororities, and a 4th was colonizing that year. KD was too new for me. Zeta hated me because of some beef I’d had freshman year (boy drama, but of course – my boyfriend cheated on me with a ZTA, I flipped out at a country bar one night and near bout got in a fight, then I ended up hanging out with a dude who unbeknownst to me, had a ZTA girlfriend. oopsies! So ZTA immediately didn’t invite me back. Which is sad, I think at heart, I would have made a damn good Zeta!).
Now it was down to AXO and DG.
A funny thing happened in rush. AXO knew I was a shoe-in, and so they spent like zero effort to recruit me. Looking back, that should have told me something. I didn’t feel wanted at all, it was like they knew they didn’t have to bother convincing me.
DG on the other hand – they wanted me. They made me feel so welcomed.
I couldn’t even tell you what happened at Alpha Chi on Pref Night (the last, most important night of rush). I don’t remember any details from AXO.
But in the DG room, oh man. I still remember Katie singing and me crying at her immaculate rendetion of “Home” (that song: it feels like home, to me… it feels like home. zomg, her voice is amazing). Katie preffed me, and I had such a genuine, awesome, time with her.
When I had to rank my choices I was so torn. So torn, I was up there for a while.
Of course, I chose AXO.
Things were okay at first. I felt shafted by some of the sisters I’d considered friends for a while. I wasn’t an exciting shiny new member to them. No one really ooh’ed and aww’ed over me. During big sis/little sis stuff – my big was kind of a derelict, and I didn’t really feel special at all.
There was some fun hazing-ish stuff that went on. Harmless, silly stuff that was really cool.
I LOVED my pledge class. The girls that came in at the same time as me were awesome.
Eventually, I found my place in AXO. When I got sick with cancer, my sisters rallied around me and they literally saved my life. They did fundraisers to help me pay for treatment, they totally kept my morale up. It was an awesome showing of love and support – at least to me, I felt very very loved.
I should mention that my best friends during this period were my sisters. I was living off-campus with sisters, those were the people I chose to hang out with. And my very best friends from college, who I’m still close with to this day, were all sisters of mine at some point.
The arguments for joining a sorority about the real friendship and the longevity of those friendship – that is real. I’ll agree to that.
I became the Chaplain of my sorority. It was an honor, and it was a job I loved doing. During rush, my first time on the other side – I had a blast. I worked my tail off to do my best. I was going through chemo at the time, and I was able to get up and give this tear-jerking speech about having cancer and how my sisters were saving my life.
It was a Pref night killer! I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a part of a group like this? My cancer was totally exploited for rush, but not against my will. It was an important thing that had affected the whole chapter, so it made sense to tell the potential new members about what kind of ladies my sisters were.
To this day, I still have people comment about how they heard me talk during rush and they found it inspiring. It was nice.
I found my way in the greek world. My then-boyfriend was the President of his fraternity, Kappa Alpha. I became their sweetheart, it was really fun hanging out with the KA boys all the time. I love those rednecks!
I was Chaplain, and I was running our concession stand that we worked at the Jags games. Being in Jacksonville, FL – we had access to work a stand at the NFL home games for the Jags. It was REALLY hard work, but an awesome way to generate revenue for the chapter. I did a great job as manager, a job that no one wanted to do. I made it FUN! I came up with fun incentives to motivate people to go. I was great with that.
The Super Bowl came to Jax that year, and we were able to work the stand at the Super Bowl! We were serving food to celebs! It was awesome. Our booth was in the Touchdown Club, an elite level of the stadium, and we got to see so many A-listers milling about. Super rad!
My real sister became an Alpha Chi at Stetson – a few hours away. I surprised her by showing up to initiate her, it was awesome! We had so much fun with the Stetson chapter. We’d meet up with other chapters at State Day and other AXO events.
That spring – the spring of 2005 – I was letting off steam.
