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It's Not All Greek To Me: Confessions of an Independent


“So who is she?” I inquire.

“Well, she’s short, a little busty. Brunette. A Theta,” my friend tells me.

“And what about her friend?” “Skinny blonde. Tri Delt. Sweet girl.”

I keep feeding him names, and with each of his answers, I begin to notice a pattern: every girl comes labeled with a rather amateur hair analysis, followed promptly by a bunch of Greek letters. And when I ask my friend to describe girl after girl and, without fail, the first three attributes he touches on are her frame, her hair and her sorority affiliations, I’m suddenly curious as to how he or anyone else might describe me. So I ask.

“You … you’re a GDI,” he informs me.

“Translation, please?”

“A God Damn Independent.”

Interesting. I’m a tall, lanky GDI. And at the University of Pennsylvania, a school at which nearly a quarter of students—and many of my friends—are involved in fraternities, sororities and societies of all sorts, I have found that such social nomenclature is defining but not limiting. The acronyms are entertaining (SDT too often slips out as STD) but not all that annoying. Even at such a reputably gung-ho Greek university, the scene is present but, from my experiences, welcoming and enjoyable for Greeks and GDIs alike.

I didn’t rush last fall for a bunch of different reasons; first and foremost, I was totally oblivious to the process and pretty much only knew that it would be very cold and very full of girl-flirting, neither of which I’m particularly skilled at enduring. And as I welcomed my roommate and our friends into our dorm to thaw and soak their feet and pref their top picks post-“strawberries and champagne” rush events, I felt reassured that a sisterhood was not for me, but I also began thinking about how I would avoid becoming a network-lacking leper. I have since found my networks in other areas—in several volunteer groups, this very online magazine and in my friends, both Greek and not.

Perhaps the biggest misconception that I had about sororities and frats is that if you’re not in one, you therefore automatically hate all of them (and they hate you) either by principle or because they cut you during rush. My ecletic combo of roommates and best friends disproves this notion: I live with an AXO, a member of a non-Greek society that I describe as half-sorority-half-cult, and a Sigma Alpha Mu (yep, a boy. Progressive.).

And while I lack a lineage full of bigs and little-littles, I admittedly attend frat parties, Greek-sponsored speakers and, my ultimate soft spot, sorority bake sales. I see what Greek life offers my roomies (the social opportunities, the camaraderie, the collection of custom T-shirts), and I also enjoy what Greek life offers me (enjoyable events and some peace and quiet in the apartment when they are off at rush).

I recently realized that I’ve totally come to embrace Greek life without feeling like a network-lacking social leper. I no longer attempt to dodge those moments when someone asks me what house I’m in; rather, I smile and anticipate one of two reactions:

  1. The pity-padded “Oh-I’m-sorry-I-once-knew-a-girl-who-didn’t-rush" gaze.
  2. The “Oh-cool-so-like-why-not-that’s interesting-tell-me-more” nod.

Now, as I watch my roommates come home from rush and report back on their latest favorite or not-so-favorite (“She was kind of cute, but chubby, with hairy arms and a twitch. Gone.”), I feel just as sure as I did a year ago that I made the right decision. Alas, choruses of “bagels and formals are some of the normals” have grown on me, however. On a rare occasion, I will find myself wishing that I could join the Tri Delts for “Gossip Girl Ice Cream Sundaes on Monday” sessions. But as I ran around my apartment a few weeks ago helping my three roommates get ready for their respective rush events and formals and sent them on their way declaring, “Have fun! Be on the lookout for rush babies and don’t hurt the pledges!” I realized that’s plenty of Greek for me.

Minus the fact that GDI kind of sounds like some gross gastro-intestinal disorder, I like my letters.

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