Drowning In The Mainstream

Drowning In The Mainstream

by Nahall Nikoo Fells

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781450205542
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 02/10/2010
Pages: 284
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.64(d)

About the Author

Nahall Nikoo Fells earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California-Davis and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing and Consciousness from New College of California. A California girl at heart, she currently resides in St. Louis with her husband and Lily, their yellow Labrador.

Read an Excerpt

Drowning in the Mainstream

Confessions of a Sister
By Nahall Nikoo Fells

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2010 Nahall Nikoo Fells
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4502-0554-2


Chapter One

"A cultured woman is always an honor to the land of her birth, but a cultured woman with lofty ideals and noble principles is a lustrous jewel in the nation's crown. Such a one is the sorority girl." The Sorority Handbook

I stood naked in front of an oversized, full-length mirror, scowling at my thighs. I turned sideways and then poked at two dime-sized cellulite circles on the side of my left quad. I turned again, to stand with my backside toward the mirror. I looked over my shoulder and crinkled my nose disgustedly. I turned again, facing front, sucked my stomach in, and then measured the width of my waist with my right thumb and index finger. Looking down at the inch that separated my two fingers, I shook my head and stepped toward my closet.

* * *

I breezed through the corridors of the campus coffee house and took short breaths as I walked down the wide hallway. On the other side of two tall glass doors, I could see girls congregating around a large, circular picnic table out on the quad. I refocused my eyes on the reflective glass in front of me to give my likeness one last nod of approval. My dark, flowing hair was loosely curled. Check. My tee hugged my curves, clinging just tightly enough around my waist, and my skirt hung at exactly mid-thigh. Double check. My legs were somewhat toned, but my J. Crew wedge flip-flops only boosted me to a measly five-foot-four; Heidi Klum I'd never be. Half check. My olive complexion appeared smooth and even. Final check. I nodded and exhaled as I pushed through the heavy door.

Chills trickled down my spine as I scanned the crowd, circling the picnic table like a hungry tigress. Despite the fact that I actually was hungry, having starved myself for the latter years of my adolescence, I was even more famished when it came to discovering my fate as a sorority girl. I felt my cell phone vibrate in my purse, but ignored it. I looked on as all of the girls within ten feet of the table dealt with their nerves. Most huddled with their friends and laughed nervously at each others' uneasiness. A chubby red-head gnawed her nails down to the raw flesh on her fingertips, while a blonde surfer girl, wearing a Guess hemp necklace, ran her fingers through her hair every two-and-a-half seconds.

I skimmed the table with my right index finger and counted eight stacks of white envelopes-one for each sorority house. In a couple of the piles, the names were written in bold, uppercase letters; in others, they were written in cursive, or "I want all my t's to be the same height, like in kindergarten" fine print. I eyed the slim packages and jumped when I saw my name. Mona Karim was written on an envelope in bold, cursive letters; the ink appeared to be that of a fountain pen. A pulse started to throb in the back of my throat and I swallowed hard. It felt as if my temperature spiked to a sizzling 105 degrees before plummeting back down seconds later. I inhaled the kind of deep breath that vibrated in the back of my chest when I was anxious, and held it.

"All right, girls, gather around!" a washed-out recruitment counselor yelled. I exhaled as all side conversations came to a hasty halt. I could tell that the upper class sorority girl had been up all night doing whatever it was that the counselors did the night before Bid Day. Her greasy hair was thrown back in a disheveled ponytail, and her fingers appeared to be swollen from multiple paper cuts. "I know you're all anxious to get your Bid Day invitations and find out what house you're in, but just bear with me here. I'm gonna call out a room number, read the names of the girls that should report there, and hand out the invitations. All of the rooms are in North Hall. Do not open your invitation until you get into your classroom! It speeds things up."

I anxiously adjusted my jean skirt and tee before crossing my arms impatiently. I'd hoped to say I'm fun and sassy but not slutty with flip flops, a denim miniskirt and a fitted Abercrombie tee. I discreetly licked my right index finger and traced my dark, thin eyebrows, making sure not a single hair was out of place. I recrossed my arms, bit my bottom lip, and prayed that, in contrast to the majority of my life, my darker features hadn't set me too far apart from the "in" crowd. The counselor picked up the first stack of envelopes and started reading off names.

* * *

I'd chosen not to go through the sorority recruitment process during my freshman year at Cal Davis because I didn't want to make any decisions that I'd regret. I had heard that most bottom-tier sororities would strategically send their best-looking girls out to talk to potential new-member hotties who were way out of their leagues, and I definitely didn't want to get conned into becoming a victim of house rebuilding.

After a year of scoping things out as a freshman, I was glad I'd waited. I had my eyes on the prize. I was sure that I wanted, more than anything in life, to be invited to join the prestigious and esteemed Alpha Phi Omega. And after surviving hours upon hours of intense interrogations, trick questions, and forced smiles, the recruitment process appropriately nicknamed "Rush," I was more than ready to discover if I was worthy of such an honor.

