It’s difficult to reconstruct my thinking that fall because it was – to put it kindly – demented. I was assigned to the dorm I requested – Hedrick. The first night, I went to a barbeque with my new roommate. From the bleachers, we watched people below line up for food. My roommate and her friends playfully paired strangers – the ugly guy with an ugly girl, fat guy with a fat girl, etc.
Granted, it wasn’t nice but given a sliver of self-awareness I might’ve remembered I wasn’t always nice myself. Instead I unleashed my judgmental, self-righteous inner judge and jury. How could a sensitive soul like myself co-exist with such dreadful people? I needed to move out of Hedrick – now! This was brilliant reasoning compared to my next brainstorm.
My problem was finding someplace to live. My inspired solution was – go through Greek “Rush Week” and pledge a sorority!
Whaaaat? At UCLA in ’69, frats and sororities were as cool as Nixon and Goldwater. Inexplicably, it slipped my mind I wore jeans to school every day. I pictured myself 30 pounds lighter, in cashmere twin sets and designer suits with shiny straight hair and perfect make-up.
What’s wrong with this picture?
- I hate groups, especially those that burst into song for no discernable reason.
- I hate dress-codes and pantyhose (sorority girls had to endure both).
- I hate setting tables, washing dishes and making my bed – chores pledges were required to do.
- I hate sharing my space. Pledges shared a tiny room with six other girls as well as a communal bathroom.
- I hate committee meetings, especially when they involve ritual.
- Did I mention I hate groups?
Spotting a couple kinks in my plan, my parents urged me not to act hastily but – blinded by my vision of my secret sorority girl self – I plunged forward. Yes, I said, I’ll pledge your sorority! My new sisters sang a secret song of welcome.
I moved my earthly possessions into the sorority. As I unpacked, sanity returned. With mounting horror, I remembered who I was – and who I wasn’t.
I told my sorority sisters I’d made a terrible mistake. They didn’t sing; they were too furious. I didn’t blame them. They kept their part of the bargain. I was the crazy flake who forgot who she was and what she wanted.
They were clear about what they wanted – me out of there. I got my eviction notice the same day I moved in. Luckily, Mary Bennett – my roommate from the prior quarter – needed a roommate. We arranged for me to move back into Sproul Hall – the same funky dorm where I started my college education.
I’m not suggesting my experience merits lines as profound as those T.S. Eliot wrote in “Little Gidding” but I’m going to quote them anyway.