Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Greek system strikes again

I stole this from Robert's blog, because I was so outraged and disgusted and ashamed when I read it that all I could think to do was re-post it. I guess it's my way of trying to help by spreading the word: Greek systems have been causing so many problems in so many places for so many years, that I have a hard time believing they still exist. I suppose it's good old-fashioned American traditionalsim, and I know there are so many people out there who would write me a strongly-worded letter, lauding the Greek system and its ideals of brother and sisterhood and service (my own father and two aunts included), but the fact remains that it hurts people. It hurts people deeply. It hurt me in ways I couldn't realize until 6 years later sitting on a shrink's couch in Chicago. This article makes me glad that I deactivated when I did, that I didn't keep my mouth shut, and that today I am not considered an alumna of Alpha Phi. I am only considered an alumna of DePauw--which if things like this keep appearing in the news, I'm not sure will be something I want to admit. I only hope that DePauw will stick its neck out for once rather than result to cowardice and turning away heads, since most of the alumni who give mega-bucks to the university have deep Greek system roots. It's time to put a stop to this bullshit.

from The New York Times:

Sorority Evictions Raise Issue of Looks and Bias

Published: February 25, 2007

GREENCASTLE, Ind. — When a psychology professor at DePauw University here surveyed students, they described one sorority as a group of “daddy’s little princesses” and another as “offbeat hippies.” The sisters of Delta Zeta were seen as “socially awkward.”

Worried that a negative stereotype of the sorority was contributing to a decline in membership that had left its Greek-columned house here half empty, Delta Zeta’s national officers interviewed 35 DePauw members in November, quizzing them about their dedication to recruitment. They judged 23 of the women insufficiently committed and later told them to vacate the sorority house.

The 23 members included every woman who was overweight. They also included the only black, Korean and Vietnamese members. The dozen students allowed to stay were slender and popular with fraternity men — conventionally pretty women the sorority hoped could attract new recruits. Six of the 12 were so infuriated they quit.

“Virtually everyone who didn’t fit a certain sorority member archetype was told to leave,” said Kate Holloway, a senior who withdrew from the chapter during its reorganization.

“I sensed the disrespect with which this was to be carried out and got fed up,” Ms. Holloway added. “I didn’t have room in my life for these women to come in and tell my sisters of three years that they weren’t needed.”

Ms. Holloway is not the only angry one. The reorganization has left a messy aftermath of recrimination and tears on this rural campus of 2,400 students, 50 miles southwest of Indianapolis.

The mass eviction battered the self-esteem of many of the former sorority members, and some withdrew from classes in depression. There have been student protests, outraged letters from alumni and parents, and a faculty petition calling the sorority’s action unethical.

DePauw’s president, Robert G. Bottoms, issued a two-page letter of reprimand to the sorority. In an interview in his office, Dr. Bottoms said he had been stunned by the sorority’s insensitivity.

“I had no hint they were going to disrupt the chapter with a membership reduction of this proportion in the middle of the year,” he said. “It’s been very upsetting.”

The president of Delta Zeta, which has its headquarters in Oxford, Ohio, and its other national officers declined to be interviewed. Responding by e-mail to questions, Cynthia Winslow Menges, the executive director, said the sorority had not evicted the 23 women, even though the national officers sent those women form letters that said: “The membership review team has recommended you for alumna status. Chapter members receiving alumnae status should plan to relocate from the chapter house no later than Jan. 29, 2007.”

Ms. Menges asserted that the women themselves had, in effect, made their own decisions to leave by demonstrating a lack of commitment to meet recruitment goals. The sorority paid each woman who left $300 to cover the difference between sorority and campus housing.

The sorority “is saddened that the isolated incident at DePauw has been mischaracterized,” Ms. Menges wrote. Asked for clarification, the sorority’s public relations representative e-mailed a statement saying its actions were aimed at the “enrichment of student life at DePauw.”

This is not the first time that the DePauw chapter of Delta Zeta has stirred controversy. In 1982, it attracted national attention when a black student was not allowed to join, provoking accusations of racial discrimination.

