Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Behind the Scenes on the First Day of Sorority Rush

I felt a little funny leaving my blog for Rosh Hashana with such a heavy-duty post. So I wanted to write a quickie about how I spent my day yesterday.

Pouring water. And waiting. In a tiny pantry.

I had been recruited by my sorority daughter to help on the first official day of "rush." For nine days now, that daughter has been imprisoned in her big brick building on Sorority Row, forbidden to leave for any reason (she had to make Shabbat in her room!). During those days--sacrificed from vacation, since actual school doesn't start till Sept. 29--the eighty girls in her sorority faced a grueling schedule that would try any athlete's prowess--they were memorizing dance moves. It's their ritualized version of "Sorority Musical," but in this one, they ALL look like Sharpay. But sweeter, of course.

Foremost on the list of routines was the "door chant," where, eight times per day for three days straight, they welcome a new group of recruits to their front portal. Supervised by a Rush Governess (my term), about 30 hopefuls in identical lavender t-shirts advertising their wanna-be status, stand outside the front door at the appointed time. Along the street, down the block, in front of the doors of the other sororities stand similar nervous clusters, waiting for the exact moment when their Governess mounts the steps to the front door and gives it three loud raps.

That's the cue. The sorority girls' choreography falls in place to their shrieked cheer-like chant--popping up from alternating upper and lower-story windows, opening the front door to reveal a human pyramid of girls, lines of girls jumping out in front of the door and then quickly back in. Waving their arms! Leaping to and fro! Pouncing on each others' backs! At TOP VOLUME!!!

Sorority Row is a frenzy of screaming girls, awed girls, wow'd girls...each group in newly-delivered matching t-shirts, hair just-so, makeup passed inspection. The din is high-pitched and extreme! Then, as suddenly as it began, it stops. Emerging from the front door to the wide-eyed neophytes are a pair of ambassadors: "Welcome to the Delta Chai Epsilon Whatever House!! We want to get to know YOU! Please COME ON IN!!"

I must confess to something. I was not supposed to exist anywhere near that display. I was supposed to be back in the kitchen behind closed doors wearing my white apron. Instead, as the recruits gathered in front, I tip-toed out the back door, skulked along the edge of the parking lot, dashed across the street (where some frat boys sat along their Animal House stairs, anticipating the show) and ducked behind some cars. With my camera set on "video."

In my clandestine hideout, I didn't have the best view, but I did capture a lot of it. Of course, the whole thing was maybe, oh, three minutes long. Once the greeters started admitting the freshmen, I darted back, along the far fence, behind the parked truck, and slipped in the back door, unseen. Two other moms and I were then stuck in the kitchen, awaiting any request for glasses of water. Unable to leave our nook for fifty minutes, when the second round began.

I heard the second chant from behind an inside doorjamb, but eased my camera lens sooooo inobtrusively around the door frame's edge to get a partial record of the performance from the rear--and RAN into the kitchen before it ended, lest I be observed. Apparently the whole event is monitored by snoopy Pan-Hellenic officials who give houses "points off" if anyone other than actual sorority members is even glimpsed momentarily.

The second group, as with alternating batches throughout the day, was to be served "juice." The sorority had rented a hundred stemmed goblets for the occasion, and our job, we moms of the netherworld, was during the eight minutes between visitors' exit and new chant to quickly fill the glasses with flavored seltzer and ice, and carry them out to two locations in the living room, clearing away any used glasses from before. The "juice" round was when the volunteer moms were under pressure--we had to swoop out of the pantry with dishwasher racks, dump leftover water and insert the hundred glasses upside down, clean up paper napkins, wipe any spills, and hustle to make ourselves invisible. Then we waited in our stifling cranny, standing, doing nothing, until the tinkly bell signaling the departure of another group of hopefuls.

I was never in a sorority. It seems like a lot of fun. Perhaps with its own drawbacks and ridiculousness; perhaps with too much emphasis on the external. But it certainly was a kick--for one day--to be a mole at "rush." And now you know about it, too. Have a sweet New Year!

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