Thursday, March 26, 2015

Why I love the Greek system.

I was in a sorority. It shaped my college experience and I'm so thankful. Also? I kind of want to kick the ass of all the dumbass frat boys who are being all racist and rapey and giving the Greek system a bad name. You're gonna ruin it for everyone!

Some background: My freshman year, I attended a small women's college. It was lovely, and a perfect fit for many of my friends. However, it wasn't a perfect fit for me. I just wasn't happy there. So, I transferred to the large state university across the street.

At summer orientation, my mom convinced me to go through sorority rush. She figured that even if I didn't pledge, rush was a great way to meet people at this gigantic school where I literally knew no one. Both she and my dad had been Greek, and that's how they met. Mom regaled me with stories of fun mixers and homecoming floats and skits. She taught me the Greek alphabet as we trekked across my new campus.

I went through rush and found to my surprise that, for the most part, the women I met were normal. They were interesting and energetic and not at all fembots. They were individuals. Of course, there was the house where the girl asked me what my daddy did, and I made a mental note that this was not my sorority, so I lied. I lied like a dog and was all, "Ohh, mah daddy's a surgeon." And then she was all, "Ohmygawd, mine too! What's his speciality?" And then I freaked out and was all, "Ohh, I'm from a small town, so he's a generalist." And she was all, "Ohmygawwwwd, my daddy is cardio." And then I ran outta that house. I ran like the wind!

Eventually, I pledged the house where I looked at the seniors and thought, "I'd like to be like them." They were poised, and they were leaders. It wasn't the "best" house, or the "hottest" house, but it was the perfect house for me.

A non-Greek friend recently asked me if I liked being Greek because it meant instant friends. I was taken aback. That wasn't it at all. Like any group, there were people I connected with and people whom I very much did not care for. It's just like any other organization in that way. And sorority sisters aren't instant friends.

What I loved about the sorority experience was that it provided structure and opportunity. It gave me ways to connect with people I might not have otherwise met. And it provided the chance to do new things. I sang in the university's main auditorium. I got leadership experience serving on the house exec board. And, of course, I attended events where I could meet boys.

But here's the thing: I never considered the Greek system patriarchal.

I was a women's studies minor, and I was careful never to wear Greek letters on days when I had a women's studies class. It was just too complicated. But I never understood how I should feel subjugated by a system that gave me and my female cohorts leadership experience. If you want a resume builder, being active in the Greek community is it. There are always philanthropies to organize and steering committees on which to serve. More than half of those positions were filled by women. How could a system that was helping women grow and serve and learn be bad?
Yeah, I'm dressed like Pinocchio, but I'm learning stuff. It was a skit. Not, like, what I wore to class.

As for the very important "meeting boys" component? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that basically every college organization thrives because students are looking for ways to do stuff they like. And "stuff they like" is "romantic partners."

Just sayin'.

The stereotypes are funny, and some people are so, so dumb. But most of the people I met in the Greek system were kind, funny, smart folks. I was supremely blessed to make some fantastic, life-long friends through my sorority. These are the kind of friends you could call at 3 a.m. from a truck stop. True friends.

We weren't hazed. The national Greek organizations are so scared of lawsuits that they shut that business DOWN. Funny thing, though - the small sororities at my women's college? They weren't affiliated with national sororities, and they hazed the crap outta their pledges. There wasn't anyone around to keep them in check.

The recent trouble in Greekland is really disturbing. But instead of it being a call to shut the entire system down, it's a call for more adult involvement. The painful truth is that 19-year-olds don't have fully formed brains. They can be dumb as hell. They need responsible house parents and active alumni to help keep things in check. More education about race and violence against women is needed, too.

But don't let a few bad apples ruin the pi.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

This is what adulthood looks like.

Have you ever had to decide between convenience and possibly killing your loved ones?

I'm a pretty OK cook. And I make a mean chili - I lovingly craft the vegan chili of my dreams, and cook up ground turkey on the side for my carnivorous husband.

All of this magic happens in a kitchen about the size of a Kleenex, and with kitchen utensils that are, in large part, hand-me-downs. Friends, Pyrex lasts forever.
You know what else lasts forever? Those little glass bowls you could get at the grocery store by collecting stamps. I have my grandma's collection, and I use them every day. I feel like they are rare, fragile gems, even though I imagine they're worth about 37 cents.

Turns out they also aren't fragile. Ask me how I know! It might be something to do with the fact that I dropped one last night while making chili. The bowl bounced into the dish rack, and there was a loud crash, but I couldn't find a crack or chip in the bowl. I chalked it up to Grandma looking out for me, and continued making chili.

The chili part of the chili was simmering along. The turkey part of the chili was almost done, and just needed to finish cooking. I grabbed the skillet lid out of the dish rack and tipped it over the turkey. As I did, there was a tinkling little racket.


I looked back at the dish rack. While Grandma's little grocery store bowl was unscathed, it had completely obliterated the Mr. Coffee carafe. The dish rack was full of broken glass. And the skillet lid had been full of broken glass, too.

I had dumped shards of broken glass into my husband's ground turkey. I had effectively ensured that he would have to go coffee-less in the morning, but I had also maybe figured out a way to kill him before then.

I looked at the turkey. I was so hungry, and the chili was done. Maybe I could fish out the glass. Maybe I could just rinse it off. It would probably be fine, right? Why, with all the diet pop he drinks, his stomach was probably already accustomed to such roughage.