Earlier this month, an Alabama lawyer and several other DePauw alumni who graduated in 1970 described in a letter to The DePauw, the student newspaper, how Delta Zeta’s national leadership had tried unsuccessfully to block a young woman with a black father and a white mother from joining its DePauw chapter in 1967.

Despite those incidents, the chapter appears to have been home to a diverse community over the years, partly because it has attracted brainy women, including many science and math majors, as well as talented disabled women, without focusing as exclusively as some sororities on potential recruits’ sex appeal, former sorority members said.

“I had a sister I could go to a bar with if I had boy problems,” said Erin Swisshelm, a junior biochemistry major who withdrew from the sorority in October. “I had a sister I could talk about religion with. I had a sister I could be nerdy about science with. That’s why I liked Delta Zeta, because I had all these amazing women around me.”

But over the years DePauw students had attached a negative stereotype to the chapter, as evidenced by the survey that Pam Propsom, a psychology professor, conducts each year in her class. That image had hurt recruitment, and the national officers had repeatedly warned the chapter that unless its membership increased, the chapter could close.

At the start of the fall term the national office was especially determined to raise recruitment because 2009 is the 100th anniversary of the DePauw chapter’s founding. In September, Ms. Menges and Kathi Heatherly, a national vice president of the sorority, visited the chapter to announce a reorganization plan they said would include an interview with each woman about her commitment. The women were urged to look their best for the interviews.

The tone left four women so unsettled that they withdrew from the chapter almost immediately.

Robin Lamkin, a junior who is an editor at The DePauw and was one of the 23 women evicted, said many of her sisters bought new outfits and modeled them for each other before the interviews. Many women declared their willingness to recruit diligently, Ms. Lamkin said.

A few days after the interviews, national representatives took over the house to hold a recruiting event. They asked most members to stay upstairs in their rooms. To welcome freshmen downstairs, they assembled a team that included several of the women eventually asked to stay in the sorority, along with some slender women invited from the sorority’s chapter at Indiana University, Ms. Holloway said.

“They had these unassuming freshman girls downstairs with these plastic women from Indiana University, and 25 of my sisters hiding upstairs,” she said. “It was so fake, so completely dehumanized. I said, ‘This calls for a little joke.’ ”

Ms. Holloway put on a wig and some John Lennon rose-colored glasses, burst through the front door and skipped around singing, “Ooooh! Delta Zeta!” and other chants.

The face of one of the national representatives, she recalled, “was like I’d run over her puppy with my car.”

The national representatives announced their decisions in the form letters, delivered on Dec. 2, which said that Delta Zeta intended to increase membership to 95 by the 2009 anniversary, and that it would recruit using a “core group of women.”

Elizabeth Haneline, a senior computer science major who was among those evicted, returned to the house that afternoon and found some women in tears. Even the chapter’s president had been kicked out, Ms. Haneline said, while “other women who had done almost nothing for the chapter were asked to stay.”

Six of the 12 women who were asked to stay left the sorority, including Joanna Kieschnick, a sophomore majoring in English literature. “They said, ‘You’re not good enough’ to so many people who have put their heart and soul into this chapter that I can’t stay,” she said.

In the months since, Cynthia Babington, DePauw’s dean of students, has fielded angry calls from parents, she said. Robert Hershberger, chairman of the modern languages department, circulated the faculty petition; 55 professors signed it.

“We were especially troubled that the women they expelled were less about image and more about academic achievement and social service,” Dr. Hershberger said.

During rush activities this month, 11 first-year students accepted invitations to join Delta Zeta, but only three have sought membership.

On Feb. 2, Rachel Pappas, a junior who is the chapter’s former secretary, printed 200 posters calling on students to gather that afternoon at the student union. About 50 students showed up and heard Ms. Pappas say the sorority’s national leaders had misrepresented the truth when they asserted they had evicted women for lack of commitment.

“The injustice of the lies,” she said, “is contemptible.”

