There are probably many reasons you chose to come to Yale. World-class academics, intimate residential colleges, the tradition, the company of scholars, the society of friends, the city of New Haven (?). Odds are you are did not come to Yale for the Greek life. If you did come to Yale for the Greek life, I think you’re confused.
Unless you mean this kind of Greek life. Looking at you, DS kids.
According to the experts over at colleges.niche.com, Yale gets a C in Greek life. For comparison, we have a B- in weather. It’s still a passing grade, but these folks on the Internet are more impressed with -15 degree windchill than the fraternities and sororities here.
Back in January I went through the process of rushing the sororities here. As the token “person who is in a sorority” at the Boola, here is a quick play-by-play of just the first night of rush.
The Build-Up: The build-up to the night is long. Given the numbers on how many people rush a sorority at Yale, I assume that most of the campus is incredibly indifferent. However, if like me, five of your six suitemates are also rushing, the suite is buzzing with nerves. We all fear the prospect of “girl flirting” and making potentially awkward small talk. People are primping, putting on fresh makeup and straightening their hair, armed to charm the hell out of the sorority girls. I exchange my sweatshirt for a ~nice sweater~.
Bringing my A game tonight, everybody.
The Gathering: Before the night begins, all the rushees gather in LC. I actually stop in my tracks as I enter the room. I describe it later to friends as “a lot of estrogen.” It is organized chaos. Every seat in LC 102 is filled, so I have to step around girls sitting on the floor. I hadn’t really noticed how high-pitched some girl’s voices can be until everyone is shrieking across the room at their friends.
I sit down with some floor-dwellers and wait.
The Great Migration: We are divided into smaller groups to walk to different events hosted by each sorority. The snow has mercifully stopped, and we bravely trudge on between the BK Mendenhall Room and the BK Multipurpose Room and, much to everyone’s chagrin, the far-off land of Swing Space. Traveling in a pack of nearly 50, we successfully manage to stop traffic and annoy drivers whenever we cross roads. Like all sorority girls should, we are turning heads as people stop to ask where we are all going. One guy takes a not-so-subtle photo of us as we patiently wait in alphabetical order outside Mendenhall.
No time to answer questions. No time for strange men taking photos.
The Entrance, Part I: Sweet Serenades: After waiting a specified amount of time in a perfect line outside each room, we enter. At each we are greeted by current members of the sorority singing. The songs always include the sorority’s name, and they are always, always upbeat and catchy. You know how everyone remarks about how uncomfortable it is when people sing happy birthday to you? Where do you look? The cake? Your friends, while alternating between a grin and a poker face? There is a similar dynamic here. Everyone is very excited and friendly at these events, but regardless of the occasion, there is something awkward about silently looking at people while they sing at you.
And I repeat: these songs are catchy as hell. You’ll be singing Greek letters to yourself the whole next day.
The Entrance, Part II: The Stuff of Nightmares: The sororities pair each rushee off with a current member by having a line of current members that grab each rushee one-by-one as they enter the room. In my group of rushees, I am alphabetically last, so I enter the room last. This is fortunate because I can see what is in store for me. As I count the current members and determine which girl will grab me, I steel myself for the moment we will meet. Do we shake hands? Hug? Just nod and smile? Luckily my question is answered for me when the girl smiles and loops her arm through mine like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.
And she whisks me off to the magical land of srat.
Unfortunately the next two entrances do not go as perfectly. In one, all the girls in front of me are shaking hands with each other, so I extend my hand to do the same when it is my turn. I receive a blank stare.
See the despair in Tom Brady’s eyes? Same.
My last entrance of the night is a mess from start to finish. As I walk toward the girl, she shrieks excitedly and opens her arms wide for what I assume is a hug. I begin to reciprocate, and what happens next I don’t even understand. She turns her body at the last second and puts just one of her arms around me in a tight sidehug. I try to stick the landing, but one of my arms is now squashed between our bodies like a T-Rex arm while the other is still semi-raised in anticipation of a hug.
Like I said, these interactions are the stuff of nightmares.
The Main Event (Girl Flirting): Now that I am paired off with my new sorority pal, the small talk begins. Throughout the half-hour event, a group of current sorority members rotates through and talks to different rushees. This is the meat of the night, so here are just a few observations on how it all goes down:
- You can probably guess the questions that are asked first: Where are you from? What classes are you taking? What college are you in? What do you do on campus? After having repeated this information to at least twelve people, I am so incredibly bored with myself.
My biography more or less boils down to this by the end of the night.
- If you ever go through rush, just know that you will become painfully aware of the words you say too much. Do you know how many times I say “oh cool!” in response to a story? Too damn many.
- The rooms are loud. This leads to a few struggles. I soon realize that the girls armed with water bottles are the smart ones, while I stand there like a parched fool, straining my voice to talk over everyone. But more tragically, the loud rooms lead to awkward pauses and a whole lot of nodding and saying, “Oh, yeah, yeah…” when you can’t hear a person’s question.
And without fail, it was *not* a yes/no question.
- Inevitably, there will be a few awkward moments. You will forget a girl’s name the second she says it. (Thank you, name tags.) You and a girl just won’t mesh. You will make an inappropriate joke that is not well-received. But do not despair. Eventually you will find a girl who just gets you, and your time talking to each other will seem all too short, and you will just know that you are meant to be a srat star.
Because real talk: those people make the awkwardness worth it.