Mary Reynolds '05 -- she's hardly one of the 'mean girls'

by Gus Lûbin | 11/23/04 6:00am

Editor's note: This is the fifth in a series of articles profiling students who at first glance embody various Dartmouth stereotypes. In this piece, The Dartmouth examines the sorority girl.

Mary Reynolds '05 owns three pairs of pearl earrings, carries either a leather Coach bag or a Kate Spade purse and wears Kappa Kappa Gamma "butt pants." She likes salad, she likes cocktails and even though she has never dated a Heorot, she does like carats.

Reynolds, a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, said she was surprised when she found out that she was going to be featured in The Dartmouth to examine the sorority girl stereotype -- but not too surprised, she admitted.

"At Dartmouth I think there isn't so much one stereotype for all sorority girls, but instead stereotypes for the different houses," she said. "Most people think Kappas are the pearl-wearing, salad eating, Barbie type, and I guess I fit that image in a number of ways."

There is, of course, more to being a stereotypical sorority girl than fashion and frat-hopping: Embarrassing stories of automotive incompetence are practically requisite. This is a qualification that Reynolds, with a laugh, admits she has.

As she tells it, several years ago she was trying unsuccessfully to start her car, so she called her father in hysterics. When he couldn't help, she called AAA to come and start the car.

The AAA man showed up, sat down to try to start the car and then stared out at Reynolds in disbelief -- she had had the car in neutral.

Allan Reynolds Jr., Reynolds' father, jokes that the repairman probably reflected that he should have applied to Dartmouth.

Reynolds is sure to point out, however, that the car was an 1982 Volvo, not a Hollywood sorority girl car like an Audi TT.

Reynolds, who hails from Norfolk, Va., pledged at Kappa because she was looking for a national sorority that also "had fun."

She said she was relieved that Dartmouth sororities were more relaxed than those in the South, where she had heard girls sometimes transfer schools if they don't get into their sorority of choice.

Reynolds is happy to emphasize her roots at Dartmouth, but explains that she isn't a true southern belle because, unlike many of her friends from home, she never had a debutante ball.

Since pledging, Reynolds has been very involved in her house, serving as president for her sophomore summer, living at Kappa her sophomore summer and her junior fall and sitting as an executive on the Order of Omega honor society.

She is now the new member educator, which officially puts the 49 pledging sophomores under her wing. She also plays several intramural sports with Kappa, albeit while wearing "pearl earrings and KKG butt pants."

Reynolds may typify the sorority girl stereotype, but friends said that's not all there is.

Kappa vice president Nicole Valco '05 described Reynolds: "She looks like Karen from 'Mean Girls,' but she's not a mean girl."

Reynolds has seen "Legally Blonde," another film about sorority-type girls, and enjoyed the movie.

"The sorority in the movie, Delta Nu, is an extreme version of the Kappa stereotype, but I recognize some elements," Reynolds said. "I like to model myself in some ways after the Reese Witherspoon character."

Witherspoon plays a devoted sorority girl who is also compassionate and intelligent. In the movie's sequel, Witherspoon brings her sorority spirit to law work in Washington. Although she has never seen the sequel to 'Legally Blonde,' Reynolds also worked in Washington, D.C. in a public defender's office.

In the nation's capital, she spent much of her time working in slums. During one memorable experience, an enraged and unstable client threatened to shoot her. Reynolds escaped unharmed and still plans to pursue a career in law.

Valaer van Roijen '05, Kappa's president, suggested that Reynolds was a good representative of all the sororities around Dartmouth because she is so well-rounded.

Reynolds' brother, Allan Reynolds '07, agreed that using Mary as an example put a positive spin on the sorority stereotype.

But, he added that his sister, like Reese Witherspoon's character in "Legally Blonde," has the brains to make her successful.

"She can be ditzy, but right now we're in the same class and she's rocking me," he continued. "So if she's an airhead, then I'm a retard."

Reynolds said she is proud to be known as a Dartmouth sorority girl and a Kappa, but that she hopes that people realize that she -- and sororities -- aren't superficial.

This isn't to say that she will abandon her pearl earrings or KKG butt pants. Sometimes "stereotypical" looks too fashionable to turn down.