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Nothing like a good ice storm to make a crap ass day of work and driving all over creation even crappier. Chicago blows. I'm moving to Phoenix.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

cake and television

Hands down, best thing about this week was that because I had to sing Ash Wednesday service yesterday, I got tonight off for once in, like, a hundred years. Which meant....THURSDAY NIGHT TELEVISION!!!!! For once I didn't have to wait a whole day to upload The Office from iTunes. It was a TV party at my buddy Nicholas' place tonight, and what made it even better was the ENTIRE SHELF of leftover wedding cake in his refridgerator from his sister's wedding this past weekend. I need to find out who made that cake, because it was damn good. I know because I had two giant slices.

P.S. Grey's Anatomy is just silly. Why do people still like that show?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

come se dice...Midwestern?

My parents are leaving on a two week trip to Italy next week. They are not, shall we say, the most well-traveled people on the planet, but my dad won a trip to Rome through his work and they decided to do it. They are staying an extra week to go to Florence and Venice as well. Neither of them have ever left the country, save for Mexico and Canada, and while both are educated, intelligent people, they aren't terribly knowledgable of foreign cultures. Mom is freaking out. There are few things you should know about Mom and Dad before we continue:

1. Mom despises flying. She has anxiety attacks and needs atleast three Xanax to get across the country, which probably means five to six for a trip across the ocean.

2. Dad is one of the pickiest eaters on the planet. He hates: mushrooms, all nuts, most seafood, many vegetables, and generally anything that is foreign to him.

3. Mom is a extreme worrier.

I've had multiple phone conversations with Mom, attempting to convince her that no, they will not be robbed upon setting foot into Rome, yes, the trains will stop long enough for them to get off, and yes, people will probably speak atleast a little English...and so on and so forth. When we went to Disney World when I was a kid, Mom read several books that instructed her when to go to which rides and shows in order to avoid crowds, to "queue left" because most people naturally go to the right when they get in line. So you get an idea what sort of traveler she is. She likes to plan ahead and plan for every possible disaster, which anyone who has traveled abroad knows is a bit difficult. Apparently she tried calling to book a tour the other day, and the man who answered spoke very little English. She said that she told him she had e-mailed to book the tour a week ago and hadn't heard anything, and he just kept saying "Wait" over and over.

I wish I could be a fly on the wall during their trip. Undoubtedly, these two Midwestern kids from Indianapolis will have some hilarious times. I am so excited for them, finally getting out and seeing the world, but I'd also give anything to see how they get along in a foreign land. While they were here this weekend, Mom went to the mall to buy money belts for them to wear under their clothes and some sort of purse with steel handles that a potential robber couldn't cut through. Every possible disaster.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

In the bleak midwinter

Well, a crazy weekend is behind me (thankfully), a concert well-sung, parents entertained, and now, sadly, my boyfriend is on a plane back to Greece. But it will only be a short time until I see him again, so I am keeping my chin up. I have a very busy weekend ahead of me with two auditions, a trip to the ballet for one of my classes, and the Bel Canto contest at Monastero's on Sunday. My hard work has finally paid off, because I just got a callback for a summer operetta company and advanced to the second round of a big money contest, both of which are this weekend!! I am so thrilled that a few things are starting to go well careerwise. I have a gorgeous new gown to wear for the conest on Sunday (the contest is formal and in front of an audience!), and I am feeling great about my audition pieces. It's an Italian opera conest, so I'm doing Guilietta's aria from Bellini's I Capuleti e I Montecchi (O quante volte), and a Tosti song, because it's cheesy and oh so Italian. It should be fun, and regardless of whether or not I move on to the next round, I win $250. That's my kind of contest.

In other news, I am trying desperately to get on a bit of a healthier living track. I guess it's the springy weather and the season of Lent and the thought of putting on a bikini in a few months thats motivating me, but it's also the fact that I've been experiencing some ill health lately, namely a bladder infection that won't go away and bouts of insomnia. Starting tonight, I'm attempting to eat more fruits and veggies, walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes a day (my knees can't seem to handle running lately), go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, do yoga once a week, and try to get off as many meds as possible. It's not that I take a horrendous amount of medication, but I really want to make a go at being med-free (with the exception of birth control, as I don't need any babies anytime soon).

