One of my favorite things in my home is an old apothecary shelf that I use to organize my jewelry. Unfortunately, for several years it’s become a tangled dumping ground, rather than a place where each item can have its own little cubby. I finally went through it last night—a painstaking and surprisingly emotional journey.
I put the jewelry highly associated with my marriage all in one spot to give to my kids one day. I don’t want to toss it or wear it. It will one day be special to them, and maybe only them. Now it has a place.
There were pieces I’ve outgrown that reminded me of a younger me. There were buried things that I love and can’t wait to wear again. It was like looking at a 10-year-old, very personal journal in some ways.
Sadly, I can’t find my high school class ring that my parents scrimped to be able to get me. But I did find an old sorority ring from college. It isn’t fancy. It’s silver with Greek letters, and I think it probably cost me $20 at the time. I haven’t worn it in decades for good reason, and I’m surprised I still had it. Living in a place like Silicon Valley…it’s about as cool to have been in a sorority as it is to have been raised in an evangelical family.
That goes for my “cool girl” days as much as it goes for my feminist days. Both sides hate “sorority girls.”
I absolutely get the dangers and toxicity of the Greek system. The odds of sexual violence go up dramatically for every frat party per month students go to. I shudder thinking back to Rush when pictures of girls were projected on a wall and they were critiqued by a house of strangers. If I’d known that was going on about me, I never would have gone through the system.
Let me clearly say: I would discourage both of my children to go into the Greek system and I think universities would be less toxic and less dangerous to women without it. I get bothered by films like Monsters University that glamorize it to kids as what college is all about.
But at the same time, when I look back on my individual experience in this particular sorority, it extended a lot of what I got at an all-girls school in college. It gave me deep friendships with women at a vulnerable period in my life who accepted me for who I was. I made friends with a more diverse group of women that I might have otherwise, as I wasn’t in a particularly party-oriented sorority. It gave me a sense that a group of women on campus had my back no matter what I went through during those years. A lot of people turned their backs on me in those years for making decisions that were “uncool” or against the mainstream somehow. But these girls didn’t. I even stopped paying my dues because I couldn’t afford it, and they just looked the other way for three semesters. It was a rare place I found sisterhood in the truest sense.
Should I let the fact that sororities are so toxic as a group eradicate that I had a positive experience at my small liberal arts school? I also think Silicon Valley is largely a toxic, rigged game. But I’m still here building companies for a reason. There is also good here that I find personally rewarding.
I started to wear a ton of rings after I got divorced. I felt like it was a way to reclaim my fingers. I am wearing nine rings right now as I type this. One of them is that sorority ring.
It is clustered on top of an old, tiny sapphire ring that my parents gave me for Christmas in my early 20s, because they feared I was unlikely to get engaged any time soon and they thought I deserved a nice piece of jewelry. I am also wearing a cluster of rings around a tiny pearl that my former mother-in-law gave me when I gave birth to Eli. Those rings that also make me have mixed emotions. But it’s all part of the journey that got me to where I am today.
Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom:
- How do you respond to non-parent coworkers who feel parents get special treatment vis a vis flexibility?
- Should I tell my boss that I’m starting fertility treatments?