greek tragedy


greek rejection
Greek “Tragedy” is what you make of it

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.

Stephanie Klein



  1. the writing should be just for you. but, thanks for sharing. i love the stories :)

  2. I never even thought about rushing when I was at Columbia. I always thought the Greek scene there was feeble and lame. Now I know for sure.

  3. I never even thought about rushing when I was at Columbia. I always thought the Greek scene there was feeble and lame. Now I know for sure.

  4. This post is the best one I've read on your site so far. Not that the others are bad, but I like this one. :)

  5. I was an undergraduate at a Big Ten school at a slightly different time — Vietnam War time — in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Greek world almost did not exist then. Oh, it was there, alright. Sorry, {yawn} you're WHAT, who cares? We were all too busy protesting about Kent State and other issues to give a damn. Fraternities and sororities for my crowd were distinctly declasse; we saw "Animal House" a few years later and understood the cultural reference instantly — we all wanted to be in the antifraternity with Belushi, not the iron-jawed jerks down the street.

  6. As a freshman I didn't know what rush was until my roommate decided to do it as a joke, to make fun of the frou frou girls. So we rushed together and I ended up running into my ex-boyfriend's big sister and pledged that house.

    I don't regret joining a house, but it wasn't the focal point of my college career. College is what you make of it.

  7. It's all about the fear. Not the visceral fear you feel when about to be scolded by your parents, but the fear that influences your decision before you even feel it. It can rule and ruin your world all at once.

    It can be conquered!

  8. Greeks seriously suck most especially Zeta Tau Alpha!! I was a former member of this sorority and now only a couple of girls remain my closest friends!! How sad is that! I ended up paying for my friends!

  9. When I was in college, a sorority was not even on the radar. Being in a consciousness-raising group with other women who were attempting to learn how to support eachother and freedom of choice was where it was at.

    I think that went by the wayside; as younger women forgot that women need to support women, and that in itself is a political statement.

    Now, I find myself rejected frequently, as you did by the sorority gals, probably for the same reason. I am still speaking my mind. Proudly.

    And yes, the rejection still confuses me and occasionally hurts, but it passes very quickly and approval from others is low on my priority list.

  10. same exact thing happened to me. i was devastated. shook my confidence to the core. thanks for sharing your story.

  11. "Realize there’s a universe outside your small reality."

    Thanks, Steph. Milky Way, Andromeda,…

  12. i was rejected by a sorority solely because one of the girls sex partner that was in a fraternity felt threatened by me it is a shame when women who are suppossed to uplift each other reject one for having self-confidence and not stooping to the level of being a booty call. The girls who were picked thought it was because of who they were but in fact ot was because they were not seen as a threat

  13. Somehow missed this post as I made my way through your archive. It gives me this bittersweet feeling, and this wistful little smile. I often get this "god hates me, no one wants me, because I can't stand cliches", but what you say is true (the part about you being who makes you happy), I know it the whole time, but sometimes is too bitter to accept it as a good thing. I wanted so badly to be part of the cliche without actually believing in it, though that never worked out.

    I want to be able to not just cry over cliches but rise above it with triumph just as you've done.

  14. A friend rushed at Syracuse and she's a fairly attractive blonde woman. They lined the women up against the wall and then separated them into two groups. When she looked up she saw that they had separated them into "pretty" and "ugly" groups. Then they asked two questions of everyone "What kind car does mommy drive? What kind of car does daddy drive?" If you were ugly but Mom and Dad drove Lexus' you got back in.

    Perhaps "rich and pretty" also means "horribly superficial." I thank God every day that Fordham had no frats or sororities.

  15. When I attended Barnard, somewhere back in the Pleistocene, there were no sororities on campus. Possibly interesting factoid: Margaret Mead transferred to Barnard because she abhorred the fraternity and sorority scene at DePaul, where she originally matriculated, and so sought out a school where this wouldn't be an issue.

    I'd assume that the sororities you describe developed as an outgrowth of the fact that Columbia College went coed.

    I remember pledging for a sorority in high school, not making the cut, and actually being relieved because I couldn't imagine what I would have found to say to those plastic bimbos.

    Cheers – Mimi

  16. Wow! When I was at Barnard, there were 2 sororities: the good one and the bad one. Me, I joined a co-ed frat that pretty much took anyone who wanted to make fun of the Greek system. Sorry that happened to you, hon. Take it as a badge of honor that the bitches were confused by you; many probably secretly wanted to be your friend but were intimidated, as you'll find when they cross your path in years to come.

  17. You did not miss a thing…promise. This coming from a fellow LI girl who went to a popular city school and thought being in the "right" sorority would elevate me to heights unimaginable. Yeah so when I came home for breaks I could brag and wear my letters but looking back now it was senseless. I have my letters still but don't have any sisters to call my own. Most of us hate each other now. Love your site! Keep up the incredible postings…I am routing for you sister!

  18. I was having a crap day until I read this. It made me feel better. Thanks.

  19. When I went to high school, I was the new girl in class. No one noticed me because everyone were friends since junior high. The only girl who offered her frienship finally betrayed me and talked bad stuff behind my back just to fit with the others. I was devasted and that made my first year miserable all alone hiding in the library during the break times!

    I´m glad I wasn´t the only one who suffered this kind of rejection, Klein..

  20. maybe nobody wanted you because you label people "pimply faced dog fat girls." !!!! ya think?

  21. When I started college, all I wanted was to get into the "cool" sorority. Much to my surprise, I did get picked. All of the girls were thin and blonde…I was of a "healthy" build with brown hair. I dropped out after a year. Those bitches never talked to me again. I used to regret dropping out. Now, I understand that the Greek system really is about buying "friends." Anyway, keep up the postings. You're an inspiration to aspiring writers everywhere.

