Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I'm a Fraternity Girlfriend.

Before I start, I told my boyfriend I would make this statement: I am writing purely based on my observations/experiences. I'm not an expert on Greek Life, at all. But because of this experience, I can name some of the lesser known Greek letters for you, if you like...(tau, omricon, get the point.) 

In the fall of 2011, I found myself without my best friend. She was studying elsewhere for the semester, but we talked as much as her busy schedule would allow. When I found out the guy she liked was rushing a fraternity, I struggled with how I should approach her with this news. Another friend and I discussed it, and we decided it was something that she should know. The conversation went like this: "He's rushing a frat...I mean....I don't know, I'm concerned. Is that *really* the type of guy you want to be with....?" I continued to tell her things that I had heard he was doing during his rush process. Things that kind of make you raise one eyebrow skeptically. I was saying things in protection of my friend, not knowing and completely disregarding the experience our guy friend was going through.

Fast forward 10 months. I met a guy at a picnic before rehearsals for our community theatre show started. He told us he was going to miss the first week of rehearsals because he was going to a convention in Florida. He friend requested me, so I followed his status updates. In one of his updates he mentioned something about the National President. I commented "what kind of a convention IS this??" He told me a name and that I should look up the website. I did so, and to my surprise, it was a fraternity convention. The words of warning I had spoken to my friend came flooding back.Oh my gosh...he's in a's music. So it can't be *that* bad, right? Oh no, what if he parties a lot? We all know what happens at frat parties...girls, keg-stands, and lots of throwing up. I can't. I just can't. 
The idea of dating someone in a "frat" scared me. It was unknown territory that I had only seen represented in pop culture. 
My opinions were formed based only on what I had seen on commercials for that ABC Family show "Greek." The stigma of "Frat Bros" had been a favorite joke topic during college since my private school didn't have any type of Greek life. Stories of hazing rituals gone wrong always made the news. Popped collars, snapbacks, red solo cups, and excessive usage of the word "brah" was NOT something I wanted to involve myself in. So to say I was apprehensive about this guy being in a frat is a little bit of an understatement. But I decided to give it a shot. 

We discussed it early on, and he was quick to assure me that his fraternity was not a stereotypical "frat." In fact, he corrected me when I referred to it as such. I quickly remedied that situation and vowed to myself that I would never refer to a Greek society as a "frat" again, no matter what. He told me  this particular social fraternity had a "strong emphasis in music." He informed me that their Object includes "the advancement of music in America." He also made sure that I knew up-front that he wouldn't be able to discuss certain aspects of the fraternity with me because there was a certain level of secrecy. Awesome I thought. He isn't *allowed* to tell me things?  I struggled with that at first, but it wasn't until later in our relationship that I realized that the nature of this was deeper than just keeping secrets. It was a core way to maintain the bonds of brotherhood, and it was fairly common for many Greek fraternities. There was literally nothing in the world I could do about that except respect it. 

The first time I met his fraternity brothers was a turning point in my view of the fraternity experience.  It was the first Saturday of September and I had met a few of the brothers at the football staduim that afternoon. That evening, in a very packed and hot apartment, I met even more brothers, but mostly, I kept quiet, just needing to observe. We stepped outside at one point, and he asked what I had thought so far. "It's loud. And I don't remember many names." He assured me that there would be more chances for me to remember names.
A month later, I found myself at their homecoming tailgate. I met a girl who was dating a fraternity brother and was an alumnae of the sister fraternity. She filled me in on everything going on, and I met alums, each of whom gave me a run-down on the type of guy my boyfriend was. I was questioned by them all, and at the end of the afternoon, a former brother told us how glad he was to see my boyfriend this happy; He actually tells me this every time we see each other. They had pledged together a number of years before and the bond they had formed was still strong, and will be unbreakable for the rest of their lives. 

Shortly before that meeting, I had read an article* that helped put things into perspective for me. In this, the author, PJ Mintner talks about his time in a fraternity. He says this: "... when fraternity is done correctly, it builds life long friendship, and in my chapter's case, a bond and commitment that extends past our time as collegians and our time on earth."

I've had the extreme privlege of spending some time with the brothers. I spent Valentine's day with them, and they treated me as a friend. (I'm fairly certian it was because they like me, not just because I brought them powder doughnuts to snack on...) They are all so unique...they come from diverse backgrounds, have different majors and interests, and each of them has a personality that only they can claim. They relentlessly teased me, and upon hearing this, my boyfriend (who was not present that day), assured me that the teasing meant they loved me. Not once did I feel intimidated, disrespected, or mistreated. Because that's not who these men are. Someone wise once told me: "true fraternity men are not "frat boys" or "bros." They think of others before themselves, and understand that they are representing not only themselves, but also their chapter, their national fraternity, and their university in everything they do."
These men encourage each other, grow together, sing together, and support each other. I am incredibly blessed to have been able to observe these guys in different settings and see what an example of leadership and brotherhood they are to each other. In fact, they have inspired me to be a better woman. My life has been truly enriched by this experience, and I love with every single one of these men. I love what they do, and I love who they are as individuals, members of their fraternity, and brothers to each other. 

