Tuesday, February 27, 2007

So Much for Sisterhood, Part II

(If you haven't read Part I, please scroll on down.)

It was no surprise to many of my sisters that soon after our chapter closed, Delta Zeta started having problems of its own. As long as I have been familiar with the chapter, they were never one of the "elite" sororities, and once our doors were closed they started picking up the atypical sorority girls, the once that we were so proud to call our own. It was also no surprise that, because they were welcoming and celebrating the down-to-earth girls, their reputation would start to go south as well. Delta Zeta, like our chapter, received lots of pressure from their nationals to focus hard on recruitment. Rather than limiting member recruitment to Rush, they were concentrate on it year-round: invite unaffiliated women over for dinner, talk to transfer students and find out if they're interested, etc. Recruitment became their primary focus.

Unlike our chapter, however, the Delta Zeta's got some other interesting advice: sex it up. According the interview with Keith Oppenheim on CNN, their advisors suggested they do whatever it took to get the attention of fraternity men. Party more, go out more often, only recruit the cute girls, make yourselves "available," as it were. And try as they might, they were still known as "the dog house." Nice.

To make a long story short, the women of Delta chapter (DePauw's chapter of DZ) voted to abstain from opening their house to freshmen during Rush and to close the chapter effective the end of this academic year. Nationals, however, wanted to try to save the house since 1) Delta chapter is the second oldest DZ chapter currently open and 2) Delta chapter would be celebrating it's centenntial in 2009. When Rush rolled around, national reps came to take over. They bussed in a load of DZ's from IU and invited six of the current DZ's at DePauw to participate. The rest of the women were asked to stay upstairs in the house and told that if they wanted to come downstairs they needed to dress in cute outfits and wear makeup.

I'm still unclear as to the order of events, but sometime around the time of Rush, national reps also interviewed each woman to determine her "commitment to recruitment." Based on the results of those interviews, letters were sent to each woman in the chapter. Twenty-three were told that they were being moved from "active" status to "alumnae status" and would need to move out of the house. These letters showed up in mailboxes the week before finals.

The women of Delta Zeta claim that those who were told that they were being moved to alumnae status were, to the woman, overweight or of color. Nationals claims that those who were told that they were being moved to alumnae status were those who showed a lack of commitment to recruiting new members. However, one of the national reps is quoted as saying, "Image, I'm not going to lie to you, is a huge part of it."

The evicted women and the national reps are never going to see eye-to-eye on this; they're never going to agree about what happened and why. But the thing that irks me the most is the fact that the national reps would notify these women of their eviction the week before finals. Yes, the women in the chapter refused to hold up their end of the bargain by refusing to participate in recruitment, but you don't kick your sister out of her house the week before finals. As if it weren't bad enough that they were emotionally beaten up by the DePauw community, then they have to hear from their own sisters, that they can't even live together for one more semester. No one deserves to be treated like that. According to university administrators, several of the women were so distraught that they chose to take incompletes in their classes because they couldn't focus enough to even finish the semester. Not only that, but in the middle of finals and winter term projects and plans, they had to find new housing. Sorry, but that's no way to treat a sister.

And the DePauw community suffers as well. The message is being conveyed loud and clear that there is no place on the campus for a sorority that values more than image and good looks. The system has just become that more elitist, and the whole community is going to suffer for it.

Update: A woman from the chapter has written to the Fort Wayne newspaper to clarify some issues that I got wrong. Please read her letter here.

So Much for Sisterhood

Several folks have e-mailed me to ask if I've seen this article and to get my take on it. This has been rattling around in my brain for two days now, and to truly comment on it I have to tell my own story of being in a sorority at DePauw.

When I arrived at DePauw in the fall of 1992, I was just a naive nugget from the South. I didn't know there existed annual salaries as high as those earned by the families of my fellow first-year students. I had never heard the names of the northwest Chicago suburbs, many of them enclaves of social elites and enormous earnings, from which many of my fellow students hailed. I was a normal kid from a middle-class family. I lived in an average-sized house in an average neighborhood. I had no idea.