  22. maybe theta didn't take you because they couldn't stand the idea of being associated with, much less related to, someone so overtly vapid and tactless.

  23. If a woman lists her sorority on her resume I won’t hire her and I toss it in the trash. The irony is I was once trapped at a resort in Tucson with a pack of them for an entire weekend. Some sort of Delta Delta Delta convention. There is no greater truth than payback is a bitch.

  24. This was a great post. I used to be morbidly fascinated with the idea of sororities. Mainly because I went to an egghead classics college and I never even got exposed to sorority types. For kicks, I read a book called "Pledged- The Secret Life of Sororities". When I started reading the book, I can honestly say I was expecting to feel triumphant over those "sorority types", but after reading the book, all I could feel was pity. What those groups do to attract and retain their members is ludicrous and so demeaning. It was not a "feel good" book, but instead a glimpse into something really, really sordid. Ick.
    Thanks for the post. Really great.

  25. Steph:

    You ROCK! Originally I was actually looking for a website on Greek Tragedy, I studied some Greek History while pursuing a Computational Finance degree at Carnegie Mellon. I found your website instead. Anyway, I went to Bucknell and that is a serious Greek Stronghold. I bailed out of rush b/c of the same ersatz conditions under which they bond. Instead I lived off campus with my cousin who was a painting major and we became the center of a whole Bohemian artist group that bonded over real experiences.

    My wife and I too have moved from Manhattan (lived there trading Derivatives for four years and went to HF in SF when the kids arrived). I love your columns and book…we lived in the same hood and used the same dog runs but I don't ever remember seeing you. I hope you have red headed twins…my wife is a red head and we just had a beautiful little red headed daughter.

  26. Heeeeeeell yes! I wanted to be in the in-crowd! and no, never happen. I'm thinking about what you wrote…
    I think that everyone wants to be part of the cliché, even if they don't believe on it or even if they know the shit behind of it. It's just that most of the times is easier to go with the flow than fighting it. But luckily as you grow you find your way to arise above all that crap, to accept who you are and cultivate you. It's just a question of really want to do that.

  27. This is bringing tears to my eyes. For some reason I think this is one of the most touching things I've ever read here. I never pledged a sorority because I was too afraid — afraid, of what? I think I sensed that I would have had the same experience you described.

    You know what — you tried. You put yourself out there. And you learned from the experience.

    What a beautiful story, and moral of the story. Thank you for sharing.

  28. Your postings always inspire me, but this one especially. I love all the uplifting advice you give. Thanks.

  29. sorry to hear you didn't have a good experience with sororities in college. I am a member of one and have had a wonderful experience. Granted it was a small school and a small chapter, but I learned a lot and never felt like I was buying my friends.

  30. Aw, I had a very similar experience when I tried to rush my first quarter at college. The only one who wanted me were the new girls, who very quickly got the rep for being mostly "bigger" girls (…which was why they invited me I don't doubt :p). I went home and cried and cried, I didn't accept any bids, and i hated them all after that. …Year and a quarter later, I ended up going to informal recruitment stuff, and pledged with what had always been my first choice, even winning most outstanding new member that year at formal (dance) . Stupid formal recruitment. Anyway, Its sad to see so many haters in the comments. People who won't hire or judge girls because they're in a sorority are just as bad as those they picture to be in charge of them. Not to say there aren't super douchey greeks out there (even mine, at other schools, i wouldn't talk to the girls unless i had to), but I'm lucky to belong to a school where 4/5 of the sororities are filled with the most involved, smart, and caring girls on campus. So.. basically, lame on that person who throws out applications.

  31. I just wanted to say how much I love when you link to past posts. I admittedly have not read that far back, and I love the direction you send your readers when posting older posts. If possible, keep em coming! This was a priceless gem, that I'm so glad I didn't miss. Even if read years later. You are one in a million, Stephanie!

    The post about your sister Leah? I'm in love! Her comment, or the rest of the story…had me laughing out loud! I love to hear where the truly rude and arrogant get theirs! Or at least get Linus poo for a parting gift! ;-)


  32. I was in a sorority in college. It was probably one of the "dog" sororities — although we were not at the bottom of the sorority pecking order at the time. Anyway being part of a sorority was a major mistake on my part. There are very few people in my life now (20+ years later) who know about my sordid past as a sorority sister. GDI all the way, baby……

  33. Same thing happened to me. Cried on bid night, first to my RA, then on the pay phone to my mom, which I’m sure broke her heart. The next year, glutton for punishment that I am, I rushed again, and the sorority that I had wanted freshman year pursued me, and I ended up pledging. I’m glad I did; the girls I met there are still my friends, 20 years after graduation. Still – what a harsh welcome to your freshman year.

    That said, I married a GDI from my school, and we still can’t talk about it because we disagree so strongly on the greek system’s role during the time we were students there. I guess opposites attract.

    Just started reading Moose, and heard you interviewed on Elliott in the Morning in DC a while back. Enjoying the book and the flashback to parts of my own youth!

  34. It’s all kind of like high school, isn’t it? –you get out and you realize that it didn’t matter.

    Which is why the ending to this post is so perfect.

  35. Was this your first post? The first entry into the blog that has become “Greek Tragedy”?

  36. Same thing happened to me–it almost killed me. I had never been rejected in my life. Ultimately, I did pledge a house and it was a good place for me, but that was a hard time.

  37. I’m in a panhellenic sorority but I can tell you that over the years, my chapter has built a good academic reputation because our sisters have good relationships with the faculty and staff. As a result, the faculty and staff will point quality women to us.

    How many members do you have?

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