Like I said, the springy weather has given me the desire for a new, healthy lifestyle. Chicago has suddenly been experiencing 40 degree weather, and I can't tell you how good it feels. I feel almost as though I could go frolic around outside in a t-shirt and jeans. I guess that's what a month of below-zero temperatures will do to a person. Thank goodness it's here to stay for atleast a week or so. Everyone I come in contact with seems happier and more alive. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Chicago is one of the best places to be when the weather turns. People are so grateful for the sun and warmth (even if it's only 45), and suddenly the city comes alive in a way that you never thought possible during the bleak midwinter. It's days like this I'm happy to call myself a Chicagoan (even if there is a half foot of brown sludge covering every available surface).

Friday, February 16, 2007


Today's happy and rested Emily is brought to you by Ambien and the team of mental health professionals who keep me sane and rested.

The 'rents are coming to town this weekend for the big Rutter Requiem concert I'm singing. The Rutter Requiem is, how shall I put this, a little schmaltzy. Every cheap trick in the composer's pocket, this man puts to good use. It's quite beautiful, but a little too in-your-face beautiful for my taste. It's like he's saying: Here's where your supposed to be sad! Here's where you're supposed to be happy! Here's where you supposed to be afraid! There is little room for interpretation, but audiences eat this shit up. The Pie Jesu movement that features the soprano is like sugar-coated...sugar. People just can't get enough of it. I've already sung it twice in church--I used to joke that I was their trick pony; they just loved hearing me float that high A at the end over...and over...and over. This time the concert is with chamber orchestra (YAY!), and we are also premiering a piece by our orgranist, a doctoral composition student. It should be good times--and not nearly as stressful as our concert with full orchestra last year. We did the Mozart Requiem, and halfway through it the other soprano got very ill, and I had to sight read the solo in the last movement. It was terrifying, a true out of body experience that I still don't really remember. I sang all the right notes but a couple of wrong rhythms--nothing disastrous if it weren't for my perfectionism. This time I am the only soloist, so I should be safe. Our director is eight months pregnant though, so who knows!

If you're in the Chicago area, click on the link above for info about the concert! I need fans! (And if you have insomnia, for goodness sake, get some Ambien. I can't tell you how good I feel today).

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Valentine's Post, one day late

My mom always writes in my Valentine card each year: "This was your favorite holiday in elementary school!" Indeed, I loved Valentine's day. It was so much fun picking out which Disney character or Holly Hobby valentines you were going to pass out that year, and then came the excruciatingly difficult task of making sure you didn't give the boys you liked valentines that were too lovey-dovey. And then of course there's the candy--and I've always been a big fan of candy.
For some reason this year, I started thinking back on Valentine's Days past and how I spent them. There was the one with the high school boyfriend, a sweet-as-can-be choir geek, who took me to my favorite Chinese restaurant and afterward in his car sang me a love song that he had been practicing at his voice lessons (for the life of me I can't remember what song it was). I spent plenty of V-days as a singleton, but my favorite of those remains the one when Andrea and I were living together on Southport and made a Sacher Torte.

Some of course, were not so good. The guy I was with during my senior year at DePauw gave me a few boxes of movie theater candy (you know, Hot Tamales and Mike and Ikes and stuff like that). It had been my first Valentine's Day in years where I actually had a boyfriend and I was devastated--no flowers, no card, not even freaking chocolate--and everyone who knows me knows I hate sugary candy. That should have been my first clue that he was an idiot. If a guy doesn't know well enough to get a girl flowers on V-day, he's a damn fool.

