Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Sisterhood

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Those of you who have been following along at home may remember Youngest head off to the University of Maine at the end of August. I'm happy to report she's really enjoying her time in Orono so far; her classes are challenging, she's made friends in the Honors College, and she adores her roommate.

And she's pledged to a sorority! She one of the newest members of Delta Delta Delta a/k/a Tri-Delta, and she's basking in the warm glow of sisterhood. She asked me if I was okay with Greek life before she rushed, and I said I was, because (in part) sororities seem fundamentally different from fraternities. The instances where sorority girls are injured during pledge season are vanishingly small - especially compared to the awful stories coming out of fraternities. Groups of 18 - 21 year old guys are all about booze, sex, and acting like the Vandals at the gates of Rome. Girls the same age are all about making each other picture frames and talking out their stress. I truly believe there's a creative power in sisterhood.


My mother was in a sorority, though it may have been a pale echo of being one of four sisters growing up. Her experience was cut short when she got married between her junior and senior year and moved into Air Force Base housing, but she recreated her sororal ties later in life, thanks to the large number of her high school and college friends who got on Facebook. Over the past decade, she went to many get-togethers, weekends and reunions. She loved her husband and valued their closeness, but she saw the special value of sisterhood.










The Smithie was a bit skeptical of Youngest's plans to go Greek, until I pointed out that life in a house at the all-women Smith College was functionally a sorority (absent the dues and the designated colors.)  They held meetings, hashed out issues, raised funds, made friends and got to know one another in the way women can in a single-sex environment. (I'm going to assume men find some of the same revelations when they're in their own organizations. I obviously have no personal experience.)


I do, however, have the experience of joining a sorority as a full-grown adult. I was asked to become part of Jungle Red Writers in late 2010, along with Deb Crombie, and she and I made our debuts here in January 2011. Honestly, I agreed because I knew and liked the women involved - at least superficially - and it seemed like an easy way to keep a regular social media presence. I had no idea nearly nine years later this place would feel like a genuine sisterhood, and that my dear friends would become such an integral part of my life. Like my mother's college buddies, like the Smithie's housemates, like Youngest's Tri-Delts, my sorority has been a consolation in times of trouble, a cheerleader when things go well, and an endless encouragement to achievement and creativity. 


We even have our own color - although I suppose we ought to consider a mascot and flower to really be Greek.

Dear readers, what are the sisterhoods - and brotherhoods - that have kept you company on the road of life?


41 comments:

  1. How wonderful that your Youngest is enjoying her time at college . . . love the pictures!

    Keeping me company on the road of life: the women’s group at church. And it’s such a joy to be able comment here each day . . . .

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    1. This is a great community. We're lucky to have so many positive, interesting internet friends.

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  2. So glad she's found a couple of tribes to hang with!

    I love the company of women, especially, as with Jenn, I ended up raising two sons. My sisters, my Flick Chicks group, my Sisters in Crime, hanging out here every morning - and especially, the Wicked Authors. Like the Reds, we blog together but we're also always in the background on email and in person. We support each other, give each other room to vent, celebrate joys both professional and personal, and share hugs at losses. I couldn't do it without them: Jessie Crockett, Sherry Harris, Julie Hennrikus, Liz Mugavero, and Barb Ross (and all our various pseudonyms!).

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  3. Love this post and delighted that your daughter is settling in so well Julia! Ours joined a sorority too at Berkeley, and she still has dear friends from those years. I think it would have helped me feel connected in college...

    But like you, I'm so grateful to be part of the sisterhood of the Reds--a source of support, consolation, joy, and amazing books.

    Speaking of sharing time with Reds, who's going to be near Boston this Saturday October 13? Four reds will be doing a talk-back after the play, SHERLOCK'S LAST CASE, at the Huntington Ave Theater. We would love to have you there!

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    1. Lucy, I wish I could be at the theater event. However, I'm going to be covering a comic convention in Framingham all day on the 13th. I hope it goes well for all the Reds.

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    2. But you have created any number of 'tribes' for countless kids, Jay, as a coach.

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  4. I'm way too much of a loner to have joined any kind of group that would qualify as being a brotherhood.

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    1. I hope you saw Flora's reply above, Jay! She points out that as a coach, you've MADE meaningful groups for the kids you work with!

