I had an unbelievable college experience. Like so unbelievable that you should be jealous. I spent four glorious years at the University of Florida taking it all in and loving every minute. There is NOTHING like Gator football and Basketball, especially when your school has a ridiculous athletics program (let’s pretend this debacle with Muschamp didn’t happen. My blog, my rules) and you are in a small college town where everything revolves around the school.
And then, when I thought it couldn’t get any better…I pledged a sorority.
Let me back up a second. When I was a junior/senior in high school, I decided I was going to attend Tulane in New Orleans. I had never been to New Orleans, didn’t know anyone from New Orleans, and knew nothing about Tulane. This was a completely arbitrary decision based on nothing realistic. I probably liked the logo and the idea of leaving Florida for a few years. So, my parents said, “You can look at Tulane after you visit the Florida schools and give us a solid reason why you don’t want to stay in state.”
Fine. Noooo problem. I’m sure I can come up with a number of reasons and I’m super persuasive. Let’s do it.
I visited FSU (not for me), UCF (not for me) and then UF…I DID NOT WANT TO COME HOME. I went during a game weekend, and all I know is as I got swallowed up in the ocean of orange and blue, I was hooked.
I applied. I got accepted. My parents were thrilled. Everybody wins.
I had a mostly normal trip up to get moved in. My parents accompanied me to get my dorm room all set just like every other incoming freshman. There was one weird thing though. As the sea of parents started dissipate and head home after a day or two, mine did not. They were there for a full week. I’m not kidding. My dorm room could not have been more than 300 sq feet (in the interest of full disclosure, I am horrible at estimating anything with numbers so that could be wrong), yet my mom stayed a full week with countless trips to walmart (don’t judge, Target didn’t even exist there yet), Publix, the bank to open accounts and a million other things that probably involved shower caddies and ramen noodles in bulk.
When they left and it sunk it I was really on my own (except that they were footing the entire bill), I was in heaven. Then rush happened. I visited all of the houses. I saw lots of pearls, lots of bows, lots of perfectly styled hair. As the process went on, I cut some houses from my list, some cut me, and then there were three. My mom was “concerned” because I cut one of the two “Jewish” houses…on purpose, and only kept the other out of obligation (Jewish guilt). When all was said and done, I got a bid from my first choice – Zeta Tau Alpha, and I literally cried. I wanted lots of pearls, lots of bows and lots of perfectly styled hair.
“But Rachel…Jewish sororities hang out with Jewish fraternities…how will you meet a nice Jewish boy.”
“Mom, I’m pretty sure the Jewish boys like blonde shicksas (that’s non-jewish girls for my “sisters”), so don’t worry, they’ll come around and when my sisters push them to the side, this token Jewish brunette will be right there to swoop in.”
I spent (my parents spent) hundreds of dollars on anything that had the ZTA letters on it – shirts, rain jackets, hats, keychains, you name it. I was hooked and within a few days I was rocking a ponytail with a perfectly tied, color coordinated ribbon pretty much every day. I met the most incredible girls and felt so at home and was so happy that it made my parents forget that we sang about Jesus before dinner. The best memories of my college life are tied to that house, those girls and the sisterhood I experienced.
So, cut to present day when someone suggests having a ZTA reunion in Gainesville sans kids and men. Did I want to go? Does a bear shit in the woods? Don’t ever eff with a group of sorority girls when it comes to planning…within a week of said suggestion there were hotel blocks set up, football ticket blocks, a facebook page sharing details, tailgates planned, paypal accounts to collect for everything, brunch at the ZTA house planned and freaking tumblers, tshirts and anything you could imagine with our specially designed ZTA Alumni weekend logo. It was nothing short of amazing.
I love my daughter more than any human being in the entire world, but mothers who say they don’t need a break are either on psychotropic drugs or lying…or both. The idea of sleeping in a hotel room with grown ups, having no bedtime routine, not having to pay a sitter, not have to pack a lunch and not have to do carpool sounded like Heaven on Earth. And. It. Was.
Getting to the hotel, seeing all the faces I hadn’t seen in so long, and immediately leaving to hit the bars was the best. The fact that a drink was less than a Starbucks Caramel Machiatto was better and even softened the blow of hearing a coed dressed in an offensively tight pair of pants (that I totally would have worn if I looked like her) say “There’s a lot of old people here tonight.” And she was right, there were a lot of old people there – about 100ish of us invaded that town that weekend.
The first night is a blur to be honest. It started with dinner and drinks; progressed to switching spots and more drinks; taking over the dance floor at a gay bar and drinks and probably other things I can’t recall. The difference this time around was we were responsible enough to set an alarm to remind us to take advil so it wouldn’t hurt as much the next day. We are so old.
The next day was gameday, and even though we were having a painful season, it was still so great to be back in the Swamp. And don’t even get me started on the tailgate. I didn’t even know (as a college student) that real grownups did this. There was food, alcohol, giant flat screens and tons of shade coming from our enormous tents. I felt like a baller.
Being back at the house was nostalgic and wonderful. Same house, same kitchen staff, same feel, different ZTAs. I could feel the two sides looking at each other like. “Wow, I was one of them a million years ago,” and “They’re so old they actually used the phone booth in our foyer because they didn’t have cell phones.”
There was a lot of laughing and also some tears and even talk about the next reunion before this one had even come to an end. I was exhausted and it was worth every missed minute of sleep and the massive 2 day hangover.
And I couldn’t help but think of my own daughter. I hope wherever she goes (University of Florida) and whatever sorority she pledges (Zeta Tau Alpha), she gets to experience the value of being surrounded by strong, smart, beautiful sisters.
And that she does not have a sip of beer until she is at least 21.
All kidding aside, if she chooses to be part of any Greek system, I hope she appreciates the bonds and memories she will create. Because I have to tell you, no matter how many years have passed and how many different places we live in, when we were all together again for this brief weekend, it was like no time had passed at all. I knew I made the right decision when I was 18, and this reunion further validated that in every way possible.
Can’t wait to see these ladies again soon.