I was declared cancer-free in December of 2004, and so well, it was time to celebrate. I’d spent way too much of college being sick and if I wanted to let my hair down, so be it. (I guess I didn’t have hair, haha, but you know what I mean).
In my opinion, I was still upholding the values of AXO. I had done so much for the school – student gov’t, mock trial, spirit club. I’d held a huge GPA. I’d held offices and done them well.
When the girls put choices for a big sis, I was the first choice of WAY more girls than I could take on. As it was, I took “twins” and I took my role as their big to heart, trying to be the best I could. I was voted onto the exec board, and I was to run our recruitment in the Fall – I was in charge of rush.
I was partying quite a bit – but still upholding my responsibilities and then some, still working, and getting good grades.
Here’s where it gets really ugly. And sad:
The week before finals, well, the NIGHT before finals – a Sunday night – we had a chapter meeting. Someone called me that day and asked if I could bring the keys to the chapter’s storage unit with me.
That was weird. Why did they need my keys?
I got to chapter and I was told that I needed to stay afterwards for a CR meeting.
CR is the Chapter Relations and Standards Board (I think). Anyways, there was one exec sister in charge of CR, and then a board with a member from each pledge class (or maybe it went by grade level).
The CR Board ran the sorority, kinda like HR. That’s where complaints and discipline went down. And everything that happened there was totally confidential.
So I stayed after, and I was so nervous. I’d never been in trouble before. Well, during homecoming the President and myself had both gotten caught peeing outside – first of all, at a school full of rednecks, that’s not really a shock – and we were up late working on homecoming stuff (building our epic parade float) and we had to pee. I remember that going on, and both the Pres and I were equally as guilty. And that happened back in February. The fateful night that changed my life was at the end of the semester.
(By the way, we WON homecoming that year – it was awesome. And I was in charge of our homecoming team, I was a captain or something, and I worked my ass off. Literally, blood, sweat, tears (and pee), all went into that amazing victory).
So there I was, asked to stay after.
And they kicked me out.
It was really simple. “We need your keys.” “We’re recommending that you step down from your exec position and disassociate from the chapter.”
The worst part is, I HAD NO IDEA WHY.
I STILL DON’T KNOW WHY.
They told me that someone had come to them in a CR meeting and told them something about me. And this piece of information was so damning, they wanted me out. Because everything said in a CR meeting is confidential, they couldn’t tell me what was said.
I had NO way to defend myself.
I didn’t even know what was going on.
I was so stunned I couldn’t even speak. I just cried. It made no sense to me then, and for years it’s haunted my heart. My very best friends in the world had a meeting about me, behind my back, and decided that I was such a bad person they didn’t even want to associate with me.
It was the hardest thing I’d ever experienced.
That night I offered to resign from exec, but to still stay in, and they said no. That I had to leave.
I just kept asking why, and the president looked at me all steely-eyed and said,
“YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID.”
That phrase haunts me.
At one point when I was begging to stay in, they had the CR board members pipe up. Amber, this girl from my hometown who had never really liked me – she put the final nail in my coffin.
That was it, I was out.
(this is really harder to write about than I thought it would be).
You know what you did.
That phrase terrified me. It’s the phrase that took my life as I knew it, away from me. And after fighting so hard for my life – my life that I had built and made, my life that was happy and I cherished – someone else was able to take it all away from me. A group of them were.
The news was shocking. No one could believe it. People kept asking me what I did, and I just kept saying, I don’t know. I didn’t know. I still don’t know.
What if it wasn’t true? What if someone misunderstood something? My name was tarnished. I had no legit way to defend myself.
It felt like getting sent to prison in a fascist regime – where you don’t even get a trial, and there is no evidence. They just accuse you of treason or some ambiguous political crime and you’re out. You’re done.
I was shunned. I couldn’t go to any events, I couldn’t see my friends. They did it to me the night before final exams started, and I was so mad at them for that. That’s just low and unfair, I was so upset and I had to go take all of my exams and finish up my papers.