A Phi or Alpha Phi, as it was affectionately nicknamed, was recognized in most elite social circles as the top sorority house at Cal Davis. It was among a group of eight sororities that were classified among the student body as the "white-girl houses." The white-girl houses were overseen and governed by the National Panhellenic Organization on campus. At Cal Davis, the NPO was headed by an incredibly tall and intimidating blonde woman who went by the nickname Panprez. Panprez and a few volunteers from each of the eight houses were responsible for orchestrating rush at the beginning of every school year; without fail, year after year, hundreds of sorority seekers turned out for the weeklong event.

Sorority seekers didn't actually have to be white to rush one of the eight houses, but everyone knew that in order to be invited to join a top white-girl house on campus, she had to fit in with the vanilla, party-girl mainstream. Hence, I was fairly nervous that my non-whiteness, also known as my pesky Iranian heritage, had ripped me from the mainstream and beached me somewhere offshore. Just short of offering my first born as a sacrifice to the sorority gods, I prayed that I'd made the cut.

* * *

"In room number eleven, I have Sasha, Roopi, Josephine, Xiao."

Listening intently to the recruitment counselor, it wasn't hard to deduce that the girls reporting to room eleven were new Alpha Chi Omega Omicrons. A Chi O was one of the bottom-tier houses. A Chi Os took pride in their considerable diversity; by attracting and accepting several ethnic students each year, they were not-so-affectionately nicknamed the FOBs. That label, used for people who were (or appeared to be) "fresh off the boat" from a foreign country, was one that I vowed to evade at all costs. I was beyond thankful that I wasn't headed to room eleven and hopeful that my hazel eyes had been enough to counteract any FOB by impressions that my tan skin may have given off at first glance.

"Okay, reporting to room seven we have Shelly, Stephanie T., Amy O., Molly."

Minutes passed like hours as I listened carefully for my name. The intense anticipation delivered me into an unsettled haze and before I knew it the recruitment counselor was calling out the names in the fourth group of envelopes. Something in me started to panic.

What if I don't get A Phi? I looked down at my tense fingers and started chipping away at my French manicure. DG would be the next best thing ... but what if that one's already been called? So if I don't get A Phi or DG, the next best house is Pi Phi, right? The Pi Phis are okay but ... Please God, let me be an A Phi ...

I became emotionally immersed in the glimpses I'd gotten of A Phi life during my freshman year. My best friend Sadie and I would sit in the front room of our dorm suite and discreetly watch the Phis frolic around drunkenly in our Motel 6-styled dormitory. At least three evenings of the week the Phis were dressed to the nines in theme party attire. Night after night we would enviously gawk at their barely there homemade costumes and daydream about the day that we, too, would don Saran-wrap bikinis and name tags introducing us as famous movie stars.

Their flirtatious giggles and slurred slumber party invitations often woke us up in the middle of the night as well. Phi after-parties ran until morning in the dorm hot tub with dreamy frat guys. On occasion, when a playful squeal shook us from our sleep, Sadie and I actually peeled ourselves out of bed at an indecent hour to get a better look at the life we knew we were destined to live one day. We would walk past the pool area, toward the soda machines, and glance at them out of the corners of our eyes. Those nights generally resulted in a shared Diet Coke, and caffeine-induced discussions (that sometimes lasted until dawn) about our resentment of their flawless figures.

The A Phis seemed to have it all. They were rumored to be naturally and effortlessly gorgeous girls who partied their butts off but still managed to pass their classes. I had heard that the Delta Gamma Deltas also were killer partiers and that many were cute, but most DGs couldn't handle a college course load on top of their wild sorority functions. They lost girls to academic probation every quarter and often recruited girls illegally during the school year. The Pi Beta Phi Alphas had a handful of good-looking girls, but were mostly honor roll, pre-med students. They spent more time in the books than on the town. Also, most Pi Phi seniors got engaged to their longtime boyfriends long before graduation. The standing joke (among the frats) was that they would date an A Phi, have a one night stand with a DG, and marry a Pi Phi.

As the recruitment counselor's voice took a back seat to my loud-speakered thoughts, I realized that I had chipped away the majority of my forty-dollar manicure. I shifted my weight impatiently and glanced around at the shoe choices of the diminishing crowd of girls. My eyes immediately fixed themselves on a pair of sand-colored, tall Ugg boots that looked brand-spanking-new. Hate to break it to ya, Ugg boots, but you're too late. If you had made an appearance earlier in the week you may have been able to plead your "I belong to a rich girl" case, but the show's over. The invitations are printed and your cards have been dealt. Better luck next time. I couldn't help but think about the other sororities ... houses I'd have been even less excited to be in.

Mu Kappa Kappa Gamma-I mean, "My Visa Visa MasterCard." No, thank you! The Kappas were known as the tooskinny, coke-head, "daddy's girls" on campus. Maintaining a size two was a high priority of mine and all but the skeleton look was a bit extreme for my taste. There's Kappa Alpha Chi Theta: simply ew. The Thetas had the highest cumulative house GPA-enough said. Xi Delta Delta Delta sucks, sucks, sucks. Literally, too! I was far from being a Tri-Delt enthusiast. I had heard too many guys tell their friends, "If you're drunk and looking for an easy girl, 'Try Delta!'"

