BY SHAWNA PEETE
A passage from the initiation ritual said, “The good girl will get the gold.” The new girl isn’t as shy as I was back then. She’s making solid square corners all around the Assembly room, and as expected the girls are sitting casually yet impatiently at their stations. They’re stumbling all over their rituals, and laughing off their several mistakes. I don’t try to be prude when people mess up a few sentences, but it depresses me to see the minimal effort so many little sisters are putting into their ritual. The first time I stepped into the Assembly room I felt like I was surrounded by princesses sitting elegantly at their thrones. Their fancy floor work and fluent recitation of the ritual had convinced me they were royalty, or rather they should be treated as such. It’s so different from how the younger girls act now.
For me, learning the ritual and reciting it to an audience shows your respect within a sorority because it takes the most time, energy, skill, and courage to accomplish. But, all girls have different ideas on what makes Rainbow special for them, and how they plan to achieve their goals.
What makes us sisters is that we all share one specific goal; Rainbow girls will be climbing to the end of one special rainbow where our own individual pots of gold lie. If this girl would like to see her sacred pot she must leave all of her burdens behind, and walk with her sisters along the path that starts at the only end she can find, farthest from the gold. The end of the rainbow will stretch farther away until you make an effort to climb its colors.
“My girl, we now recognize you as a sister of this Assembly,” they tell her and I wait, as I have been.
I just want my Majority membership. I want it sealed in paper and signed with pen. I want the physical proof that I’ve gone to the end of the rainbow that they promised. I spent six years enticed by promises of friendship and rewards. It only took me those six years of displace, of rejection, depression, to realize that Rainbow and the concept of sisterhood is a joke.
There are no friends from here to say goodbye. I started to take the hint that for six years I was never a memorable sister. Have I always been this overlooked? It’s funny how I can’t even bring myself to preach that “why you suck” speech I rehearsed again and again. My initiation had more attendance than this. That was back when white gowns and tiaras meant something other than dress up. I had some older sisters to accompany me before they dropped out, and sisters who could have been my friends.
“Faith will lead you on in your search for the treasure. She is a girl’s best friend,” they continue.
Before initiation, there was Danielle. Once a girl from Sunday school in 3rd grade, now a stranger who knows me too well. She baited me into the organization with promises of fun and Rainbow families, but I was just interested in learning how to trust people again after going through so many depressing school years. Danielle quit Rainbow two years later. I didn’t feel like my presence mattered anymore since all the girls close to me were meeting new people or moving on from Rainbow. It wasn’t good enough to be yourself anymore, you had to be interesting. I was surrounded by these sisters all the time in Rainbow, and I always felt alone anyways.
“A girl that’s come far enough to see the start of the rainbow is least likely to turn back.” The older sister beckons the girl to take her hand, they are about to climb the rainbow. Do not worry if she slips; there are several girls coming along the same path, and you can bet that they’ll support her all the way to the top.
There was a time when I genuinely enjoyed being a member of my sorority. As the daughter of a freemason I felt that I held some entitlement to be part of a club traditionally reserved for mason’s daughters.
“But remember my girl that you cannot go further without individual effort.”
Today, my assembly has demonstrated an allusive polarity between the young and old. The initiation and Majority have ended.
I have finally made it to the top, but something’s dreadfully wrong. The rainbow seems to fade wherever I stand. I should turn back, but I’ve already come so far. I might be sinking into the colors while the other girls are skating by, but I’m determined now to have the treasure.
“So many seek to find the treasure, but so few can because they’re unprepared.”
Several older sisters slid down the rainbow before me. They never said anything about the pot of gold as they came to their end. So long as they had their friends by their side they were ready to face the inevitable future. Before Danielle turned back, she said the journey would be safer if I found somebody else to go along with. My rainbow was already sinking at my feet, and the slide looked steep and endless from where I stood. I didn’t want to go on another long journey, or pretend that I wasn’t alone just because I slid down with strangers. A few girls told me to keep going because I couldn’t stay forever, but I only went on because I was enticed by the promise of sacred treasures and bounty. There should be something for me at the end after this horrible adventure.
“Leave your burdens here and you will arrive at the end of the rainbow.”
I know why they’re ignoring me, and no amount of community service or ritual perfection will change it. What I am is a sister, nothing more or less. I don’t have Rainbow charisma or charm because I’ve been stale for the past six years. Every girl is a sister, but every girl has a friend, always through their first Assembly to prepare them for friendships in all others. I am the one who has neither. I walk the Assemblies like a foreigner in a small town, and I blend so easily with the background because I have no one’s attention. Danielle was right when she told me to meet new people because this is the real meaning of the sorority’s slogan, “Sisters by chance; friends by choice”. Even Rainbow knows better of this than I do.
For some reason a leap of faith seemed less daunting than riding a steep slide. The girls were riding over dangerous twists and curves. I was falling freeform to the bottom of the rainbow, and was much quicker than the girls riding to the bottom. The joy I felt came from the fact that I was getting closer to the treasure. All my fears stayed behind.
I finished the cake then left immediately. I said goodbye to the advisors but nobody else. I expected the girls goodbye’s to simply be “goodbye” anyways.
For six years I’d been pointing daggers at people I assumed hated me, but I always secretly knew that what I got back from them was justified. I wasn’t brave enough, and I assumed that good things would just come. What is there to blame them for now? Why should I be angry with them for saying nothing to me even though I took a vow of silence three years ago because I was tired of being brushed off in group conversations?
I didn’t have to be a friend then, but I could have tried to be an older sister. Sisterhood still means something to Rainbow girls, and I can’t pretend it doesn’t exist because I gave up my will to play the part. I know why I stayed, and it’s the ugliest truth you’ll find in the heart of a Rainbow girl.
Now I have a Majority pin and paper, and I’ve kept them in their gift bag since the day I started writing “Little Sister”. There’s a goodbye card in the bag, signed and messaged by every girl in my assembly. I felt sick opening the card, expecting a simple sentence or two, but like all other things I was wrong. I could not believe they filled the whole card with pen and paragraphs. I can’t believe they cared.
“You cannot know the meaning of the treasure without individual effort.”
Then I landed. Hard. The pot is right there, but there’s nothing left inside, and perhaps it’s rightfully so. I know I never deserved to get this far. After all, I did half-ass my way through the organization just for a piece of paper
What’s great is that there was even a pot at the end of my rainbow, and isn’t that what matters? The empty pot is a consolation prize I must be thankful for, because it represents everything I worked to achieve, and refused to abide in. I made out like a bittersweet ending in a novel you’ll never read again, but you can’t deny that the final chapters were justified. I will never pretend to love The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls ever again, but it’s fair to pay my respect where it’s due since I couldn’t have learned so much about life or myself without the organization being a part of me. So thank you, Rainbow, for teaching me that I make my own future, whether it’s good or bad.