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    2. Julia and Flora, I coached teams sure and for a few months we were at least trying for the same goal. But I figured that you meant groups of peers rather than coaching kids. It's slightly different since it isn't like you really hang out with them outside of practice and games.

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    3. Jay, no, you didn't hang out with them--but you gave those kids a sense of belonging and a 'tribe' of their own--and that's a great accomplishment!

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  5. Well, now it can be told… One of the reasons I went to the school I did, Western College for Women (Mt. Holyoke’s western campus) , was that it did not have sororities! Why? I was afraid no one would choose me.
    And now, I am reveling in the sisterhood of my darling Jungle Reds! ! I love you all every day, reds and readers. …

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    1. We choose you every day, Hank!

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    2. Awww.. but only because I have a washing machine...

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  6. Julia, so happy that your youngest is thriving in her first year of college. It's always such a worrying time for a mother.

    I must admit that in college, I was proudly GDI (God-D@#$*^-Independent.) I had a pretty strong feminist streak at the time and didn't feel the sororities on my campus empowered women to break out of the old molds. I didn't really find a tribe of women until I settled into my church choir 20+ years ago, but now the women from choir have become like sisters to me, and we have shared many life milestones together. In recent years, I have happily reconnected with some high school friends through Facebook and then in-face meetings, and that is very rewarding, too. As is the lovely community you have built here at JRW. And while I love you all, I'm glad we have a few faithful male commenters among us, too!

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    1. Love how I melded in-person with face-to-face there. What?!?!

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    2. I love the idea of in-face meetings, Susan. Sounds very honest. :-)

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  7. My mother was a Tri-Sig when she was in college, and I contemplated Greek life when I got on campus--for maybe two or three seconds. I belonged to a different tribe: Alpha Psi Omega, the theatre honors society. We show folk live in an odd little bubble behind the proscenium arch, and it's surprisingly hard to break that fourth wall. Either you are part of what's going on back here, or you are out front, being entertained, and should pay no attention to the men and women behind the curtain. These days I am also an honorary member of the Gamma Nu chapter of Tau Beta Sigma, which is the band support sorority.

    But I am all in favor of my female besties. I honestly don't know how I would have made it through the tough years after Warren died without my close women friends, who checked on me every day, dragged me out of the house, and even helped me pack when I moved. I don't have any family here in Texas, having never been close to the Norwoods, but the women in my circle take me in on holidays and feed me on the Fourth of July (after I get home from the show). I hope (I try!) to offer similar support to them. Women friends are the best!

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    1. Amen to that, Gigi. I wouldn't have made it through the past year without my women friends.

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  8. I did not do the sorority thing in college. Just not interested maybe or more likely thought it was for girls with money and I had none. Oh well. On the other hand I lived in an all girls boarding house so could be that was a little like a sorority.
    On another topic, Julia, after you mentioned your mother lived on an Air force base in base housing, I had to tell you that when I lived in Plattsburgh, it was in a townhouse that had been rehabbed from base housing after the base was decommissioned.

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    1. I got a tour of the rehabbed base the first time I came to speak at the Plattsburgh Library. I was so happy and impressed to see the brilliant way the Air Force community had been reshaped for civilian and commercial purposes. Plattsburgh is a model of post-decommissioning recovery.

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  9. So good to hear that Youngest is thriving in college and in her new sorority.

    I found sisterhood in university among women whose politics I shared: feminism. This was in the late 70s and early 80s: We organized together on issues, we established a reader's theatre collective and performed our work at conferences and church gatherings, we saw each other through thick and thin of our early relationships, and some of us are still in touch.

    I continue to revel in my female friendships for the enduring strength and support they offer me, whether we live next door or across the country from each other. #strongertogether

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  10. So happy to know that Youngest is doing well at school, and seems to be thriving away from home. Of course she would, but it's still a big relief to you, Julia, I know.

    I like Susan's description: a tribe of women. I've never been a part of a sorority, but have been lucky enough to have tribes all my life. In the 70's when I sold insurance and was one of the very few women in Cincinnati to do so, I was part of an amazing group called Women in Insurance Sales. I went through all the chairs as one of my first leadership experiences. Later, I used some of the same skills when I was part of several professional sewing associations, all with all-women member rosters.