What I did know was that I would participate in sorority Rush in the fall. My mother and grandmother are both Chi Omegas at Transylvania University and Wittenberg University, respectively. My aunt was an Alpha Chi Omega at DePauw in the 70s. They all spoke fondly of their experiences in their sororities and my mother regularly communicated with many of her sisters.

For me, even Rush didn't provide me a full picture of the social elitism present at DePauw. I had a great experience. I was only released (read: cut) from two houses and even that wasn't too painful. After all, I figured, I couldn't expect everyone to want me as a sister. The best advice I received during Rush came right before the Preference Parties (the final two parties, after which a Rushee ranks her preferences). It was, "When you're standing outside waiting to go into the house, look at the women around you. Decide then and there if you want those women to be your sisters. You're choosing the women who are already in the house as well, but those women standing outside with you are potentially the women you will be sharing your life with for the next four years."

That made it easy. The women standing outside AOII with me were so normal. They were down-to-earth. As a whole, they didn't fit the typical sorority stereotype, and that was good, because I wasn't particularly interested in the stereotypical sorority. I wanted a place where people would appreciate who I was, not who they hoped I would be.

After I pledged and initiated and got nice and settled into this new sorority life, there came a startling realization: At DePauw, normal is not cool. Breaking the mold and standing outside the sterotype is not socially acceptable. Being rich and skinny and traditionally attractive is cool. Being down-to-earth is not.

And that's what we were at AOII: We were normal. We were just us, for better or for worse. As a whole, we were not pursuing careers as runway models, but my sisters were bright and witty and oh so full of personality. My sisters were goofy and silly and generally unconcerned if other people didn't appreciate an odd sense of humor or well-placed sarcasm. And that's where I belonged. And I was happy.

And things started going downhill. Our sisterhood was strong, but it became increasingly difficult to recruit new members. When I arrived at DePauw, the percentage of students participating in social fraternities and sororities was rumored to be around 80-85%. As the years passed, more and more women became comfortable choosing not to participate in Greek life. Those who did want to participate were more interested in the stereotypical sororities, that which we were not. The women whom we would have normally picked up, the women who weren't so sure initially that they even wanted to be Greek, chose not to participate in Rush at all. And our numbers dropped. And our reputation was not so good. "Not so good" meaning we weren't all skinny and loaded and cookie-cutter-ish.

In 2000 our chapter closed. There were not enough women to financially keep the house running and our nationals really had no choice but to put the current women on alumnae status and close up shop. Fast forward to Delta Zeta.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Weaner

I think we're finished nursing. Since Joshua's first birthday we've only been nursing four times per day: when he wakes up, before each nap, and before bed. Somewhere around the first of the year we stopped nursing before bed since Jay took charge of bedtime duty. Two weekends ago we decided to try stopping before each nap and it was Jay to the rescue once again. He put Joshua to bed for his naps so Joshua wouldn't think he was going to get to nurse before he went to sleep. And on Monday when Jay went back to work Joshua let me put him to sleep without asking to nurse.

This past Monday we had a houseful of company and Joshua just seemed to forget about nursing in the morning. (Jay usually brings him to me while I'm still in bed to nurse). Jay and I decided to go with that and Jay stopped bringing him in the bedroom. It's been five days and, although he occasionally asks, he easily distracted by other activities.

I'm a little sad although I felt it was time. I wanted to wean him far enough in advance of the next baby that he didn't feel like he got kicked off so someone else could partake. But now I'm paranoid about him not getting the extra immune system boost that has kept him essentially illness-free for the first 15 months of his life. I miss the bond, but not the excruciating pain that had accompanied nursing since I've been pregnant again.

