I am terrible at meet-and-greets.
As pathetic as that sounds, as an introvert, there are few things worse than being forced to introduce yourself to strangers and being tasked with striking up an interesting yet intelligent conversation.
I fail miserably every time. “Hey, what do you think about this Missouri humidity?” “Can I tell you all about what my rabbit, Maxine, ate for lunch today?” “What’s your favorite useless As Seen On TV product?” You have no idea how to respond, do you? As I am asking these dumb questions to whoever made the mistake of inquiring as to who I am, I am acutely aware of how stupid I sound, yet I can’t help it.
To avoid this, I make it a point to scratch off my to-do list any sort of activity that might involve meeting and/or greeting people. Unfortunately, as I prepared to officially begin my graduate career next week, I was invited to two happy hours, a dinner and a faculty Q&A session for the School of Journalism. This is a horrifying amount of meeting and greeting and is definitely more than I am able to handle.
While worrying, I tried to pinpoint exactly why I am so bad at these social situations. What do those who meet and greet so well have that I don't? While at Walmart on Sunday, it hit me: I am bad at meet-and-greets because I never joined a sorority.
Let’s back up.
On Sunday, I made the error of running what I thought was a quick errand to Walmart. There, I discovered I had walked into a store crawling with MU freshmen preparing to move into residence halls for Greek recruitment week. It was then that I was reminded of a question that drove me crazy for four years. It's a question the answer to which always made me feel like less of a woman: “What sorority are you in?”
The answer was always, “I’m not in a sorority,” followed by a smile. The responses I got were either: 1) The person smiled right back. or 2) The person looked at me like I had a third eye and/or unicorn horn in the middle of my forehead.
I’ll admit that I have many regrets from my undergraduate years — too many political science classes and that stage I went through where I cuffed my jeans are definitely included — but resisting the urge to go Greek isn’t one of them. The reasons I decided to abstain from rushing are many. I thought I’d end up a clone if I lived in a place where I would at times be required to dress in matching outfits with 200 other women. I might or might not have been right.
I also didn’t want to have to pay to make friends. It’s expensive, too. According to the MU Panhellenic Association, to register after June 25, the on-campus fee is $165. But hey, you get three T-shirts, which match those of the more than 1,000 women rushing and are scheduled for you to wear on a specific day. New member dues are $1,978, and live-in house dues are $5,806. Out-of-house dues are $1,641.
Mainly, though, I forgot about it until it was too late.
Too bad, because according to the association's website, “Sorority life may not be for every woman but Recruitment definitely is!” Looking at the intense recruitment schedule, I know this cannot be true, but it sure looks like a good meeting-and-greeting boot camp. The 2010 MU Panhellenic Recruitment Guide schedule lists 18 socials that are 25 minutes long between Monday and Tuesday, an additional 10 on Wednesday, six on Thursday, and finally, four on Friday. This has to be great practice, and though it’s more schmoozing than I ever want to do in my life, there are freshmen who are currently doing it better than I do.
Still, I’m not totally down about being a non-Greek. Along with micromanaging your schedule for recruitment week, for example, the guide tells you what to wear. On Open House day, which appears to involve a lot of walking around campus and Greek Town, I shouldn’t “… wear those cute new heels — they can be saved for later in the week!” I can’t wear them on Sisterhood Day either, but I should “… think about summery outfits. That will get you going in the right direction when deciding what to wear!”
But even if they are going to tell me what to wear on which day, I still would have come out on top. Think of all the meet-and-greet opportunities being in a sorority would have afforded me: formals, semiformals, fraternity formals and semiformals, charity events. All would have been valuable meet-and-greet training. And skits during homecoming week? Don’t get me started on my fear of public speaking. Also, I would have learned to make Greek letters with my hands while striking a perfect pose for a soon-to-be Facebook profile photo. Or maybe I just would have been miserable.
Sadly, I will never know how I would have turned out had I just bitten the bullet, paid my $165 and worn my designated T-shirt. But the good news is I get to wear my high heels any day I want, which is never.
Amanda Woytus is the deputy and calendar editor for Vox Magazine.