I should have known I wasn't going to fit in with my sorority sisters at our first official meeting.
It was the spring of 2011, and we gathered in room with a big window overlooking multiple blooming rose bushes. We had started the sorority ourselves; as our founder so eloquently put it, we weren't "like those other bad sororities."
We were different. Most of use were friends before we were sorority sisters and foolishly believed this would be an asset to our organization. It didn't occur to me at the time that I had known these girls for less than a year and would probably end up disliking all of them in another year's time. I also didn't think about how disorganized the sorority's leaders were or how cliques already existed within the group.
None of this mattered to me, because I wanted to be a part of something and I didn't think the established sororities at my college would take me. I actually liked girls in those sororities, too. Judging by that first meeting in April 2011, my sorority sisters did not feel this way.
"We aren't going to be like them," our founder explained. "We're nice people."
She sat slumped in a chair with her legs open, loudly chewing a wad of gum. She dressed in her Sunday best, a ratty T-shirt, a pair of sweatpants with our college's name scrolled across the butt and mismatched flip-flops. Everything about her demeanor and dress pointed to the type of person she was, but I didn't realize that then. I thought she was a nice person.
It didn't occur to me that a nice person wouldn't talk smack about others behind their back. That didn't occur to any of my other sisters, either; several of them chimed in with horror stories about the other sororities even though only two of them had gone through formal recruitment months earlier.
Shamefully, I insulted girls in those sororities, too. I wanted so badly to fit in, knowing this was my group of friends now. I thought none of the girls in the other sororities would want to be my friend after I helped create a new sorority, so it made sense to throw them under the bus. They weren't there to hear it, I reasoned. It wouldn't affect them at all.
I was right about that, but I didn't think about how being in a group of petty women would drive me to pettiness myself. Before joining the sorority, I prided myself on being straightforward with people. I considered myself nice in my own way; I wouldn't have called myself a kind soul, but I certainly didn't think I'd insult others to fit in.
We didn't get much done at that first official meeting. In fact, the roses outside our meeting room had more development in that hour than our sorority did. That theme continued for the two years I spent in the sorority, with most events planned at the last minute and all conflict resolved poorly. To make up for these problems, the sorority's leaders increasingly insulted other groups on campus.
I quit the sorority in 2013 after a failed attempt at formal recruitment. The day I left, one of my friends in the sorority told me that our founder had told everyone I was responsible for how badly our recruitment parties went. Now that I was gone, she said, everything should get better.
I don't know how much better things got on her end, but I do know I feel much better without the sorority. Now I have real friends who care about me. When we hang out, we talk about our lives and our family and our favorite TV shows. We love and support each other the way friends should.
Sometimes I tell them about that time I was in a sorority, and we all laugh about it.
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Samantha Jones is a reporter for the Carroll County News. Her email address is CCNNews@cox-internet.com.