What I Presume Went Down at my High School Reunion.
It’s the day before Thanksgiving, 2011. After a post-work nap and take-out, it’s 7:30 pm, cold and dark. My 10 year high school reunion started half an hour ago, and while I purchased tickets for myself and the husband (20 bones each for one drink ticket and an “appetizer buffet”), showering, drying my hair, putting on makeup and driving 15 minutes seems like way too much effort to undergo. Especially too much effort when I don’t have any driving reason to reunite with people I got along fine with 10 years ago and have hardly thought of since. Maybe if I had a mortal enemy to face or best friend to meet up with or something to prove to a mean girl, that would be motivation. Alas, I am more well-adjusted than most rom-com leading ladies, so I stayed in. Here’s what I imagine I missed.
The nice girls are still nice. These are the pretty-but-not-hot girls, the popular-but-not-powerful girls, the Daddy-got-me-a-safe-used-Honda girls. They were smart but not threatening, and now they are married to a 7/10 guy who exudes vanilla and works in insurance or managing plumbing sales or something else needed but not interesting. She graduated college with a degree in marketing, psychology or education and after the first “little one” (or some other cutesy idiom for offspring), found her life calling as a stay-at-home mom. She now spends most of her time with children or other mothers, and a fun night means two glasses of white wine or skinny margaritas and watching The Bachelor with the girls. She may be a bit bland, but she’s still sweet, harmless and genuine.
Late blossomers have bloomed almost past recognition. Not unlike the nice girls, these men and women didn’t stand out much from the crowd back in the hallways. It may have been shyness or unremarkable personal appearance or interests in “odd” but safe things like anime or horses. They were different, but not enough to warrant merciless torment or social pariah statuses. And now they emerge from the cocoon of a decade of non-memories as their metamorphized adult forms. There’s the not-to-hot transformation, the shy and quiet to life of the party, the overweight to fit. Occasionally, the more rare varieties are spotted. The shadow of a name familiar from the yearbook or class roster with no person to accompany it, that mysterious person you didn’t even know existed, now a prominent figure in business, society or the world beyond our hometown. The lost soul who spent all four years trying out ways to fight reality or hurt herself, now a really stable and happy parent. These people now flit around the room, colorfully landing and alighting from conversations at their own will, clearly more apt and comfortable in independence than many of the class of 2001 will ever be.
The high school cream of the crop prove they peaked 10 years ago. This group is easy to spot. They are the ones wearing their class ring or letter jacket without a shred of irony or humor. It’s hard to argue this isn’t the first time they’ve donned this tokens in the past decade. They look like they’ve aged more than 10 years without looking old. They talk about the good old days, and you can tell they really, deeply miss them. When they hear Glory Days, they personally relate with a story about a baseball game of their own. They seem to remember everything fun or funny or iconic about high school, and while you laugh along with them at tales of the past, you can’t help but feel a bit sad for them. Because while you saw them as having it all in high school, they’ll never have it all again.
The vast majority are just older, slightly different versions of who you knew then. Some people look more dramatically different, with a weight loss or more mature style. Some smoke less pot now, some drink more. But this 90 percent of attendees and the broader graduating class are pretty much the people you joked with in Chem or skipped out on PE with. The conversations slip easily into familiar, reminiscing about the past and catching up on the present. They’re okay, you’re okay, and everyone is good with that. The prevailing thread that we all grew up, that people are happy and lives are good, this is better than any satisfaction from showing up a mean girl or making your old crush drool.
And I think that’s the real reason I didn’t go. I knew that we were all okay, and that was the best I could have hoped for all of us.