Half my wardrobe was inaccessible to me – all of my stuff had letters on it! I lived with sisters, who were still active, and that hurt too. I couldn’t very well ask everyone I knew to quit too, but it was really hard. Every one of my good friends were still greek, and once again, I was the outsider who wasn’t allowed at the parties. The clubhouse had a No Roses Allowed sign.
It hurt. So badly.
It was the deepest emotional cut I’ve ever experienced, actually.
There were friends who stood by me, for sure. I was really close with the Pi Kapps at that time, and they totally had my back. But the decision was done, there was nothing that those who believed in me, could do.
It was a dreadful shock to know that people I had trusted, or at least considered to be thoughtful, kind, or decent – were a part of it. That was so weird. It really messed with my willingness to trust for quite some time.
The helplessness of not knowing why made it a thousand times worse. My parents helped me approach it from a legal point of view. We contacted Nationals. They just told me that they were standing by the chapter’s decision and that was it. My sister’s chapter petitioned to have the decision overturned, they didn’t care.
The Dean of Students guy who was greek advisor or something – I had worked for him for a while, back when I had cancer I had a desk job within student affairs. He hated me too, Tom. He supported the Alpha Chis in their choice. The Alum advisor, Amanda, I had always thought she liked me – well, she was in on it too.
All of these people knew about it before I did. They knew why, and NO ONE talked.
The level of serecy they were able to uphold is amazing. To this day, I still have no clue. There were some nasty rumors about me going around. I’d lost a lot of weight (being off of steroids and all the cancer meds can do that), and there were some kind of rumors about me doing copious amounts of cocaine. The rumor seemed so ridic, I didn’t think that could really be what they used to boot me out over. But who knows.
I think that there were jealousy issues. I know that some people had missued the cancer funds – taking money out of that account and paying for other things with it, promising to pay it back after rush with collected dues. There were certainly some dark and sketchy things going on.
But I never dreamed these girls who I had come to know and love would do this. It was so weird and surreal to see someone I thought was my dear friend, tell me to beat it. Can you imagine? I was thinking, who are these people?
I didn’t do anything kick-out worthy. I KNOW THAT. I know what I did and where I was.
But what sucks super hard – other people don’t know that. People saw me so differently. I had volunteered, and worked so hard in good will to build the community that is UNF. Today, that student community thrives off the hard work my peers and I put into it. We built the entire spirit movement from the ground, up.
A year ago, at the end of March 2011 I went to a church event out here in Hawaii, and the theme was forgiveness (my post on that event is here). That was the first time I honestly forgave the girls who did this to me. It’s still hurts so much to talk about, the way they were so awful to me – it still makes me sad. But I don’t carry any hate in my heart at this point. I’ve tried my best to forgive them, between me and God, I have.
I don’t know if any of them feel remorse. No one ever apologized to me. No one ever shined any light on it for me. I would love for someone to come forward at this point and tell me, it would bring me great peace of mind to just know what the heck they think I did.
So, now, today – years and years later – I still have all these loaded feelings when it comes to greek life. I’m not sure if I could genuinely tell someone to go for it and get involved. I’m still friends with sisters I had back then. But I’m embarrassed when I think about what happened, and I would never want anyone to be hurt the way I was. I just don’t know if I could ever recommend or trust an institute that allowed me to be treated the way I was. The control and power dynamics are intense. It’s really hard to combat the system – impossible, actually.
But if all goes well, it can be a great experience.
Watching this show, Greek, has brought up so many memories. When they do fun greek life things, like socials and mixers, door piles, singing songs, showing ritual kinda stuff – I remember the good ole days, and I reflect fondly on my experiences.
It’s just that those happy memories only go so far… and ultimately, I end up back at sad.
It hurt my self worth a lot. I was asking a lot of questions – am I not friend worthy? Am I a bad person? What did I do wrong?