I looked up from the mint-condition Uggs that I'd just had a few words with and saw that a group of overweight girls had collected their invitations and were heading toward a classroom together. One relatively slender girl trailed behind them sobbing into her cell phone. "Mom! I told you! They're the fat girls here on the west coast! I can't believe you made me choose them just because you were one at NYU!" she blubbered. "I'm ruined!"

I watched in relief as the plus-sized posse made their way toward their classroom. Thank God. I would have died if I was a Tau Chi Omega. Chi O was the chub sorority at Cal Davis, nicknamed Cow O. Every year fraternity pledges were ordered to graffiti the curb outside the Chi O house as part of their hazing. They would spray paint phrases like "Got Milk?" and "Fat Farm" on the sidewalk and throw garbage all over their lawn.

I perked up when I noticed that there were only two stacks of envelopes left. Here we go. I scanned the group of girls that stood with me, all of us still waiting anxiously for our invitations. There were about forty of us, the right size for two small pledge classes. I quickly noticed that about twenty of the girls were definitely A Phi material, the stunning Jessica Simpson types. About fifteen others were cute, but were somewhat Lara Flynn Boyle-ish-you know, borderline emaciated. And about five were more average Natalie Portman types. I guessed that the two piles left were A Phi and Kappa, but I couldn't be sure. I knew that I would have chosen Kappa over five of the other houses, but it was definitely no competition for the house I had become mildly obsessed with.

In addition to being known for snorting lines of coke off of frat-house toilet bowls, Kappas were also the only girls known to actually ask potential new girls how much money their parents made. According to Kappa standards, having a daddy in the highest tax bracket was essential for any new member. My dad was up there, but at that moment, I started to wish he were a mailman rather than a top-producing Real Estate Agent.

Kappa even had an alumna, employed by Ralph Lauren right out of college, who came back every year to help with recruitment. The Kappas called her the "Authority." She would identify impostor clothing and knock-off purses like it was second nature to her. As a pro on things like authentic decorative stitching, zipper placement, and hem lines, she knew how to call people out. I had heard she could even tell if brands were legit but outdated or discontinued and bought at Marshalls or TJ Maxx. My life suddenly flashed before me as a Kappa. I saw myself swimming in an extra small MKKG sweatshirt and passing a platinum credit card, with white dust on it, to a skeleton in a mini skirt. I shivered.

"Natalia, Mary F., Megan R., Hailey." The counselor quickly shuffled through the names of one of the two stacks left. Before I knew it, the crowd had downsized faster than a teenage overeater with an illegal prescription for ephedrine. "Margot, Stephanie L., Alexis." she continued. "And now for the last pile." The twenty of us left stood silently as we all sized each other up. Among us were about fifteen Jessicas, two Laras, and three Natalies. I considered myself to be a Natalie with a tan.

We weren't sure what house we were in yet, but we knew that whichever one it was, we were in it together. I pulled my oversized sunglasses out of my vintage Chanel purse and slipped them on. I discreetly counted five Louis Vuitton satchels, three Marc Jacobs hand bags, two Fendi totes, and one special collection Gucci hobo. "And in room number thirteen, we have Mona ..." I scrunched my eyebrows and clutched my purse. What does it mean to be first? Am I first on their list? Last on their list? A late addition? I raised my hand as if the recruitment counselor was calling roll and, with a straight face, I took the envelope off of her open palm.

I stared at the envelope as I stepped out of the circle and walked in the direction of North Hall. I had taken statistics there the year before, so even though I had only been there a couple of times I knew exactly where it was. I had never seen my name written so beautifully, Mona Karim elegantly contrasted against the textured white background in every way possible.

As the muffled voice of the counselor continued to sound off behind me, I held the envelope in shaking hands. My mom's reassuring words rang in my head through her Farsi accent. "Azizam, does et really matter if you get to be an Alpo Feet? You don't need any-von or any group to tell you who you are. You are perfect with or without them."

I looked over my right shoulder and saw two girls who were a few yards behind me whisper excitedly and high-five each other softly. I sighed, looked back down at my envelope, and purposefully slid my index finger under the glued flap. I slowly tilted the envelope and felt the weight of a heavily embroidered card fall into my grasp.

I immediately closed my eyes, too afraid to reveal my fate so abruptly. It was only when my right eye peeked down at the weighty card resting in the palm of my hand that a cheeky grin spread swiftly across my face. I gripped the card tightly with both hands and read out loud, "You are cordially invited to join the Epsilon Beta Rho Chapter of Alpha Phi Omega!"

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Drowning in the Mainstream by Nahall Nikoo Fells Copyright © 2010 by Nahall Nikoo Fells. Excerpted by permission.
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