I sorted through the mail in the still heat of the San Diego August and spotted my college sorority magazine. This time of year, one look and I am transported back to the giddy madness of sorority “rush” that usually happens in the scorching heat of late August.
“Rush” is now called “Membership Recruitment.” Maybe it always was.
The girls will always call it “rush” with all the kindness and cruelty that slang term possesses. Being on the outside is painful yet hopeful. Being on the inside is powerful yet vulnerable. Either side can turn away at any moment.
After this ritual of mutual exploration, acceptance and rejection, I ended up with young women around me who became an irreplaceable dimension to my college years and my entire life. I wish this support structure for every kid when they launch into higher education and first independence.
Despite the fact that I swapped vows with probably 150 women over my college career, my sorority years produced a dozen lifelong friends. Those women, however, hold a special, unshakable place in my heart. They knew me when. They know all the foolishness of my salad days and consider it part of my charm. These are the women with whom I have shared enough time, tragedy, affection, life experiences and conversation that I can drop all defenses in their company.
As the memories of rush rise up like the heat waves on the sidewalks, I see the anxious young women, as they stand outside the sorority houses, perspiring and praying that their mascara won’t run. I see the sorority women bursting out of their front doors singing sweet, sincere songs of welcome. By now this year’s ritual has just ended. The new members have received their small pledge pins, and some very strong threads to be woven in the fabric of their lives.
When my sorority chapter at San Diego State University, folded in 1992, I was furious. They had allowed my chapter, my memories, my place, my link to my history, to die and it will remain a permanent point of pain. I now have age and perspective on my side, but when the August winds make my spirit limp and my hairline damp, I vividly remember that time, that distillation of choosing and being rejected and chosen, then being surrounded by the best of women. It is still an elixir perhaps more sweet because of its hint of bitterness.
Jean Gillette is a freelance writer grateful for those who know her so well and love her anyway. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.