The other day I was chatting with my niece, Brigid O'Connor, who recently graduated from Purdue and moved to Dallas to join the Hairboutique.com family in a full time position after three summers as our Intern.
Brigid and I started talking about our sorority experiences and it triggered many memories for me.
One special trigger was my hair experiences once I became a pledge in the Alpha Xi Delta chapter at the University Of Missouri - St. Louis Epsilon Xi chapter.
The truth of the matter is I never thought of myself as prime Greek material but apparently my Alpha Xi sisters didn't agree with me. They rushed me during the beginning of Winter Semester and I soon acquired the nickname of "Junior Pledge" because of my innate quirky and wild personality traits.
Alpha Xi Advantages & Disadvantages
Of course like anything in life there were both advantages and disadvantages to pledging a national sorority like Alpha Xi (The Fuzzies). Because the University of Missouri was considered in those days "a commuter school" I discovered instant friendship by joining a sorority.
I was instantly welcomed into the best study groups and lunch hangouts both on and off campus. It was a wonderful feeling. Before joining Alpha Xi I was just one of the nameless computer students trudging what seemed like miles from the vast parking lots to my classes.
I also was able to reconnect with my long lost maternal first cousin - Mary Jo Redel (now Rehg). Mary Jo, who had a thing about never wearing coats and gorgeous butter blonde hair was my inspiration for improving my own formerly dishwater blonde strands.
Which brings me to how sorority hair changed my hair life. The sisters of Alpha Xi were known more (at least during my era in early 1970s at Epsilon Xi) for their scholastic achievements than their pulchritude although Alpha Xi has certainly turned out a major share of gorgeous women over the years. In my day grades were of utmost importance (and my grade point soared under their watchful eyes). I also found a renewed focus on my major (Sociology) and a pride in doing my part in bringing up the sorority's GPAs.
My hair also benefited greatly from my days in the Sisterhood. Of course I was instantly inspired by my gorgeous blonde cousin and my wild Pledge Mom - Marylu Vesilsky - who taught me how she curled her hair while driving down Highway 70 at 70 miles an hour.
I admit the first few times she was rolling her strands into the electric rollers with both hands I was freaked. Once I realized she knew how to steer with her knees I relaxed and worked in harmony with her hair needs by handing her metal clips. After all she only had two hands.
Sorority Membership Is A Strand Helper
I asked my niece if she felt that being in a sorority improved the overall look of her hair and she answered in the affirmative. As she pointed out "women dress to impress other women" which includes how they "do their hair".
When you are hanging out with a group of women focused on looking their best for Founder's Day, Greek Week and other Greek related social events, you get lots of great free hair and beauty tips. You also get to pass around various hair care products.
I remember Marylu giving me more than one short course on how to achieve wrinkle free curls and waves with hot rollers. Of course I quizzed my blonde cousin on her shiny strand creation techniques. She gave me some great hair secrets which I promptly adopted.
Sorority Sister Hair Pro With Curlers
By the time I was activated into the sorority I was a pro at creating sleek shiny hairstyles. At one point I got so comfortable with hair rollers than when my pledge sister Becky Orzel and I snuck out of a sorority Formal Rush prep party to nosh at the local McDonald's I was completely unfazed in my head full of gignatic pink rollers.
Unfortunately our Alpha Xi president at the time was pinned to a Sigma Pi who spotted us at the local hamburger hamlet with our hair in gigantic curlers. Naturally Becky and I caught all kinds of hell and an appropriate fine. Not so much for sneaking out of an event as appearing in public with with unsightly curlers, which didn't help our case at all.
Of course now my days as the "junior pledge" carry found members complete with hanging out in curlers eating fries and drinking a chocolate shake - required college food.
Alpha Xi Road Trip
Naturally I have lots of other hair related memories from my days in Alpha Xi.
One of my other favorite sorority hair related memories was the time that Marylu and I stuffed her gigantic Saint Bernard dog into her tiny little car and traveled down the Interstate to the Southeast Missouri State (SEMO) campus to hang out at the Alpha Xi sisters at their house.
I had my hair worked over my a round of sisters and it never looked better. They braided, French Twisted and even trimmed it for me. I was in hair heaven. During that visit I learned to deal effectively with a dog plagued by gastric problems as well as how to crochet my own bun holders and snoods.
I also learned to instantly change my hair styles for Formal Rush since we did back to back parties and everyone changed up their hair for each new group of rushees. One of the styles I learned from my Alpha Xi big sis became my favorite half up/half down style that I wore to our Winter Formal.
One of biggest accomplishments was managing to participate in a few rounds of candle lightings without catching my fast growing newly platinum blonde locks (thanks to Mary Jo) on fire, which almost happened twice. Seriously.
I am not sure The Alpha Xi Sisterhood will claim me as an alumni member but I still have my pearl encrusted Quill Pin in my jewelry box along with my first lavaliere from my first college boyfriend. I also have my very favorite silk Killarney Pink Rose I received from my big sis when I activated.
While achieving great hair help may not be a good reason for committing your college years to a sorority, it is certainly a great bonus. Another bonus is instantly inheriting a group of sisters with lots of clothes and shoes to try on. And yes, there is that special warmth of sisterhood and when appropriate the academic support.
If I had it to do all over again would I join a sorority? Absolutely. My years with Alpha Xi Delta will always live in my heart as a very special time. It's true what they say about The Fuzzies...they help you become the woman you want to be...and have great hair in the process.
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