Faithful readers–or anyone who has spoken to me in the past few weeks–know my 20-year high school reunion was this past weekend.
People go, or don’t go, to their high school reunions for a few different reasons. Some aren’t happy with where they are in life, and they don’t feel like answering a barrage of questions from their (imagined) wildly successful classmates. “So what do you do?” “Are you married?” “How many kids?” “Are they in the gifted program?”
Because who wants to say, “I’m unemployed, divorced three times, and none of my children are gifted. Also I have false teeth.”? Nobody, that’s who.
Some people don’t go because, “I didn’t care about those people in high school, so what do I care about seeing them now?” And then there are others who say, “I’m so fabulous and amazingly happy in my life, and I don’t want to make the people with false teeth feel bad about themselves.”
If you fall into one of the two latter categories, probably this column won’t interest you. But if you don’t want to go because you’re the one with the false teeth, let me just tell you–you should go. Nobody is going to know about your false teeth. Really. They won’t. (Unless you have really terrible ones.) And they probably won’t ask about your non-gifted kids or your divorces or your long string of layoffs from various fast food chains.
Here’s what people wanted to know at my reunion, “OH MY GOSH DO YOU REMEMBER….?” “Whatever happened to…?” “Who is that guy with the beard?”
Those are the kinds of questions people ask. I don’t know, maybe it’s different among men. Perhaps men stand around grilling one another about what they’re worth, how their portfolios are doing, or other such unpleasantries. But with women, we just want to know where you got your shoes, or who ended up marrying whom. We fuss over one another’s outfits and tell everyone how amazing they look. It’s kind of a love fest.
Granted, people gravitate toward their old group of friends. It just happens. I mean, when you go to a party, who do you spend most of your time with? The people you know best, right?
My friend laughed when sharing how, at the reunion family picnic, her 14-year-old daughter said, “Mom, those are totally the cool kids over at that table, huh?”
“What are you talking about?” my friend feigned shock. “THIS is the cool kid table!”
Her daughter raised an eyebrow. She’s 14. She knows how this stuff works. Even 20 years later…yep. Still kind of works that way.
But it’s a little different. I’ve found when you’re nearing 40, you don’t mind so much if you’re not sitting at the cool kid table. And hey, you can just go on and sit over there if that’s what you want, because really, nobody cares all that much anymore. Here’s the thing about your 20-year reunion–everyone is glad to see everyone. Really, they are! Cool kids, band geeks, jocks, student council nerds, and everyone in between–we’re all just excited to reconnect with people who know a side of us that can’t truly be shared with people who weren’t actually there to witness it.
“What was he like in high school?” a classmate’s spouse asked me at the after party in Old Town (because if you graduated high school in Slidell, that is WHAT YOU DO after your reunion–you go to Old Town).
I laughed as I remembered her husband the way I see him in my mind’s eye–a kid with a baby face and a vast repertoire of smart-aleck remarks.
“He was funny and charming, and HAHAHAHA let me tell you about his car!”
Another friend interjected, “His hair! It was so floppy and perfect!”
“The ladies loved him,” I added.
She grinned, because who doesn’t like being told their husband was once loved by the ladies?
They’re adorable, my classmate and his wife, the kind of couple so sweet you find yourself wondering, are these people for real? Well, they are for real, and no doubt they know each other inside and out. But the high school kid I used to know–well, that kid belong to me and the rest of our class, and there’s something almost sacred in those memories. I don’t really know the person he’s become, and I probably never will. But I know who he was back then, and I’m not sure what that counts for, but it counts for something.
Revisiting old friends is almost like digging up a living, breathing time capsule of who we used to be. We’ve all grown and changed and moved on–none of us are the people we were 20 years ago. Thank God I’m no longer that goofy 17-year-old with the terrible bangs. But there’s something oddly comforting in being surrounded by people who remember her.
So I’m telling you, go to your high school reunion. Even if you have false teeth. Go, and catch up with the cool kids, and the uncool kids, and most importantly, with the person you used to be. Maybe you’re glad you’re no longer that person anymore, or maybe you wish you hadn’t changed quite so much, but either way, it’s good to remember where you started.
And if you don’t remember, trust me, your classmates will remind you.
Thanks for a great weekend, Northshore High School Class of 1995. Five years, we do it again.
(Betsy Swenson can be reached at email@example.com.)