The new members of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. Maria Theisen | Courtesy

In the middle of formal recruitment my freshman year, I called home. I wanted to get the heck out. Fuming on the phone to my family that soror­ities were just an arbi­trary social con­struct prone to the cul­ti­vation of facades, my dad inter­rupted me: “And is there any­thing wrong with that?”

I didn’t get the heck out. I stayed. I pledged Kappa. And I have spent the last three and a half years trying to figure out an answer to that question: Is there any­thing wrong with that?

We throw the buzz words of authen­ticity, sin­cerity, and vul­ner­a­bility around like they’re the be-all-end-all of social inter­action. Nobody can argue that there is a place for them. But we can also agree that answering everyone who asks “How are you?” along the lines of “Well, I am 43 percent OK, 26 percent over­whelmed, 10 percent annoyed at my English pro­fessor, and 21 percent hungry,” would be ridiculous and best saved for your best friend or sig­nif­icant other, if that.

This is an absurd exag­ger­ation of a hard reality; in the pro­fes­sional world, lim­iting your rela­tion­ships to the real and raw is not an option. Some­times, choosing not to asso­ciate with certain people is not an option. Upon grad­u­ation, most of us will be con­fronted with incom­petent col­leagues and abrasive bosses. In sub­urbia, we will interact with curt teachers, rude neighbors, and soccer moms who make us want to swear like sailors. We cannot merely avoid these rela­tion­ships — instead, we must nav­igate them, treating others with friend­liness when pos­sible, with def­erence when required, and with courtesy always. Good manners are non­nego­tiable.

Last month, an inter­viewer for medical school asked me an unex­pected question: Who would be your worst nightmare patient? She chuckled at my answer, saying, “You’ll meet a lot of that kind of patient.” The details of my response are unim­portant. What matters is that regardless of whether someone is my par­ticular Achilles’ heel, I will still have to treat them well. This is not about feigning sin­cerity. This is about rec­og­nizing that the world requires us to fake it; we must often speak and coexist respect­fully with people who really, really tick us off.

What does this have to do with the Greek system? The Greek system has been the best microcosm of this reality that I have seen during undergrad. I don’t think any Greek would tell you that inter­acting with their house is all rainbows and but­ter­flies. But it is pre­cisely because it is not rainbows and but­ter­flies that it is worth­while. If you stick it out, you will be per­pet­ually pro­vided with oppor­tu­nities to meet, work (and fight) with stu­dents who you never would oth­erwise — who study dif­ferent sub­jects, spend their weekends in dif­ferent ways, and resolve con­flict by dif­ferent prin­ciples. With this comes the chance to open your mind to other per­spec­tives and to learn to com­promise. Being Greek is not about faking authen­ticity. It is about giving unex­pected rela­tion­ships a chance, about giving those rela­tion­ships another chance, about giving them a third. How else would I have become friends with a wicked-smart econ­omist or forged mutual respect with a con­fident cheer­leader?

And if you practice it for long enough, you get better at it, building habits ser­viceable for life after Hillsdale.

So the next time you’re tempted to fling “fake” at someone in a sorority or a fra­ternity or even about to direct that adjective as an insult at the system in general, I would chal­lenge you to think about whether it is inher­ently a bad thing.

I have been asking that question for three and a half years, and I am inclined to say it is not.

Senior Maria Grinis is a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma.