My wife and I are pretty darn similar in numerous ways, but there’s at least one topic on which we diverge: during our respective college years, Martha was in a sorority, but I did not join a fraternity. Being a member of Alpha Omicron Pi was an enjoyable and fairly important part of my wife’s time at Hanover, and she defends Greek life (in a non-defensive way) whenever I make a snide comment (or two) about it. Ultimately, there were several reasons for my decision not to rush or pledge; this post centers on one pause-giving incident that arose very early in my collegiate life.
Back in the day, rush at Transy occurred over the first couple of weeks of classes—perhaps it still does. This practice didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I do recognize there are benefits to going Greek, such as having a support group and gaining networking opportunities after college. But I have a difficult time imagining the way things were set up at TU gave everyone involved time to make reasoned decisions about which, if any, group to join, never mind the accompanying need for merging pledge life with the whole adjusting-to-college thing. On the other hand, it really didn’t take long to discern the “personality” of each of the four fraternities and four sororities on campus, so maybe one could make a quick determination of which one(s) to target. (Another conflicting thought: where I work, recruitment—that’s what they call it now—doesn’t happen until January. Might this have the effect of turning the fall semester into one long, informal rush?)
I elected not to go through the process that first September, mostly because I did want to find my feet in my new surroundings before tackling anything so time-consuming as that. I was a legacy of Pi Kappa Alpha; being in that group had meant a lot to my father. I became pretty certain pretty quickly, though, that Pike life wasn’t for me.
My recollection is that Bid Day arrived for the women first, I believe on a Sunday; the corresponding event for the men would have occurred the following Friday afternoon. My then-roommate pledged, as did a number of the guys on my hall. I think it’s fair to say that in many cases (though certainly not all), the choices we made regarding affiliation or lack thereof in that opening month impacted our relationships going forward. Some of our initial friendships strengthened, while others faded away. It’s completely understandable in retrospect, given the limited number of hours we had to allocate, though it doesn’t mean I necessarily expected that at the time.
But going Greek is a two-way street, as I realized on the women’s Bid Day. This was most likely to have been September 19th (the other possible date would be the 12th, but that’s only eight days after we new students arrived; that feels awfully quick). At this point, I was still in the process of trying to sort out which campus organizations I actually might want to join. I had volunteered to go with a group to a church on the south end of Lexington to help manage activities for pre-school-aged kids, I guess while Sunday evening services were going on. (If I want to feel really old, I suppose I could chew on the fact that those children are now around 40.) I rode out there with at least two fellow students, both women. The one not driving was a sophomore, and it was clear early on in the trip that she was upset. Through tears, she told us she had not received a bid that afternoon. I don’t remember now if she had aimed for a specific sorority or had been shut out across the board—for all I know, this might have been her second time through without success. The driver was appropriately sympathetic; I, having just met her fifteen minutes before, stayed quiet in the back seat, but I certainly felt badly for her. I suppose I was also taken aback a little. Until then I was probably somewhat naïve about quotas and realizing a group could actively turn someone down for membership. It was an education to see the flip side of all the shouting and excitement one sees when pledge classes are first introduced.
There was one frat that I think would have been a decent fit for me temperamentally, but I didn’t strongly consider investigating to see if they’d have me. My dad was at least a little disappointed in that (though he was okay with me rejecting my legacy after I described to him the excesses of some of his current brothers’ behavior). I didn’t lack for friends—many were fellow independents, but plenty weren’t, too. It all worked out for me just fine. I didn’t have many other interactions with that unhappy young woman, but I hope it worked out for her, too—perhaps sometime later she received an open bid.
If I’m right about the date above, then Tané Cain’s lone AT40 appearance began that weekend, the first of three in a row for her at #37. At the time, she was married to former-Babys-then-Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain. A little research indicates the accompanying album got decent reviews but stiffed in stores. I like “Holdin’ On” well enough, but I can’t shake the feeling that her voice doesn’t quite stay in tune on the question “Am I wrong?” in the chorus. I remember hearing it on WLAP-FM for a few weeks; it showed up on a K-Tel collection, Blast Off, I got on cassette several months later. For years that was where I’d have to turn if I wanted to hear it.