It shook me to my core, and it took a while to re-build my own self understanding.
I felt used. I felt like they used me for rush, to attract girls in with my cancer story. I heard rumors that after they kicked me out, they still talked about me in the rush room as if I had left or quit and they still talked about how great and wonderful they were to me. I was livid that they had cheapened and reduced what I had been through.
But even still, I find myself defending the greek system in some ways.
My husband was never greek, and he doesn’t really seem to be an advocate. He thinks of it as elitist, snobby, rude. And sometimes when he’ll base an idea on a generalization, I’ll defend the greek ways.
Watching the show had me go grab and dust off this book I remembered hating back when I was in a sorority. “Pledged, the Secret Life of Sororities” is a book by investigative reporter Alexandra Robbins. I was still active when this book came out and I read it – even though it boiled my blood.
At the time I considered Robbins to be bitter, jealous, mean, and just looking for reasons to mock and pick apart the greek system.
I figured now, given my current point of view, I may have a new appreciation for her book. So I cracked it open and started to read a little bit and a funny thing happened –
I still can’t stand her approach!
She still sounds bitter and hateful to me. It’s had me reflecting a lot, honestly. Do I sound bitter like that? I sure hope not. I’m very bitter about my own experience, and how that was handled (I think I’m still bitter, even though I try not to be) – but I don’t ever want to sound how Robbins does. She just sounds like someone who wanted to be in the cool club and since she wasn’t, she lashed out like woah.
There were a handful of reality shows about sororities that came out around the turn of this century, and they were really damning to the greek PR machine that tries to keep the image looking good and nice. But the shows served a purpose in piquing American curiosity, and thus people wanted to know what did really go on in there.
I’ll say that my experience in a National Pan-hellenic women’s fraternity was very different than what went down in the local chapters who allowed themselves to go on reality TV. The imaged and exaggerated stuff seemed more the fodder for juicy TV than the way to define the average collegiate greek experience. That’s just my POV, though.
So there ya have it.
It’s funny how a simple, cheesy, wacky TV show can dredge up so many feelings. It’s funny that while we’ve been watching it on Netflix, I find my mind wandering all over the place – thinking about the fun times I had. Thinking about how much it all meant to me at that time in my life.
What do you think?
Do you know why I was kicked out?
Has a show ever done that to you?
I often wonder what other experineces would be similar to what I went through?
Has anyone else ever been shunned?
My entire social structure was taken away from me, against my will. I imagine when someone comes out and they’re rejected from their social group – it could feel similar. Maybe. If you’ve come out – what do you think? Am I making little or light of your experience?
Well, sorry today got heavy and sad. But for those of you who like me and my blog, this was really revealing. Another big one that was hard to talk about and now I feel lighter for having done it.
Thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr
PS – and I hope I properly expressed this in the main article, but just in case, there were some great people and loyal friends who literally got me through that whole experience. Afterwards, there were still greeks I could love, and trust. And most of my college friends that I keep in touch with today were greek at the same time I was.
I will never forget how good that core group of friends was to me during that time. My roomies and BFFS, the pi kapp guys who were like brothers to me (the blood kind, not the greek kind). I love so many people from those days, still. There were some who were good to me and never wavered in their loyalty.
SO – I’ve gotten a little bit of feedback, and the story that seems most consistent is about a rumor. A rumor that I was doing cocaine off of a toilet seat, at a fraternity formal. And that a group of my “sisters” had witnessed this.
I’m not really sure how anyone could have witnessed this… as I’ve NEVER in my life done cocaine off a toilet seat. (Who does that?? Was the hooker’s ass already taken?).
It’s so infuriating, honestly. They never even asked me about it. No chance to ever defend myself. On one hand, the absurdity of the rumor makes me feel vindicated – but on the other, it just makes me getting kicked out and going through so much pain feel even more futile than it already does.
They really did boot me out over nothing. Shame on them.