In high school I was “Moose,” the fat smart-ass president of the science club—oh yes I was, too. Upon my arrival at college, I was thin and on my way to becoming a writer. I was popular and fashionable. What do popular thin girls do at college? They pledge.
Sororities at Columbia University are like ketchup; they’re a condiment to a social life. They’re not the burger, or even the fries. Still, I saw “Revenge of The Nerds,” and I wanted to be Betty, one of the girls walking around in a tight Greek shirt smiling.
Rush night, I’m decked in an espresso brown gabardine suit, white French cuff top, Gucci vintage bag; I’m brown envy. We’re made to visit rooms of different sororities, housed in an official building. Each sorority had a room, where we toured, introducing ourselves in our own small clusters of a rush group. I was friendly and polite. Stacked up names and tried to use them again, to feign interest. “Oh thanks so much, nice meeting you Simone.” I was even nice at the sorority known as “the one with the dogs.” Once I met the girls from the “good sorority” I was swarmed. They were attracted to me, could tell I was salt of the same earth…
They were in a room decorated like the sea. Thick sheets of blue paper lined the institute gray walls, craft paper cut into pits of green seaweed were tacked on, layers of streamers. A crab or two. You get the point. They had a “getting to know you” exercise where you write your name on a construction paper fish cut-out. Then besetting your name, you write adjectives which explain who you are. Okay, here’s where my brain kicks in and the Guicci bag just dangles. I’m a big believer in SHOW DON’T TELL. Don’t tell me you’re classy; send me a thank you note. They wanted cookie cutter answers. Adjectives like Friendly, Sweet, Caring. All I could think: Ew.
“I have social skills and would much rather talk to people than draw a fish about myself. But here ya go. All done.” I handed over the trout. On my way out, one of the lead girls, who was also dressed in a tailored suit, told me she was very glad to have met me, and she was looking forward to getting to know me better. I was in. Besides, it’s not like I wrote: ABRASIVE.
The next evening, we picked up our bid envelops, telling us which sororities wanted our pledges. Unlike the other envelopes fanned in alphabetical order, mine was cast off to the side. Biffy (I swear to god, her name was actually Biffy) offered me an awkward smile as she handed me my envelope.
No one wanted me. I was the only one in the entire rush not wanted by anyone. Even the pimply faced dog fat girls got bids. You know the types. They walk around in tapered jeans and line the back seat of their cars with small stuffed animals. It was heart breaking. I never told anyone, until now, as I type this at 1:12 AM in the thunderstorm. Instead, I said “People without social skills join sororities at city schools. I’m too much of an individual.” An individual who went to her dorm alone and cried. No one wanted me.
I wonder why, sure. Why didn’t they want me? I wonder the same way anyone does anytime there is even a slight rejection—from a job, a party, a date, even your own lover or spouse. You recount steps and replay conversations, trying really hard, squinting in thought. You endure the crap ass clichés… it just wasn’t meant to be… when a door closes, a window opens. You cry through your held smile.
Here’s what I say now: Go outside.
Realize it’s a sliver of your life, and we all die alone. Realize the only individual who should have that much power over your happiness should be you. Look around you, find the stars. Seriously, look up. Realize there’s a universe outside your small reality. With the time you’ve got here, learn to make yourself happy—just you, on your own. And enjoy the view. Do what you must to hold it and be able to recreate it. How do I do it? I write. Not in a tight Greek top smiling… but on a terrific Greek web site, for everyone, but really, just for me.