I recently decided that if I’m going to write, I want to write about passion, with passion, passionately. Because if I had to pick one thing I believe in–it would be the power of words, of language. A single (literally one) word can ruin or improve your day. Someone passes you in the hallway on a day you’re wearing a new item of clothing, and they say, “Oh, that [item] is nice.” And you think, NICE? I just spent $200 on this NICE thing. What do you mean, nice? And then you sit and stew about it for hours, until you decide finally at the end of the day that you no longer wish to own your new thing.
Okay, or maybe that’s just me, because I’m dramatic. But I know I’m not wrong about words. They are the structure of everything. The building blocks of love, or of hatred, or of pain–especially when there is an obvious lack of them. [That’s called the silent treatment, and I am very good at it.] I guess that’s why I was an English major–I just get them.
That is my overblown explanation for why I haven’t written on this blog for a while. I haven’t been passionate about anything in particular, so I’m not going to waste energy on something I know I won’t like. But today, today, I have a lot of words.
Today is November 16th. On this day in 1970, a group of women, formerly members of a national sorority that just didn’t quite fit what they were looking for, founded something that would change the lives of women for years to come. I’m not much of a history buff, but I owe a lot to these ladies. And that’s what I want to write about today. This sorority. These women, who (perhaps unknowingly) changed the definition of what it meant to be a sorority woman–maybe not on a national scale, but for the few and proud of us who call ourselves Daisies.
As a freshman, I hated most things about college. [I would venture to say all of them, but I’m not that much of an extremist.] I didn’t drink, or party, or go out to clubs, because I was raised in a log cabin in the middle of cow town New Jersey and that was just not who I was. So when my friend Kate convinced me to attend a sorority open house with her in the Spring of 2009, I was pretty sure the constant diet of Easy Mac and Ben & Jerry’s had gone to my brain, not my hips. (Really it was both.) Kate is alt-cool; I was constantly surprised that she wanted to be my friend, because I considered myself to be far less interesting than she. With her lip ring, tattoos, incredible sense of humor, and really neat clothing, she was a lot of the things I wanted for myself but didn’t have the means to be. Anyway, I was surprised she even wanted to join a sorority, but on our way to the house that night she said, “No, really. The girl who invited me has a lip piercing, too. They’re cool. They’re all really cool.” [That girl then became Kate’s Big. Fate.]
The open house only lasted about an hour, but in that hour I chatted with no fewer than ten girls, all with piercings, and/or tattoos, and/or really cool, un-pretentious (maybe a word?) personalities. I was so confused. This…well, this can’t be a sorority, can it? I thought. These girls don’t give a fuck about what other people think, and isn’t the point of being in a sorority–to give A LOT of fucks, and to overly care about how you look, act, dress, and feel at all times? Kate and I walked home, both very excited, and me very grateful to her for making me go. An hour later, we got phone calls offering us bids. [I had no idea that was even on the table. I thought it was just an informational session. Oops.]
I was in this sorority for four years, so don’t worry–I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow on everything that happened over that period of time. But the beginning of the story is very important, and this is it: I, like most (if not all) the girls who joined, did not consider myself to be “sorority material.” And, for the first semester (really, the first two semesters), I fought VERY HARD to not be a part of it. I tried to quit a bunch of times. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in the sorority–it’s that I still couldn’t believe they wanted me. Everyone was so COOL and I felt like less. It wasn’t until I had to fight for the sorority that I realized I was a million percent where I belonged.
My sophomore year, we almost lost it. It’s not important why. We didn’t do anything wrong, but it looked very much like the end of the road. And I, quiet Kelsey, had never felt so enraged, alive, PASSIONATE, about anything like it before–we needed to remain a sorority because suddenly I realized that I needed it. Non Compis Mentis is not about being anything but yourself, and I still had myself to find. Not to mention, I had formed some of the greatest friendships of my life, with people I still thought were more interesting than me, but whom I loved fiercely and couldn’t imagine not living with, laughing with, crying with, working on papers at midnight and eating celebratory Hostess cupcakes with when the clock struck 12 on our mutual birthday (looking at you, Twin). Sometimes it takes a really horrible experience it make you realize what matters the most, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it. No pain, no gain, they say. And they’re right. One day, I found myself in the crowded campus center at lunchtime going from table to table, asking people to sign a petition. Who the fuck am I, I thought.
I’m still awkward and strange, but NCM taught me that I’m doing just fine. It taught me to love flamingos and daisies, to not be afraid of other women, and to belong to yourself–not to what other people expect. I learned that it is cool to be smart—the opposite of what I encountered in elementary, middle, and high school — and that being philanthropic should be a priority. I also learned that being a part of something is not about self-promotion, but learning how to put yourself aside and promote a bigger cause. I learned how to be a Little; how to let someone strong and fantastic show me the way. And I learned to be a Big; to be a role model for my two incredible, incredible Littles, who really didn’t need much from me, but whom I was (and AM) very proud to call mine.
I took some of the greatest naps of my life in a chapter room full of screaming women.
Here’s the other thing–through NCM, and being a part of the sorority/fraternity environment on campus, I met a lot of the “typical sorority girl” types and let me say this–that label is bullshit. It doesn’t exist. Television and movies like to make us think that every sorority girl is tan, bleach blonde, judgmental, and materialistic, and that’s just not real. Are there sorority women like that? Yes. Most definitely. But I’ve met many a tan, bleach blonde sorority lady, and the majority of them are just as fucking weird as my sisters. Maybe WEIRD is the typical sorority girl. Who knows. But being in NCM forced me to realize that I was perpetuating inaccurate stereotypes. And on that note, not all fraternity guys are out to rape you, either. Oh, believe me, I know many a douchey frat boy–but I also know just as many fraternity men who are smart, motivated, and genuinely great people. So to everyone who refuses to change their perception of the “Greek Standard,” fuck you. We didn’t buy our friends. We bought t-shirts and the right to live in awesome houses. The incredible friends we made were free of charge.
The worst thing about being in NCM was graduating. I don’t live in Florida anymore, and I can only name maybe 30% of the current active sisters. Being an alumna is so shitty sometimes, and it often seems unfair, but then I remember alumni weekend is coming up. And there’s Facebook. And there is my brain, full of memories about eating Taco Bell and going to Midnight Mass at Backbooth (not a church) and carrying cardboard Justin Bieber around campus. Being a part of NCM doesn’t end with graduation, it just changes a little. For example–now I have a job, and a consistent paycheck, so I can now actually AFFORD all the flamingo items/alcohol that I want. It’s totally new and I’m still adjusting.
Happy Birthday, NCM. You’re the wings beneath my wings (as my boss said the other day–accidental, but accurate). Here’s the 43 more years (and then a million years after that) of helping weirdos like me accept themselves for how strange they really are.
And now here are some photos. I’m not explaining them. This is a short snapshot of 4 years of insanity. But hey, at least it’s chronological….mostly.