I thought about it. I really did.

And then I dumped the turkey in the trash, fished some chicken out of the fridge, and started over. Because sometimes being responsible is a giant pain in the ass.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pretend they're happy tears.

I'm a terrible, horrible person. You probably are, too. But we're talking about me. Get your own blog.


See, a friend has received a great blessing. She's so happy, and excited.

On the surface, I am gracious and happy for my friend. But inside? Inside, I look like every monster from every 1950s B-movie horror show. I have fangs and scales and bulging eyes and bad, bad breath. I'm ugly.
I look like this. But worse. Definitely with more nose hair.

My friend is pregnant.

Now, in the land of Childless and Going With It, you aren't supposed to feel feelings when someone else has a baby. If you didn't spend a gajillion dollars on IVF until it took, or you didn't pursue every avenue of adoption until your house was filled with 27 kids, well, you just didn't want parenthood bad enough. You didn't earn the right to grieve.

But I'm still here. And I'm still grieving. And I feel horrible for feeling so ugly about my friend's good news.

She will be an amazing mother. I truly wish her and her lucky little baby every joy and blessing. I can't wait to smell that baby's head, because baby heads are the best.

But it also makes me sad.

Why wasn't it me?

Why am I one of three childless women I know in, like, the whole world? Why does this still hurt? Why do I feel like a defective typewriter?

I was never one of those women whose lives would be meaningless without kids. Longtime readers know that there was a time when I was pretty actively in the "Oh, hell no" camp when it came to children. But people change, and situations change, and I fell in love and I wanted to have a family with this amazing man. It just didn't turn out quite the way we planned.

Our line in the infertility sand was no treatments that would increase my breast cancer risk. With my family history, this precaution wasn't just lip service - it was necessary. So, our treatment options were limited.

As for adoption? My parents offered to help financially. It felt very "How much for zee little gurl?" But it didn't feel right. My husband and I tabled adoption talk until we could right our emotional ships. And then it just never felt like the right time to pursue adoption. And then we realized it wasn't right for us at all. We will contribute to the world in other ways.

And so, here we are.

We make grandiose proclamations like, "Since we don't have to put anyone through college, we should go on fabulous vacations!" And yet, we can't agree on where to go. We set up college funds for our nieces and nephews, and go back to the same beachfront hotel year after year. And year after year, I am troubled by seeing the same poolside waiter, and I wonder if he has any retirement savings at all. I am redirecting my maternal instincts.

This is life. This is our life.

We've made peace with a world where we don't have kids. When a teacher pal mentioned a high school student who was pregnant and half-joked that she'd get the girl to give us her baby, I wasn't filled with hope. I was filled with panic, and with dread at the thought of having to say, "That's not our baby. No."

Because we don't have a baby. We won't. I had to shut that door because I couldn't move forward while still contemplating the "maybe." I had to say "no" for my own emotional survival, and to grow.

I get tired of friends and random people who can't talk about anything but kids, or who assume that everyone has kids, or who give me the sad head tilt of infertility empathy. If you really want to be empathetic, talk about something besides your kid. Also, buy me a drink. Because no 4-year-old is going to wake me up at 5 a.m. and I can sleep it off.

But if you really want to be kind? Please don't judge me too harshly. When I cry at a friend's good news and may or may not be successful in playing it off as happy tears? Let it go. Play along. Later, act like you can't tell I just sobbed in the ladies' room.

I'm happy for my friend. I can't wait to smell that downy baby noggin. But it's all just a bit much.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

He puts the "goo" in "guru."

I'm having a week of "I couldn't possibly."

I couldn't possibly write yet another article about Joe's Mattress Shack. I couldn't possibly start our taxes. I couldn't possibly go to the gym. I couldn't possibly get out of bed.

I may be a teensy bit burned out.

And there's this DOG, right? Lil' Frank is so robust and healthy now, and he has boundless energy. He never says, "I couldn't possibly bark at that squirrel" or "I couldn't possibly lose my mind over my food," or "I couldn't possibly chase that raquetball for 7 hours."

Yes. Seven hours.

No. He just does it. His joie de vivre is mega annoying right now. It's like he's happy to be alive just to spite me.

Yesterday, I waited 45 minutes at the bank. I walked in feeling like a very important spy, because only very glamorous, spy-like people have actual safe-deposit boxes, and wasn't that exciting? But after 45 minutes of waiting and politely listening to an octogenarian dressed head-to-toe in purple talk about how the government is trying to program us all via mandatory vaccinations and how this nice young man named Rush has a radio show and perhaps I should check it out?

Well. I was no longer a glamorous spy. I couldn't possibly hold it together any longer.

But I did. And then the poor, frazzled bank lady said it was my turn, and she apologized about 17 times. Then, she paused and said, "I seriously love your outfit. You look so adorable."

And suddenly I was a glamorous spy-like person again - even if I didn't find what I wanted in the safe-deposit box.

I need to pay better attention. To the contents of the safe-deposit box, sure. But also to the other stuff.

Joe's Mattress Shack loves me and values my work, and that's why they want me to write yet another article about pillow-top comfort. I need to start our taxes because we are blessed with good jobs and so taxes are a thing. I need to go to the gym because my body works and isn't it amazing?

I need to look at Lil' Frank for what he is: a spiritual leader. A spiritual leader who occasionally pees on the floor. But a spiritual leader, nonetheless.
I'm wearing a parka. Clearly, I'm good at life.