Last year Nick gave me the Valentine's Day every girl dreams of. He came to my apartment, dressed fabulously in suit and tie (and I in brand new cocktail dress), a dozen roses in hand, a giant heart-shaped box of chocolates, and a card. He wouldn't tell me where we were going, but he gave me a clue in the car--he played Vivaldi's Four Seasons on the car stereo. Being the musican who suffered through years of music history listening exams, I knew immediately where we were headed. I was then treated to the most fabulous seven course meal of my life in the poshest of surroundings. It was movie-perfect, and I'll never forget it for as long as I live.

This year we had reservations at Brasserie Jo, a nice French place downtown. The week was a bit stressful; I was juggling lots of schoolwork, an upcoming concert, and on top of that a nasty bladder infection and a bit of insomnia. I spent most of Monday and Tuesday lying in bed with a heating pad on my tummy, feeling like I was going to vom. So by Wednesday, I was feeling about 80% but was looking forward to spending a lovely evening with my honey. After a particularly emotional session with my therapist, I headed to Nick's to get ready for dinner. I guess the intensity of the session remained with me, because I chose that moment to talk to Nick about something that had been bothering me, which turned into a rather heated discussion (some might say fight, but we're not really fighting people). We resolved things, and went on to have a lovely and delicious dinner, after which we came back to my house, "smooched" for a bit, then I finished a paper and Nick snored loudly in the background.

I realized today that It was the best Valentine's Day I've ever had. It was no fairy tale, but neither are relationships. This Valentine's Day was an affirmation of the healthy, wonderful relationship I've created with Nick and what I've achieved on a personal level over the past year. I have a man who loves me, even when I spill milk in the backseat of his car or throw a fit about how filthy the bathroom is or when I make him go to the gay street festival or even when I tell him exactly what I'm feeling and what I need. He knows how to calm me down when I'm flipping out about an upcoming audition or concert, and he's always at all my performances cheering me on. He loves me for the neurotic, sometimes self-involved, perfectionist that I am.

And he always buys me flowers on Valentine's Day.


The City of Oak Park may actually surpass The City of Evanston in ridiculous parking officials/situations. Nick and I were reminded of this when he drove there in my car last week and was given a ticket for not having a front license plate. Now, I know that in the State of Illinois I am required to have a front license plate, but the dumb shits that sold me my car never gave me one, and being the dumb shit I am, I never bugged them about it...and now they're out of business. Hmph. Figures. However, I have been driving my car around since January 2005 sans front license plate without any altercations until now. The Cities of Evanston, Chicago, Wilmette, Vernon Hills, Glen Ellyn and the other myriad Illinois cities I've frequented in the past year have never so much as warned me about this lack of front license plate. But drive into Oak Park for less than an hour, and you will be quickly swooped upon by their parking hawks. When Nick and I were first dating, he lived in Oak Park, and everytime I stayed the night we had to call this special parking hotline, no matter where I was parked, and give them my license plate number so they wouldn't tow my car. What's worse, they have a rule that a license plate number only gets five overnight parks a year, so after my five were up, we had to put Nick's car on the street and my car in his spot. Like it's a special priveledge to get to stay in Oak Park for a night? No loitering cars allowed in our fair city! Luckily he moved out of there four months after we started dating--and we stayed at my house an awful lot during those four months.
So yeah, it was tough, but Oak Park beat out Evanston for most annoying parking. I guess I can count myself lucky I don't live there--but if I did, I'd prolly be rich enough to buy a parking spot.

Friday, February 09, 2007

strongly-worded letter

Dear City of Evanston,

I loathe you for so many reasons, including but not limited to the following:

*The eighty-dollar check I wrote you last week for parking tickets

*The fact that you towed my car this week for no reason whatsoever

*The meter maid that you obviously have trailing me around the city, waiting for the moment my meters expire to give me a ticket

*Your incredibly inconvenient location, far from any major highways or roads that makes driving in and out of you a miserable task

*Your general pompousness and over-priced apartments.


The Midwest Princess

(Nick is back from Greece and not even the City of Evanston could suppress my happiness. Blogs may be sparse for the next week or so...I'm very, um, busy.)