And that, my friends, is what it's about. 

*If you're still sitting there, highly skeptical, I strongly recommend you read the article I referenced: Sincerity of Purpose. As I said, it put the fraternity experience into perspective for me and really hit home when my boyfriend's fraternity lost a fellow brother (from a different chapter), this February. 

And if the Object, "Furthering the advancement of music in America," sounds like something you'd be interested in, let me know! I'll direct you to the website for this fraternity and the sister fraternity for the ladies. (Part of their Mission is "to encourage, nurture, and support the art of music.") 

Speaking of Ladies, I want to give a special shout-out to all of the women I've met who are sisters and friends to my boyfriend. You girls have been so nice and welcoming to me this year, and I could not be more grateful! You all are wonderful, inspiring, beautiful, and I love you!! 

Friday, April 5, 2013

I'm Waiting To Get Married

If you had told me last year that in April of 2013 I'd be blogging about marriage, I would have laughed and then burst into tears thinking about the man I wanted to marry. But now, a full 12 months later, I'm a little more stable, and I'm finally ready to talk about it.
I went to a private Liberal Arts Christian college. There was this phenomena/stigma of "finding your future husband" and "Ring By Spring." It didn't help that my sister met her now-husband/father of her 3 children their first night at this same school. The pressure I put on myself that first week of college was insane. I had probably never made eye contact with that many guys in my 17 years than I did the first week at Christian College. I was determined. My sister did it, and I was going to do it too!
I wasn't successful in that venture, but I'm now in a relationship with a wonderful man and we are very happy. Have we talked about marriage? That's a good question. Right now, I'm not thinking so much about when to get married as much as I'm thinking about what the best age is to get married. 

There was an article floating around social media this week entitled Marry Young with the subtitle of "I got married at 23. What are the rest of you waiting for?" Nice, right? Right off the bat, this author, Julia Shaw, accuses us unmarrieds for taking too long to tie the knot. She outlines her argument for young marriage with statistics, and her own personal story. She says she and her husband "hadn't arrived" before they got married. I assume she means to adulthood, because she goes on to say "Marriage wasn't something we did after we'd grown up--it was how we have grown up and grown together." She says that her husband has been a persuader, and a true support. All of this is fine, and are the things that make a strong marriage. However, I take issue with what she says later: 
What I did not realize was how thoroughly marriage would jump-start our independence. On paper, our unmarried peers looked more carefree. But many of them also relied on their parents to supplement their income, drove home for long weekends and holidays, or stayed on their parents’ health insurance and cellphone plans (even though they had decent jobs!). I put David on my health insurance. We bought our own family cellphone plan and Netflix account. When we visited our parents once a year, we paid for the plane tickets and still did our own laundry. We loved our parents and siblings, but marriage made us realize that we were now a separate family unit. 
 Her inference that people who still relied on their parents for support were not "independent" is unfair. A friend and fellow artist  commented on this and said:

 everyone's life path is different and just because someone's parents pays for their cellphone doesn't make them a less legitimate "adult" or something.

I'm having a moment with this statement. A very good moment. Some people have parents who have the resources, of any kind, to support their newly married children. My parents have shown my sister and her family extreme favor, offering to help in anyway that they can, because they are able. They have done an excellent job at preparing all of us for the real world. They've taught us about taxes, retirement, estate planning, everything that I'm sure Julia would consider to be mature adult responsibilities. I understand the importance of being a "separate family unit" after you get married. But I think there's something to be said for allowing your parents to still be your parents even after you've flown the coop.

After sitting with this article for two days, my blood pressure has lowered, and I have this to say: What worked for Julia, doesn't work for everyone. It's good that this is her life experience. But it won't be mine. 

The next day, there was a response article The Case Against Marrying Young written by a young author, Amanda Marcotte. She and I agree with the point that Julia's experience is not for everyone, but Amanda says that young people don't want to get married quickly because they're afraid of divorce. She says this, which is an extremely valid point:
"Most people grasp the relationship between young marriage and divorce intuitively, but statistics shore up the case. As the average age of first marriage goes up, the divorce rate goes downState-by-state statistics show similar correlations between lower average age of marriage and higher divorce rates."
Like I said, valid. Divorces can be ugly, custody battles have torn family units to shreds...but I'm not avoiding marrying young because I'm terrified of getting a divorce. 
I'm frustrated, friends. And not just because of this issue. I'm frustrated because so many people out there are OK with generalizing when it comes to important topics.

