I was a small-town girl who wanted to make it in the big city. I wanted to be a Sooner. The University of Oklahoma was larger than the population in my hometown and I liked it that way.
Yet I knew I wanted a home away from home and my classmates and I were advised the best way to do that was to pledge a sorority. I’m pretty outgoing and since my best friends were also rushing (now called recruitment), I went for it. Bought new outfits, tamed my big ’90s hair and put on my brightest smile. I could do this. You quickly realize everyone is tanner, richer, and prettier than you are. Add smarter, funnier, more talented and more connected, and you start feeling like what rush week can do to your fragile 18-year-old ego. Still. You hold on and hope and smile some more. You want to find a house you can fit in with, not one that makes you feel you are less than. (And remember there is only one you in all your unique glory!)
I got a bid from Alpha Chi Omega, thanks in large part to having a Woodward alum (and big sister of one of my best friends) rooting for me. It’s so easy to fall through the cracks. I was thrilled to pledge AXO and get to know a hundred new girls. You could say I’m a sisterhood cheerleader. While sorority life isn’t for everyone and being Greek has its pros and cons, I knew what would be best for me, and twenty three years later, I’m still a sorority girl, trying to live the Symphony. In fact, I’m happy to share it with you. I love this creed for goodness, don’t you?
See, it says nothing in the Symphony about parties or trying to be number one. Does that happen in the Greek system? Sure. Is it the stupid stuff that goes viral? Yes. But here’s what I got from my sorority experience:
To learn to live with people with varied backgrounds, interests, personalities and goals. Yet we rallied and supported each other.
Leadership lessons through clubs, charity work and sponsored events.Someone I could talk into going to Huston Huffman to work out with me. (Step aerobics, anyone?)
A group of girls to watch Days of Our Lives and 90210 with in the TV room. Loneliness isn’t a problem.
Study partners. Suffering, support, Classic 50s happy hours.
Mentorship – direct and indirect. Lots of osmosis happening in a house full of girls.
Deep, abiding friendships with bonds that last forever, even if there are years that pass in between communication.
Friendships with sisters across the country, spanning from pledges from the 1940s until today. The connections you make are amazing and can help you when you least expect it.
Etiquette lessons. Really, I had no idea.
The importance of tradition, meaning, purpose, leadership and service.
Social skills that you carry with you through bad bosses, cranky co-workers and “grown up” friendships and parenthood. It’s a nice skill to be able to talk to a guy or girl you don’t know and be able to leave the conversation enriched instead of embarrassed. Okay, at least not embarrassed.
Organization skills. Though my roommates would beg to differ.
Empathy. Not only through the charity work, but the tough stuff your sisters go through. Parents’ divorcing, death, financial hardships. I shared at our reunion one of my most special memories was seeing my big sis and grand big sis at my grandmother’s funeral. They’d driven for hours to make it to Shattuck, Okla. It touched my heart then and still does. Without saying a word, a sister’s presence says, “I’ve got your back. You’re not alone.” (Thank you Tanya and Michelle!)
Free counseling. From romance to friendships to learning from bad choices, having a home and sisterhood seems to soften the blow. If I hadn’t had the support of my sisters when my grandmother who raised me died just before I moved into the house my sophomore year, I would’ve likely gone into a deep depression.
Learned when to keep my mouth shut, when to hold out a helping hand and when to let someone else shine.
How to plan a party or event. You don’t realize it then, but those skills will help you in business, managing your home life, in the PTA and in philanthropy. You learn how to budget, how to rally the troops (let’s roll out!), and how to get sh** done.
Keeping you in line. From making your grades to following the rules, there are standards to uphold and you will get in trouble if you become reckless.
My belief is it’s better to have and keep an open mind so everything is an adventure. I made wonderful memories and was able to cope with the stress of college, working, extra curricular activities and dating. The house is special to me for so many reasons – and yes, I was ready to move on when I was a senior – but one day you realize your home is calling you home and a whole new generation could use your support, in big ways and small.
That’s why I help at rush (recruitment!), make financial donation to nationals and our Psi chapter, joined the alum chapter in Oklahoma City, and visit the house when I can. We recently had a reunion and several of my pledge sisters and sisters from the time I was in the house (’90-94) were there. They absolutely live up to the Real. Strong. Women. tagline of our sorority.
If you’ve found your way to this blog because you are going through recruitment (or your daughter is), I hope you’ll keep an open mind through the process and remember the other benefits of being in a sisterhood. And if you’re not in a sorority, remember that we are all sisters in the big scheme of things and are called to respect and love each other, “be her badge what it may.” We all have something to bring to life and it’s our duty to bring our best.
A few pics from our recent AXO OU reunion:
I’ll be going on a 5-city “fly” sisterhood tour in late July, early August to promote Twin Falls (my YA angel twins book under pen name Lena Brown) and my fifth women’s fiction novel about three sisters who fly around the world to see where there mother has been the last twenty years, Family Charms. It will be a happy hour/girls night out event for teen girls and grown-ups with a short sisterhood talk, activities, door prizes, photos and food. So if you’re in Woodward, OK, Oklahoma City, Dallas area, Tulsa, or Wichita, KS, message me at malenalott (at) me (dot) com or via Facebook and I’ll make sure you get an invite! I’m so lucky to have sister friends in these cities to help me make this tour happen. Thanks Tina Ross, Tina McGarry, Cynthia Dutton, Deb Davis, Heather Lamb and Kari Ernest. You gals rock.
Twin Falls is already available in trade paperback, ebook (Kindle and nook) and is currently on sale for .99 for a limited time in ebook format. Hope you enjoy my take on earth angels descended from Archangel Gabriel as they battle against evil and the Crusaders who wish to destroy them with a healthy heaping of teen romance.
Get it on Amazon here.
Get in B&N for nook here.