But for someone who was on the phone with her Lactation Consultant, in tears, only four days home from the hospital, I'm pretty glad we made it this far. And the girls can get a rest for the next six months before they're called into duty again.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

It wasn't until we moved to Chicago that Jay and I finally came out of the closet as foodies. Jay had been much more interested in gourmet meals than I, especially when I lived in Boston. But I was a poor graduate student, and a fun dinner out for me meant Pizzeria Uno or, if we were going to be really fancy, Legal Sea Foods. As a result, we missed a lot of great cuisine in a city that offered food of all types. So when we moved to Chicago (after living in the California desert for two years) Jay finally convinced me that it would be fun to splurge every once in a while on a great meal. So for big occasions (each of our birthdays, our anniversary, and Valentine's Day) we'd forego giving each other gifts and instead go out in the city for a superb meal. Some of our favorites were Crofton on Wells, MK, Blackbird, and Onesixty Blue

The latter was our choice for Valentine's Day 2005, which was the most monumental Valentine's Day ever for us... We celebrated with champagne (compliments of the cute little gift bag we got when left the restaurant), chocolate-covered strawberries (courtesy of one of the great parishioners at the church where I was working), and a to-die-for meal. Nine months later, yep, a little boy.

We haven't done much to celebrate Valentine's Day since then. Last year we said Hello to each other as Jay clocked out of Joshua Duty and I clocked in. This year, as we were standing in the bathroom, Jay said to me, "Hey, isn't today Valentine's Day?" "Oh, I guess it is," I said, "Happy Valentine's Day!" And that was about it. We're not sure what to do now that we don't have a big meal to splurge on. Heck, I can't even have wine with dinner tonight.

So I guess "Happy Valentine's Day" will have to do!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Much Better

It seems that the gods of television felt the need to make up for last Sunday's "commercial" debacle, so they gave us a pretty great Grammy's show tonight.

How cool was it that The Police opened the show? And that the Red Hot Chili Peppers finished it? (although I wish that The Police had played more and that the Chili Peppers had played Dani California, but I can't really complain). And everything in between was tasteful (except for Natalie Maines' Simpson's quote) and interesting and energizing. Even the Chevy commercials were good! How about that!

Already looking forward to next year!

Update: I have read many reviews of the Grammys, and apparently I'm the only one who thought it was a good show. I guess my standards are lower than I thought!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Taking a Moment to Be a Poo

I have to admit that I wasn't exactly excited about the Super Bowl. Maybe it's because I have a head cold that's making me groggy and lethargic. Maybe it's because I'm limping out of my first trimester of pregnancy. Maybe it's both. By all accounts I should have been glued to the television. First of all, I'm a huge Tennessee football fan, which automatically makes me somewhat sympathetic towards Peyton and the Colts. Second, I lived in Chicago for the last five years. But I just wasn't fired up.

Jay, Joshua, and I had dinner and then Jay and I got Joshua ready for bed. While Jay was doing to final honors in Joshua's bedtime routine I went to the living room and turned on the game for the first time. It was halfway through the second quarter. The game was on long enough for me to catch the score before it cut to commercial.

The first commercial was a Bud ad where one guy holds out his fist to his buddy to congratulate him on some victory. The buddy explains that "fist bumps are out," and when the first guy asks what's "in" his buddy slaps him across the face. The remaining thirty seconds of the commercial were a visual feast of grown men slapping each other across the face.

As if that weren't enough, the second commercial was for a blood-pressure medication. Some unsuspecting fellow in a heart costume is walking down the street when he's accosted by a gang of thugs labeled Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, Weight Problems, and High Cholesterol. They throw him into a van and drive him to an alley where they proceed to sucker punch him and throw him into brick walls.

And I had to ask myself, why the violence? Why the need to show people smacking each other around? At $2.5 million dollars for 30 seconds of airtime, can companies not be a little more creative than that? Is it that funny?

This was only compounded by the fact that about two commercials later I had to watch that poor GM robot commit suicide by jumping off of a bridge after he'd been fired from the plant.

Why stop at grown men beating the snot out of each other when we can make light of severe depression and suicidal thoughts, too?

I'm really not a stick in the mud, I promise. I laugh at things that are funny. I even laugh (sometimes) at tasteless things that are funny. I'm even juvenile and tasteless myself on occasion. But I don't understand why people smacking each other around and committing suicide (I know it was a robot, but it was designed to appear somewhat human and the intention was for the viewer to have an empathic response to it) is supposed to pass for good advertising. I really don't.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Things I've Discovered Since Becoming a Parent

Sometimes you sacrifice that roll of paper towels so you can have fifteen extra minutes to clean up the kitchen.