This is probably because I went to New York University, where you didn’t need to join a sisterhood to find someone to braid your hair when you could get a complete makeover from a drag queen working the MAC counter. Because I don’t have firsthand experience, my idea of people who are sorority members is largely based on Mandy Pepperidge from Animal House and Marlon Wayans as Tiffany Copeland in White Chicks. Basically, they’re stuck up bitches who are sweet to your face but will steal your boyfriend and your credit card the second you turn around. And they might end up being undercover male FBI agents. I know, it’s unfair and I’d like to wash these ugly stereotypes right out of my hair, and so, I’m doing it the only way I know how: I’m going to join the Spinsters of San Francisco. I’m ready to throwdown, female bonding-style. I think that means a pillow fight?
The Spinsters of San Francisco are not a bunch of older ladies who get together and bitch about men. Yeah, I was kinda bummed when I learned that, too. Instead, they’re a group of young female go-getters who raise money for various charities through fundraising events. It’s like a sorority for college grads with a philanthropic twist.
I am intrigued. Let’s face it, making friends when you’re out of college isn’t easy, especially when you work in male-dominated fields or from home. Having a place to meet similarly minded career ladies with a passion for do-goodery sounds pretty damn good to me. As cynical as I pride myself on being, I love the thought of motivated women supporting each other and fostering social change. It’s badass. I contact Spinsters president, Liz Brusca, and make plans to meet her in person. I want to learn more about this league of single ladies, and how I can join their ranks. I’m excited, terrified, and ready to face my fear, even if it’s a six-foot tall blond lady in a pastel sweater set.
I meet Liz at her office on a sunny Thursday, and am immediately taken with her friendliness, and by the fact that she’s not tall, blond, or wearing anything from Ann Taylor Loft. Liz works as a marketing executive at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, which she admits isn’t a typical employer for a Spinster, who you’ll more likely find working in the Fi-Di.
As we sit in the SFBG conference room, Liz lets me in on some of the organization’s history. Spinsters of San Francisco was founded in 1929 by Patricia Tobin as a sister organization to the Bachelors of San Francisco. It’s nonprofit by charter, and caps membership at 175 women. An important component of the group is the charity work that raises thousands of dollars for a rotating list of nonprofits. Right now they are donating time and money to City of Dreams, an organization dedicated to ending the generational poverty cycle by offering programs and mentorship to kids from challenged neighborhoods. That’s pretty fucking awesome, and right down my alley. In my spare time, I love to organize charity bake sales and clothing drives, and cajole/bribe/force friends to volunteer with me. Having a group of passionate and mobilized women who are already excited about do-goodery is great.
More than that, I like Liz. She’s outgoing, bright, and works or volunteers for about a million places; she’s basically Tracy Flick from Election, but not annoying. She goes on to tell me that while the organization’s main focus is philanthropy, it’s also a place that creates and cements female friendships. In a city where the only time you really interact with strangers is when you have to ask them to stop petting your hair on Muni, this is an amazing service. So, uh, I guess the only question is, how do I get in?
Turns out that pledge season runs March through May, so I’m right on time. To qualify for Spinsterhood, you can’t have ever been married. Makes sense, they are the SF Spinsters. I ask Liz if women in relationships or who are engaged qualify and she assures me that yes, that’s fine. I don’t have to break up with my boyfriend – that’s good news! The other requirements are that you must be between 21 and 35 years of age, have lived in the SF Bay Area for at least a year, and be a college graduate. Oh, one other thing: You need a sponsor. That might sound impossible because, well, what if you don’t know any Spinsters? It’s actually no biggie because they hold lots of events for prospective pledges to meet and befriend Spinsters for a chance at sponsorship. I think the key here is to not act like a psycho at the meet-and-greets. I take that note to heart, and with that, Liz informs me of my next step. A Spinster party!
When I arrive at Harlot on Minna Street for the Spinster’s “Hearts on Fire” event, my first thought is: Crap, I totally should’ve brushed my hair. Great, I’m already fucking up on the whole not acting like a psycho thing. Luckily, the goth-inspired club is dark and crowded, with dozens of fabulously turned-out ladies flitting about. There are lots of women in San Francisco (myself included) with little pride of appearance beyond looking adorably disheveled. It’s nice to see ladies dressed to the nines topped off with some poppin’ lip gloss. These are some fine looking honeys who’ve all brought their A-game (and maybe some cleavage bronzer?).
Although my hair is a fright and my makeup looks like it was applied by a drunken toddler, the women all welcome me into their circle. When I announce that I’m thinking of becoming a Spinster, there’s honest enthusiasm, and I even get a high five. Usually, forced socialization like this makes me want to cry/murder, but these women are funny, smart, and truly excited about sharing their love for the Spinsters. I’m told that many of them didn’t know a soul before they attended their first event, and I find that admirable because I’m the type of person who doesn’t go alone to a movie for fear that strangers will think I’m a terrible person. When I accidentally express this concern out loud, I am not greeted with terror, but laughter. I have a lot in common with these women – from favorite crazy celebrities (Lara Flynn Boyle!) to Bay Area financial worries (SF is so expensive, but I don’t want to live anywhere else!). Not only that, there’s a genuine eagerness that’s refreshing, especially considering that San Francisco can be a cliquey city, no matter who you run with.
Later, I talk to Michelle Bertino, a 29-year-old first-year Spinster who says that joining the group is a great way to meet fantastic women and make lasting friendships. These women honestly dig each other, and enjoy the company they keep. Ladies loving ladies; it warms my heart and almost brings a tear to my eye. Or maybe I’m just on my period and had too many Cosmos. Either way, I’m feeling it.
Since this is the beginning of the pledge season (which lasts until June), I need to attend two official membership socials and one charity event before I can apply. Then, the Spinsters all meet to discuss each of the candidates and whether or not they’re a good fit. Following that, they admit their favorites until the organization is at 175 members. Oh, the best part? All of their meetings are at the freaking Fairmount. I mean, that says more about this organization than 10 million words ever could. Being a Spinster is embracing everything that’s fabulous about San Francisco society, and reaping the benefits. Liz estimates that 90% of Spinsters live in the Marina or Cow Hollow, which isn’t surprising to me, because I think of that area as a sorority after-party. I know people who won’t set foot in the Marina after dark because they’re afraid blond hair extensions will eat their brains, but that’s plain silly. These women are crazy smart, and using their considerable resources for the good. I’m still not convinced it’s the best fit for my uppity vegan West Oakland-living ass (ugh BART), but I’m definitely on board to find out more.
There’s a while left to go in pledge season, and I don’t know who my sponsor might be. Hell, I don’t know if I’ll even have the chutzpah or energy to go through with the whole process, but my interest is piqued. In my younger years, I ran from the idea of organized anything (you can’t put me in a box!), but as I get older, the benefits of a group like the Spinsters are undeniable. San Francisco is an intimidating city, especially when it comes to finding like-minded women to do good and bro out together. The Spinsters make it happen, and they do it while wearing Christian Louboutin fuck-me pumps. Work it, ladies.
Think you have what it takes to be a Spinnie? Check out the website for the latest pledge events and get to rushing. Who knows? You might even meet your future husband or wife at an event; lots of Spinsters have. But be careful not to move too fast, only single ladies are allowed to stay.