For Southern women, rushing a sorority is as deeply ingrained as breathing, drinking, eating, and drinking some more. I honestly loved my days as a Kappa Kappa Gamma at Wake Forest University. Was I planting the seed for my future alcoholism to grow? Sure. But at the time, the consequences of excessive alcohol consumption weren’t too detrimental yet. I was just overweight from beer and hungover a lot. I stayed a virgin all through college so I definitely didn’t throw a lot of leg due to my drinking. I never had a boyfriend in college—I was just sort of afraid of guys in the romantic sense. I had one boyfriend in high school and we never even kissed, if that tells you anything. For the record, my first legit kiss was in a preacher’s front yard July 4th when I was 18. Late bloomer alert! Of course, the worst part of being in a sorority when you’re a single virgin who’s still afraid of boys was asking guys to formals.
At my college, fraternities and sororities have designated halls in dorms, not traditional houses. My freshman dorm had the Pike fraternity in its basement. Because of this, there was always a party three floors down. My roommate Adrienne looked like a model on top of being an insanely kind and cool person so she was instantly their “Little Sister” then eventually their “Sweetheart.” None of them gave me the time of day but I did have physics class with one: “Jim.”
Jim and I had never met but we knew who each other were. We started acknowledging each other in class then would find ourselves walking back to the dorm—his frat house and my freshman hall—together after class. We slowly started to be a little friendly, studying together or emailing each other questions about homework. So when Kappa spring formal rolled around, with no other straight dudes (let’s get real, this was a southern school in the early 2000s, it’s not like there were a ton of out gay guys either) I felt comfortable with on the horizon, Adrienne convinced me to ask Jim to be my date. I didn’t really like him as anything more than a friend so it felt like a low pressure decision. That still doesn’t exactly explain why I marched down to the Pike hall, walked into the common room where there were probably eight guys studying and talking and asked Jim to go to formal with me in front of all of them. It was so awkward, as it should have been—why I didn’t ask him in private like a normal person? He agreed and I don’t think we spoke again until the first day of formal.
Formal weekend was always two nights: the first night was usually just dressy and the second was the actual formal part where the girls wear cocktail dresses or gowns and the guys wear suits and ties. The tradition was usually to get a group of your friends and their dates, order take-out from a restaurant and start pre-gaming before going to the bus parked at the Kappa dorm that would take us to the actual event. So everyone was always well plastered before the occasion even began. Every sorority or fraternity had a stereotype and my sorority’s rep was for being rich, snobby and anorexic. (I only got in because a girl from my high school and a girl dating a guy from my high school were gunning for me during rush.) Another stupid Greek system reality at my school was that certain sororities only hung out with certain fraternities. The Kappas exclusively hung out with Dekes, KAs or Sigma Chis. The Phi Phis only dug Pikes or Sig Eps. KDs partied with Sigma Pi or Kappa Sig. Phi Mu and Theta Chi were dorky together. Good girl Tri-Deltas were all up in straight-laced Sigma Nu’s grill. Lambda Chi got pity socials from each sorority once a year because they were nice guys but way too Christian. No one hung with Alpha Sig, unless they wanted to get roofied.
Now that we’ve got that covered and established how sad it is that I still remember it so well, Pike, Jim’s frat, did not hang with Kappas, my sorority. None of his buddies were going to this formal. He made this known by sulking during the entire pre-gaming dinner. He finally loosened up a little once the alcohol was pumping through his veins. We made it to the bus and then to the venue…and that’s where things get blurry. I don’t really remember what happened the first night of formal other than drinking a lot and dancing to Ice Cube’s “You Can Do It,” my fave college dance song, which is pretty much the only thing I can guarantee happened at every party I attended in college.
At some point, we got on the bus back to campus. When we drunkenly stumbled off the bus, the logical route was the sidewalk from north campus to the main parking lot then to central campus then back to our dorm. It was kind of a long walk but totally doable. But there was also a random patch of woods that ran along a side road that led to north campus. I have zero recollection of the moment we made this decision but somehow Jim and I ended up trudging through that dark patch of woods at 2 o’clock in the morning in our semi-formal wear. The brush was so thick that my platform flip-flops (again, this was the early 2000s, give me a break, alright?) sunk into the ground so deep that I lost them. So then I was walking through all these sticks and branches, totally barefoot and sleeveless. We were both bitching about how “we’re lost and how did we get there, and I can’t find my shoes,” and that’s when he chose to grab me by the shoulders and kiss me before immediately pulling away and dramatically saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t know why I just kissed you!” Again, I wasn’t really into this guy romantically but even if I had wanted to kiss him, it didn’t matter because I was too hammered to really process what was going on.
Finally, we made it out of the woods into the parking lot. I had no shoes and my arms and legs were covered in scratches and cuts—like covered; it was a very jarring sight. Because I was barefoot and we still had a long way to walk, he insisted I wear his boots. He was a very large man and I have really small feet so the boots were HUGE on me. So then it was me and Jim walking back to our dorm: me clomping in his big ass boots and him in just his socks.
We made it to the stairwell that connected the end of my hall on the third floor to the frat’s hall on the basement floor where we started arguing. He was saying, in reference to my cuts and scratches, “People are going to think I did this to you!” I was saying, “I’m fine!” Adrienne and some other girls in my hall started trickling into the stairwell to watch the spectacle. Everyone was horrified by the state of my arms and legs. I kept saying, “We got lost in the woods!” as if that was a perfectly reasonable explanation for why one returns from a formal with annihilated limbs. Luckily, most people found it funny and no one thought for a second that Jim was the reason I looked like I’d run through a wood chipper.
We both went to bed in our separate rooms. Around noon the next day, I heard a guitar strumming outside my door and then a knock. Adrienne opened it and it was Jim, playing a guitar and singing. I don’t remember most of the song except for the line, “I’m so sorry, Ma-aa-ry Paaaa-tter–son…” He came to my room singing an apology like a gentleman.
Despite that sweet gesture, the rest of the weekend was still a giant bust. The second night of formal’s pre-gaming was worse than the first. Jim stuck to the wall, slugging whiskey from a flask and not talking to anyone. He didn’t speak to me on the bus and then avoided me completely when we got to the formal. Then, he just left without telling me. I rode back to campus by myself on the bus, holding back tears. I drunkenly walked (in my formal dress and heels) while crying back to my dorm, where Adrienne consoled me with a milkshake and as much empathy as someone who’s never been rejected by a guy in her life could muster. Again, I wasn’t in love with this dude but it was the principle of it. I had already felt insecure about my status with the opposite sex and I was ditched by a member of that sex who I didn’t like that much in the first place?! It’s like “You can’t fire me, ’cause I quit!” syndrome.
Jim and I never spoke again. I texted another girl from our hall when I was writing this story to see if she knew anything about his whereabouts now. She says she’s pretty sure he, and I quote, “went off the deep end with drugs and alcohol.”
So clearly I should add him on Facebook, right?
Sponsored DISCLAIMER: This is a paid advertisement for California Behavioral Health, LLC, a CA licensed substance abuse treatment provider and not a service provided by The Fix. Calls to this number are answered by CBH, free and without obligation to the consumer. No one who answers the call receives a fee based upon the consumer’s choice to enter treatment. For additional info on other treatment providers and options visit www.samhsa.gov.