When you wake up with a giant zit smack between your eyes, it can only mean one thing–it’s the morning of your twentieth high school reunion.
Twenty years. Two-zero. Which is impossible when you do the math, considering I’m hardly out of my teens myself. (Coughcough)
A twenty year reunion is a weird thing because at this point, you’ve actually been out of school longer than you were in it. Back in those days when even a summer–especially one spent away from a boyfriend–seemed like a lifetime, and your entire group of friends could change three times over the course of a year, twenty years was inconceivable. A lifetime. Ten lifetimes. We never could have imagined that two decades later, we’d still be alive and kicking without the help of artificial breathing devices. Hell, we thought we’d be teleporting by ’06.
A lot of us, amazingly, are still in touch with one another, either directly or with a couple of degrees between us. Name any of the 350 or so people in my high school class, and relatively quickly, I could find out what most of them are up to. Because of this, I knew it would be a fun night, without too many surprises. At least it would be more fun than some of the other reunion stories I’ve read about. Although I do agree with Amalah on one count – I probably can’t be as candid as I’d like to be about everything.
So despite the fact that I’m not going to tell you which classmate was an absolute train wreck, or who slurred my ear off about his lame career, or which former acquaintance made the catty comment about me having good hair (gasp) that I might have actually (gasp) spent time on before heading out for the night, I’ll try to keep things interesting.
(Psst – high school friends reading: Email me. I could be convinced to spill.)
Going into the evening, I had three strikes against me, not counting the zit, which really should count as two strikes on its own, considering its sheer enormity:
1. I am pregnant and jiggly.
2. I can’t drink.
Thank God for that one awesome old friend who let me steal sips of her Magic Hat No. 9 all night. Not that I ever got a buzz on, because that would be WRONG, WRONG. But it did make me feel just a little rebellious, as one should feel when surrounded by people with whom she once shared bong hits instead of going to French class.
While there were maybe only 75 of us there, the group contained the all the characters mandatory at high school reunions.
There was The Drunk Girl Who Rambles On About People You Have No Memory Of–Hey, have you seen Marla lately? She looks AWESOME! Smile and nod. Hey, remember that big party at Jenny’s house sophmore year? That ROCKED! Smile and nod. You know what’s crazy? Tony now works in REAL ESTATE! Excuse yourself to find Magic Hat friend.
A few of us got a kick out of The Couple Who Is Way Too In Love – the one who doesn’t let go of each other’s hands while arguing about who got luckier. “I did, Schmoopie.” “No, I did, BooBoo!” Maybe it’s just cynicism, but I can’t help but wonder whether the performance was scripted for the benefit of ex-girlfriends in the room, or whether they were a real couple at all. I imagined a sitcom moment where a recently divorced and heartbroken classmate pays a cousin to play the part of devoted spouse for the night.
Then there was the Too-Young Girlfriend Who Drunkenly Mistook Her Boyfriend for a Stripper Pole.
And of course we were joined by everyone’s favorite reunion archetypes: The Geeky Kid Who’s Now Cool and The Hot Girl Who’s Now Geeky. The former gives us all hope. The latter gives us all hope. Tell your teenage daughters.
On second thought, you can’t tell them. They won’t hear it. The same way you can’t tell them that those guys on Laguna Beach are grade-A losers with the personality of toe fungus, they’ll never believe that the captain of the football team will grow up to have a huge beer gut and a dead-end desk job at his uncle’s construction company; or that the guy who can’t hit a baseball is going to be a famous Hollywood producer who looks great in jeans.
But it’s truuu-uuuuue.
Despite my mild cattiness here (although I prefer to think of it as observational humor), the evening as a whole was not divisive or cliquey in the least.
I recall at my ten-year reunion the mild undercurrent of competitiveness, the need for people to prove that they’d made something of themselves as adults. I distinctly remember being thrilled that I could go back to my reunion having just been promoted to vice president. There were still some unkind glances thrown between former cliques as we whispered, eyebrows raised, about who had gotten fat and who was still living at home. Few people were married. Still fewer had started families. The competitiveness was only heightened by the sexual tension in the air, as guys who had since discovered hair products and women who had learned the joys of brow sculpting grinded on the dance floor with old crushes formerly out of their leagues. And why not. We were twenty-somethings. We played the parts as they were written for us.
Now as thirty-somethings pushing (eek) forty-something, it was a different game entirely.
The former hippies, the former druggies, the former cheerleaders or athletes or theater kids or band geeks—most of us are now someone’s mom or dad. That’s what we were all proud of most. There was a little career talk. But mostly there was family talk. Home buying talk. Marriage and remarriage talk. Committed partner talk. Preschool talk. Even the child-free had nephews or nieces to gush about, or future family dreams to share.
And then I realized that my growing belly seemed less like the hindrance I thought it woudl be, and more like social currency. A conversation starter. A unifier. Even better, it was one of several in the room, each one tied to a beautiful, glowing, 38 year-old face above it.
(And JP, if you’re reading? You win the prize for dedication, mama, showing up 8 ½ months pregnant. Your kid’s going to come out of the womb singing the MHS fight song.)
The small social circles that formed around the dark bar glowed with the backlighting of family photos flashed electronically on ipods, on cell phones, on digital cameras. The reactions looked gracious. And genuine. It’s hard to hold a grudge against a beaming new dad, even if he did make your life just a wee bit hellish 21 years earlier.
There were definitely a few highlights throughout the evening: A friend who noticed a party-crasher wearing a Mike Hunt name tag, who asked me in all honesty whether he actually went to our high school. (I love her, but she hasn’t changed a bit.) Chatting up my sophmore year crush, the one who busted up my best friend and me (that kind of happens when you discover your best friend making out with your crush at lunchtime), and finding myself entirely unattracted to him. Having the class clown tell me she’s read my blog and it’s funny. (So sue me, I’m insecure.)
Oh, and can’t forget–learning that a guy in the class below ours is now a big porn star.
I am not making that up.
But the best part of all was realizing that I am very much at peace with who I am and how my life has turned out–and enjoying spending the evening with a roomful of people who, for the most part, seem to be in the exact same place.
And also knowing, however it was presented, that I had good hair.
If you knew me in the 80s…well let’s just say that’s a very, very big deal.
Update: I have since been informed that we have not one, but two male porn stars from our high school! Take that, Valley High.