Monday, February 05, 2007


Oh how I love me some sushi. Friday's sushi expedition--before:

--and after.

Ow, tummy. it...all...

BYOB, all you can eat sushi...a little piece of heaven and one of the many reasons I love living in this city.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The other 23 hours and fifty-five minutes

I'm becoming an audition machine, which is good and bad -- good because it's becoming natural and easy, but bad because I'm starting to lose that fluttery feeling, the "good" performance anxiety that can be parlayed into some fabulous energy that propells you through the audition. I have a routine now; I have a pump-up song (whose name I cannot reveal because it is an embarrassing pop song) that I listen to on my iPod to get my energy up, I wear the same outfit to every audition, I do my hair the same way. I guess I've accepted the fact that no matter how well I sing or act or look to a panel of judges, I can't control what they think or what they're looking for or how grumpy they are that day. I just bring my A game, sing the hell out of my arias, and move on. I'll find other ways to manufacture the fluttery feeling -- no use getting worked up over things I can't control.

It can be kind of a letdown when you realize, after your first couple of auditions, that you just drove/flew/rode the train all this way to sing for five minutes. I find it's best to try and go with other singer friends who are auditioning or get your significant other to come along. My trip to Cinci for the Pittsburgh audition last November was quite the letdown. I drove for five and a half hours, sang, didn't get called back, and then had an entire evening to kill, by myself in a dull hotel room. I ended up drowning my sorrows in retail therapy (Kate Spade shoes--oh so cute) and a pizza back at the hotel.

This week, I was in Indianapolis auditioning for their Young Artist Program. Luckily this time around, I had a wonderful way to kill the remaininder of my time there -- visiting with my Grandma! My Gram is a fantastic woman, and we have been having a blast together for as long as I can remember. You see, Gram taught me about all the lovely things in life -- shoes, manicures, wine, fancy restaurants, martinis, theater, museums. When I lived in Vienna, Gram came to visit and we spent the most amazing week living like queens and showing Gram the city. My Papa died five years ago, and since then Gram has been on her own. It hasn't been easy for her, but she is a real trooper, and she has a lot of good people as her support system. When I told her I was coming Monday evening for my audition Tuesday afternoon, she immediately made a dinner reservation at Amalfi's, a great Italian place near her house on the Northwest side of Indy.

As soon as I walked in the door of her house, Gram had a glass of Cabernet ready for me and some crackers and cheese. It was 7:35, and our reservation was at 8, but Gram runs on her own time -- and there was ample time for a glass of wine and a chit chat before dinner. At 8:20 we arrived at Amalfi's and were seated immediately. We then proceeded to consume a lot of delicious Sicilian food, a half bottle of Pinot Noir, tiramisu and cappucinos. Our waiter was a young guy who Gram was convinced had a crush on me, which I denied vehemently (last time Gram thought our waiter had a crush on me was when she was visiting Chicago. She kept him chatting at our table for much, much too long; he ended up asking for my number and what resulted was one of the most awkward dates in my history of dating). After dinner, we went home and chatted some more until I felt too exhausted to do anything but collapse in the wondrous king size bed in her guest room.

The next day, my audition wasn't until 2:42, so I slept in, padded downstairs in the "guest robe and guest slippers" to find the coffee pot ready to switch on (Gram was teaching her pre-school class). I drank coffee and watched The View, then began to get ready for my audtiion. Gram came home at noon with lunch from Panera and then she was off to a meeting, so we kissed goodbye and I warmed up and went on my way as well. Unlike most auditions in unfamiliar cities, I knew pretty much where I was going, so the pressure was off to find the venue. The audition went well; I was extremely pleased. Afterward, I got in my car and got back on the road. Three hours later, I was back in Chicago.

I wish all auditions could be like this, but alas, they are not. It was a whirlwind trip, and I've been rather exhausted for the rest of the week. Gram, of course, is convinced that it is in the cosmos for me to get this contract with Indy Opera and come live with her for ten months next year. Lord knows I'd become a wino then.