Everyone is different. I respect it. I love it. So to write on behalf of everyone especially on the category of marriage, is weird and annoying. 

There are people in the world who have their own opinions about marriage. Surprising, isn't it? I wish so desperately to sit and have coffee with Julia and Amanda and lay out to them the reasons why generalizations about marriage don't work. I know there are surveys and research polls, but those are just idealistic words on a paper. I try not to judge someone's heart, but when answering those questions, do people really truly believe the answers that they are giving? Or do they just look good in writing? 

Yes, I want to get married. I'm excited to spend my life with someone who loves me for me, and grow in our relationship together. No, Amanda, I'm not scared of divorce. What am I waiting for, Julia? I'm waiting because I'm not ready yet. I won't be ready for awhile. And that's ok, because it works for me. 

So don't feel pressured to tie the knot just yet. Or, go ahead and tie the knot. Do whatever works for you. But for those of us who aren't ready yet, Just remember and/or focus on the hilarious words of Barney Stinson:
Shine Bright!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

New Life Plan

Fun fact: I love clothes. (All kinds of clothes. Dresses, shirts, skirts, pants, accessories); I love the way they look on and off the rack. (Be warned: how they are styled on mannequins is deceiving). I love the way it feels when I touch a sleeve, or study stitching.
I love keeping up with current trends and designers. (Peplum? Depends. Neons? Yes. Nautical inspired anything? ALWAYS. ) Additionally, I love spending a normal, healthy amount of money on outfits. I rarely pass up a great pair of clearance shoes, and I'm obsessed with Retail Me Not. (Coupons and promo codes for basically any retail store you go to! Don't go out without checking it first!)
I also love how other people look in clothes. I love picking out clothes and making outfits for other people. All of this has led me to this realization: 
I officially want to be an amateur personal stylist/shopper. 

I know what you're thinking: "But"
I'm glad you asked. The answer is...I'm not sure yet. Unfortunately, WikiHow is proving to be unhelpful by having absolutely zero articles on this topic, but this is something I've toyed around with for a year or two.
Really, I owe all of this to my friend Kim who has an amazing sense of style. One of the first times we spent time together, she took me to Forever 21 and essentially changed the way I look at clothes. Her quick study of me and knowledge of my personality made it easy for her to pull clothes off the rack and have me try them on. She also has this way of saying "you look so cute" that can make anyone feel good about themselves and the outfit they're wearing

I want to be that person for someone else. It's really no secret that I love people. If making friends was a profession, I'd cash in on that. I love to see people take pride (in a positive way!) in themselves, and where they are in life. We all know that true beauty comes from the inside. I really believe that confidence is key.  But confidence is harder to fake if you're not feeling good about your outsides. And sometimes, it works the other way too: if you're not feeling like you look your best, that can do a number on your self-esteem. Trust me, I know this from experience... kinky-hair problems...

Now, if you're sitting there, a little cynical at everything I've said, I encourage you to throw out every scary thing you've ever heard about fashion trends. Forget all of the crazy hairstyles you've seen from Fashion Week runways, and please, I'm begging you, forget about the price tags.

Forget fashion, and focus on style. Style is all about your personality and how you feel when you put on that outfit. Editor-in-chief of American Vogue, Anna Wintour, has said: "Create your own style...Let it be unique for yourself, and identifiable for others." I love this because it allows total creative freedom!
If you're a young, athletic student (I'm looking at you Shannon!), and you tend to lean towards sweatpants, there are ways to still be comfortable without the "I look like a college student who has given up on trying" look. If you're preppy, but you want to shed the "school girl" stigma, we can find places to buy outfits that won't break the bank. If you hate every single trend out there, we can mix things up, create a style, and name it after you! If you teach* pre-school, and need that balance of functional and professional, there are stores just for that too!

The reason I feel so strongly about this is because I'm realizing more and more that  women are so beautifully different.

God has made everyone into an individual with different physical and characteristic traits. We should celebrate that. And what better way than encouraging confidence and sporting a great blazer? 

I'm serious about helping people, so if you have any questions, or need outfit suggestions, please don't hesitate to ask! If I don't know the answer, or where to get a great shirt for your first date with that hot delivery guy, we'll figure it out together! (Key word: together. It's about your personal style, not just what I think you'll look good in. You always have the final say!) 

Shine Bright!

P.S.: There are great blogs online devoted to finding clothes from your favorite TV shows as well! Seriously, the internet is a storehouse of information!
*Some places will even give you an educator's discount! That's right, friends, it can be done: you can have an upgraded wardrobe and not groan at your bank statement the next month!