A few weeks ago, a member of a (what will remain unnamed) national fraternity said to a room of my sisters and me, “Why do you guys wear your letters so much? It’s not like they mean anything to anyone else.” After taking a few days to get my blood down from a roaring boil to just a slightly aggressive simmer, I thought about this statement.
The picture above shows all 38 active members of my sorority, with our house behind us. There are options to pledge both local and national organizations at my small, liberal arts college, and I chose to go local. In no way, shape, or form do I regret my decision to pick local over national. Here’s why.
1. Drinking in our letters is not only allowed, it’s encouraged.
When everyone stops to wonder who that girl pounding Natty Lights like a champ is, we want everyone to know she’s one of ours.
2. It’s small, which means I know every single sister inside and out.
I’ll never run into someone at Disney World wearing my letters who I don’t recognize. You could see this as a positive or negative, but I like knowing when I see my letters, I know the person wearing them.
3. This includes alumnae.
There are a limited number of alumnae, but almost all of them come back for events like Homecoming, and we get to know them just as well as the sisters we pledged with. And they’re great. Networking works just as well when you personally know all the sisters AND alumnae.
4. About 90 percent of my $120 dues come back to me in the form of alcohol.
I’m not paying money to an anonymous fund known as “grand chapter” or something. I know where my money is going, what it is being spent on, and how it’s coming back to me.
5. Old stuff.
I have so much old stuff that was willed down to me and it’s wonderful. My roommate has a legacy paddle from the ’90s and I have a jacket that’s at least as old as the ’80s. We have songs we sing from as late as 1963, to which the words have never been written down because, well, we’re not allowed. This is in addition to old, comfy sweatshirts, T-shirts, knickknacks–the list goes on.
6. I can trace my family line back at least 11 generations.
If I really tried hard enough, I could probably manage to make it all the way back to the start of our line. We have been writing down family lines almost since our sorority was founded. The ability to look back and see pictures of your great-great-great-great-great-great-grandbig and know that, if she had chosen another sorority, you might not even be here is an unexplainable feeling. It truly makes you feel connected to your organization’s past and future.
7. There are no Standards.
The only person you have to answer to about the questionable decisions you made the night before is your own moral compass. Again. Positive and negative.
8. We still do just as much community service and philanthropy work as national organizations do.
Last year, my sorority raised more than $2,000 and donated 15 braids of hair to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths charity. This might not seem like a lot, but at a school with less than 1,700 students and a sorority with 38 girls, it’s not too shabby. We also help out at local animal sanctuaries, with the Special Olympics, and work with various other charities every year.
9. There’s more chance for leadership with a smaller group.
Being the president of a local sorority has all the responsibilities and duties of being the president of a national chapter. In a local chapter, there is just more of a chance for you to step up and fill these roles. And for those who don’t want to step up and have responsibility, there are positions for you, too. You buy beer for the parties? Oh, you mean social coordinator.
10. Meetings hardly ever go longer than 45 minutes and are always a good time.
We end with a dirt poem, which calls everyone out on her embarrassing weekend shenanigans. Open business at my meetings often includes asking if anyone has a tampon, where the study room for the night is, or if anyone wants to make a trip to Wawa and eat the weekend’s regrets away. Plus, you never have to dress up. So for people like me, whose sorority holds meetings on Sunday nights, it is the greatest thing.
I worked hard to earn my letters, and I work hard to represent them the right way. I would take a bullet for any girl wearing those letters with me. Cult-like mentality? Perhaps. But that’s the way I like it. I will be graduating with 37 best friends and gain new ones every time a new pledge class joins our crazy family. My letters may not mean anything to you, but they mean the world to me. And that’s all that really matters.