Monday, December 5, 2011

KKG Stocking Stuffing Philanthropy

Come join your Kappa friends and give back this holiday season!
We will put together stockings to benefit children through
Communities in Schools of Greater New Orleans.
Light fare and refreshments will be served.

These were always awkward and fascinating events. Awkward because I didn't know anyone and sorority alumnae functions don't really fit into the New Orleans welcome wagon. They were fascinating because of the shoes, and the hats, and our conversations.

Last year I went to a cocktail hour, a tea party, and a crawfish boil in three different Garden District mansions. Save for the Symphony Chorus concert after-party, I didn't have any access to this world. I think AmeriCorps gave me the best of New Orleans, by default the accessible side. My friends and I went to no-cover shows, Ms. Mae's for dollar drinks, and joined the volunteers and gutter punks for free Indian food at the Hare Krishna temple every Sunday. We knew the homeowners of the shotgun houses we fixed and the charter school students we taught, but our interactions with the upper class were few and far between.

To me, the Garden District could have easily been a theme park, just a huge lavish exhibit full of well-landscaped, strategically lit, hollow homes. But as I biked down St. Charles at night, sometimes I'd slow down and try to see inside their windows. There were big parlors with pianos, and mantlepieces and big paintings. It didn't make the houses any more real, they looked like blown-up doll houses to me. The massive oak tree canopies and the sudden rambling streetcar with the flickering lights made it even more surreal. One time the sight of the yellow-lit streetcar approaching through the darkness reminded me of the cat-bus from My Neighbor Totoro. But...oftentimes I was drunk.

My point is, thanks to the oaths I took my freshmen year, I was thrice given the opportunity to (attempt to) assemble a matching outfit and see how the other half lives in New Orleans.

When I gave a shpeel about AmeriCorps to a Kappa chapter meeting, I mentioned my plans to move to Palestine, and got a room full of wide eyes and blank stares. They were all sitting on floor cushions, and I remember it was raining that day, and most of the girls were wearing galoshes, which were probably cooler than UGG boots at that point. I remember always wanting a pair for New Orleans, I just never got around to buying them.

Palestine was usually a conversation-slower at the alumnae parties too, but at Cybill's tea party, a nice lady in a large black hat told me to forward my blog link to the group, because she really wanted to keep track of my adventures. That was a really nice feeling. I was glad that I'd taken a chance and gone to the party alone, even though I was wearing a navy blue dress and black shoes, and made a conscious decision that I was too hungry to eat gracefully. If my Kappa chapter had etiquette dinners, I must have skipped them. But they couldn't have prepared me to be an AmeriCorps on food stamps next to a fancy buffet. All protocol goes out the window....

Anyways, if you're in New Orleans and you want to crash a stocking stuffer party, see me for details. I'll show you the secret handshake.

jkjk. but do support your local schools.