    Now, book clubs, GNO groups, League of Women Voters, and other informal types of sorority-like purpose serve that same need for female bonding.

    My middle daughter is an engineer, a field with a small percentage of women. Her school was too small to have a sorority, but the women she graduated with bonded so strongly, and are still held together by a common purpose, twelve years later. Ditto for the youngest, who went to the Citadel as part of the 7% of the population of that male-dominated environment.

    Here's to our women friends and sisters, blood-related or not.

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  11. I was in a sorority back in the day, Zeta Tau Alpha, Lynda Bird Johnson and I! What can I say? It was "done." I sort of like seeing the Greek life returning to campuses, particularly in the larger schools and universities. It's so easy to get lost when you don't have a support group. Although my years at an all girl's school were wonderful too, much like the Smithie's experience.

    There certainly wasn't any hazing then, unlike in the fraternities. I wonder if that's because size matters so much to many young males? My sorority sisters and I formed a tight group, were very protective of each other, and being an only child, sisterhood was like a fuzzy blanket to me.

    Nowadays I'm a bit of a hermit, have many acquaintances but only a couple of close friends. Part of this is attrition. My oldest and dearest died four years ago, and that part of my life ended, the part where I went to stay with her every year and we picked back up as if 50 years hadn't passed.

    You can't make old friends.

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    1. True, Ann. What's the poem about friends? Make the new, cherish the old/One os like silver, the other like gold.

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  12. Love the pictures. The Girl was not interested in Greek life and it took her a while to get traction at Pitt, but I think (based on the paucity of texts now vs. those first few weeks) she's gotten over the hump. But she also went to an all-girls high school, so she's very aware of the value of "sisterhood" (having no biological sisters herself).

    Sisters in Crime has been my "sisterhood" ever since I started my writing journey. I've met so many fabulous women, including the Reds, who never fail to pick me up, share a glass of wine (sometimes virtually), advice, encouragement, and celebration when I need it.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. I'm raising a virtual glass to you, Mary/Liz!

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  13. Julia, it is clear from your photos that Youngest is thriving and enjoying her first year at college!

    I was born into a sisterhood of four girls--and we are still tight. Our brothers don't have the same degree of closeness--each with their own group of friends, but that could be at least in part because of the age span between them. I also have a network of good friends from high school and college days and after, but had no desire to be part of Greek life when I was in college--I ended up teaching some of those Greek girls and they bore out my early impression of them (not favorable--but I think that sororities have changed for the schools I attended since those days).

    As for the Reds, when I first happened upon the JRW blog, I could tell that y'all were more than just a group of authors talking about writing. And that's a big reason I kept coming back--sisterhood is powerful (and inclusive--everybody welcome!).

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  14. I am tearing up! THIS IS SO SWEET! And you're right, of course. I have always been SO snarky about sororities... Where I grew up at our local college (UCLA) sororities were a way to surround yourself with people who were just like you. And kids who don't pledge at a college with a strong Greek system have a very tough time. Also tough for kids who are different from whatever is mainstream at the college. I went to Barnard where there were no sororities and I was glad of that. The women of color made their own virtual sorority/club which I then did not understand but now I do. Bottom line: I have mixed feelings about Greek but not about sisterhood.

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    1. What I really like about the sororities at UMaine is how inclusive they are. Just look at the top picture - it's not a cookie-cutter group of size 2 blondes (which CAN happen in sororities.) I think it helps that there are almost no sorority houses at the university. Instead, each group has a designated room on campus for meetings/activities/storage, etc., which loosens up the composition and allows for more pledges if the organization wants.

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  15. What a lovely post, Julia! I’m delighted that Youngest is having such a wonderful college experience! And, yes, the Reds are a sisterhood and it is lovely to be a member. I was not as academically bent in my early college years and being too lazy to join a sorority decided with friends to form our own: ITK which naturally stands for I Tappa Kegga. Classy, right? It gets better! We all lived on the 6th floor so we had shirts made that read: ITK: We like it on top! Honestly, I think we could have given any of the frats a run for the debauchry title. LOL!

