Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ring Ching Ching

My friend Andrea and I text one another nearly every month, talk about meeting for lunch, make plans about six times and cancel, then finally sit down together once every eight months or so to catch up. For the past several years, we end our lunch conversations with something like this:
"Kahling, I love you."

"Darlas, I love you, too."

"We should totally have a Pi Phi reunion."

"Yes. We should. Totally."
No, we do not hail from the San Fernando Valley. But we did grow up in the '80s, and for a gal who loves the Safety Dance, the Village People and about leapt out of her skin when C.O. Daniel's announced '80s Tuesdays, Darlas just has a wee problem with overusing the word "totally," especially when reminiscing about the female version of Glory Days.

Ready to reconnect with some good friends, we finally got serious this winter.

Serious equaled creating a Facebook page for my fellow alumni and throwing the idea of a get-together out there. Interest was overwhelmingly positive, so Darlas and I worked together to find a venue and plan a little soiree.

Allow me to backtrack a bit...

When I arrived at the big, intimidating University of Illinois several years (ahem, multiple decades) ago, all doe-eyed and naive and barely past puberty, I knew I wanted to participate in rush and pledge a sorority in order to meet friends quickly. My big brother paved the way for me three years earlier, convincing my parents that the best and fastest way to fit in socially at such a giant school was to join the Greek System. They conceded, making my request easier than a cakewalk. And Big Brother and his fellow fraternity brothers helped a sister out.

That fateful first night of my collegiate career, my brother not only introduced me to my future husband. He also provided me with some guidance on the eve of my first day of rush.

"Jennifer, I will never tell you which house to pledge. Only you can figure that out. But...some of the guys and I got together before going out tonight and came up with something to help you."

He handed me a folded piece of paper, his familiar left-handed scrawl outlining a list of sorts. At that point I honestly couldn't tell the theta symbol from the psi. Nonetheless, his advice was intriguing and marginally helpful. Those brilliant boys from Kappa Sigma categorized the sororities on campus according to the following:
  • Biggest Bitch Houses
  • Best Face Houses
  • Biggest Geek Houses (e.g., won't party with us in football block because they are all home studying. On a Saturday morning. Lame.)
  • Coolest Chick Houses
I kept that list folded and hidden amongst my rush materials, referring it to it often over the next several weeks. As I whittled down the list of potential new places to live and people to become friends with, one house stood head and shoulders among the rest. Because the girls were just so cool. And I wanted to be part of their coolness. At the last party, the president of that house offered a nugget of sage advice to me and the rest of the clueless rushees. "Pick the house where you can imagine yourselves brushing your teeth with the women around you."

And that, my friends, is one of the many reasons why I chose Pi Beta Phi.
They truly were the coolest chicks.
They were laid back.
Happy to hold your hair back for you on your 21st birthday, and also willing to call bullshit on you when necessary.
They've been known to walk across barn dance bonfires, just for fun.
 And shoot a stream of alcohol out of a bota across a river into the mouth of a thirsty friend.
They were involved in whacky moped accidents resulting in crazy insurance claims, thanks to Asian foreign exchange students.
They cut my bangs and loaned me their computers.
They broke rules, poured me beer and listened to me when I needed it most.
They rallied when parents passed away.
And cheered when we got engaged and married. Shockingly, I wasn't the only one to become engaged in college!
We left U of I when email didn't exist, none of us had ever heard the words "power point" and not one of us owned a mobile phone, making staying connected to one another difficult.
This gathering was long overdue.
They were, and still are, the coolest chicks I've ever known.
And they're also the smartest. Our ranks include infectious disease doctors, consultants, attorneys, news reporters, teachers, artists, PTO Presidents, recruiting gurus, PR professionals and the best Stay at Home Moms this planet's ever seen.
The best part of the night was standing back and seeing people reconnect.
People I lived with for three years, during the most formidable years of our lives.
I owe a lot to these women.
And you know what else? My brother and his buddies messed something up. We didn't just rank as the top coolest chick house on campus.
We were also are still the best face house.

Cheers to you, ladies! I had a blast seeing you all Saturday, and am thrilled to announce that Jeannie Gura is planning the next gathering.

Ring Ching Ching!


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting these pictures and for sharing and organizing this sisterly event! I'm happy to see so many faces from years past - you ladies look like nearly the same, how is that possible? I really want to come to the next one, so please do it again.