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  16. I'm so glad the youngest has found her niche at college! I'm all for sisterhood, maybe because I was born into one with three older sisters. I played team sports in high school, which provided another kind of sisterhood before I headed off to an all women's college. The Reds have provided a wonderful and unique sisterhood, and I feel so fortunate to call the other Reds my friends and colleagues. I think as it gets older, you have to make more of an effort to find those connections, but it's well worth it.

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  17. Julia, I'm so happy that Youngest has found her niche and is settling in well. That can make all the difference to the college experience.

    I was not at all interested in sororities, but as a sophomore through senior, I went to a small liberal arts college that had eschewed the national Greek organizations (not approving of the hazing, etc.) and formed their own. Much to my surprise, I found myself pledging as a junior. It was a great experience and my only regret is that I haven't made more of an effort to keep up with my sisters, although I am friends with a few of them on Facebook. Maybe when I finish my interminable book I'll do something about that, and will get more involved with my new Phi Beta Kappa chapter.

    In the meantime, I have the REDs, and an absolutely great group of close female friends who support me and bring me joy every day. And Julia, I can't believe it's been nine years!!! How did that go by so fast???

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    1. I know, right? I had to look it up. Our first post was January 11, 2011.

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  18. Youngest looks very happy indeed!

    I did not belong to a sorority, and it was not something I would have even considered. It was my perception ( and I could have been wrong) that members didn’t associate with non-members. Also, like Hank, I doubted that anyone would like me!

    For about thirty-three years I have been meeting weekly with three other women in a faith-sharing group. You could call them my sorority. We have been there for each other during good times and bad. We laugh and cry with each other. We help each other out when needed. Right now I’m very, very sad because one of them died yesterday from a rare form of cancer. I feel much like I did when my youngest sister died almost two years ago. At that time my faith-sharing sisters came to my aid.

    Another sisterhood consists of women I used to work with. Nearly all of us are retired now, and we get together regularly. We all worked with each other for so many years that we nearly know each other better than our families know us! When I first went to work there I had no idea that such wonderful friendships would result. Some of us can finish each other’s sentences! As with my faith-sharing sisters, they were there for me during my sister’s final illness and death.

    DebRo

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    1. Oh, DebRo, I'm so sorry for your loss. I hope you find comfort in her memory and in the company of your remaining "sisters."

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  19. Aw, this is so great, and I love that your youngest is enjoying college life!

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  20. Julia, I feel the same way about Jungle Reds. I also have several groups of close friends who are my other sororities... My hiking buddies who have been together for 30 years, and my college friends from my all female college, who get together once every two years to eat drink, laugh and share. I feel so sorry for most men who have never experienced this

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  21. I'm delighted that Youngest is having such a wonderful college experience already. She looks so happy in the pics, and that's such a load off of a mother's mind. My mother wanted me to join a sorority, but I was stubborn and thought I could be more independent without a group that I felt would control my college experience. Well, I think my mother was right, as she usually was. Not that I regret my college experience, as it was a great one, but I think I didn't consider the lasting lifelong friendships and connections that a sorority offered.

    I consider the Jungle Reds here as one of my friends group, and to a larger extent, the mystery/crime community itself. Finding one's "tribe" is so important to a happy life. Even though I'm not with this tribe in person all the time, it is an essential connection to my well-being. There is a small group, just three of us friends, who attend the Broadway shows at our local performance venue, and it's so much fun, something I count on for great sisterly companionship. Since my high school reunion in 2012, I have reconnected with a group of friends, and we go out to eat when I visit my hometown and have even taken a trip together. It's become an important part of my contentment, and while it's females most of the time, there's a male part that joins us at times. He just becomes one of the girls. Hahaha!

    Julia, the picture of you all from this year's Bouchercon is one I took, and what I loved so much about it is the joy that came through, with you all either laughing or smiling big. You Reds are such a special group of women, and I'm so grateful that you spread your joy of life to the rest of us.

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  22. Glad to read she is doing so well. That is heartwarming. And yay for sisterhood in any form. I purposely chose a college with no sororities ( sounded way too much like high school cliques to me) but am still friends with 3 women from my freshman floor. I have a real sister I'm close to. My mother was close to her real sister. My grandmother was close to 3 real sisters who lived some distance but visited often. I'm a feminist for sure but didn't need a movement to teach me this. And I so appreciate my writer sisters, whether IRL or in the cloud.

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