7/24/15

Fear, Loathing and Class Reunions




It's that time again.

Every five or ten years, it happens. Some industrious types from your high school class get to work and begin organizing a reunion. It's like Leap Year, if Leap Year fills your heart with a tarry, black ball of anxious loathing.

My class, the esteemed Class of '85, is having our 30 year reunion this weekend. I'm still on the fence about going. As I told a friend a couple of days ago, it's a matter of the desire to see a few old classmates outweighing the dread of seeing the rest of them.

I blame some of my indifference, and hesitation to commit, on social media. Although I'm not on it 24/7, Facebook has become the water-cooler of my generation. We gather there, share weepy videos about dogs, commiserate with friends who are struggling and learn, courtesy of countless Buzzfeed quizzes, which Disney Princess or member of Entourage our classmates really are (I'm Mulan and Turtle, if you're wondering).

"Seeing" these people day in and day out, liking their statuses and wishing them Happy Birthday has lulled us into a false sense of familiarity. We have some idea of what they look like, who they partnered up with, how many kids they've had (if any), who lives and breathes Fox News and who has serious wood for Jon Stewart. We virtually celebrate with them during graduations and milestones and comment "yum!" and "recipe please!" on pictures of their meals.

We know who has married well, and who has married often. Who is living the single life and who is solo parenting. We see everyone's dogs and cats, and every single one of us knows which friend to mute during elections. Everybody knows who likes to celebrate Fridays with a martini (ahem) and who bikes 50 miles before the sun comes up. Everyone knows who's selling essential oils and LeVel and OMG yes we get it, you're a blogger. We know who found God, who found Bill W. and who found Lululemon.

We all know a little bit about a whole lot of people.

This internet-friendship makes sense for classmates who have ended up in far-flung corners of the country. Facebook, and other forms of social media, are a godsend in these cases.

But what about the rest of us, some of whom live blocks away from each other? A short drive down a highway or two? For a lot of us, we still depend on this odd invention to keep connected. It has convinced some of us into truly believing that despite the busyness of our lives, we're still in touch with one another.

Are we, though? Does seeing someone's cherry-picked existence through a screen on a computer or phone equal keeping in touch?

I've kept in real contact with a handful of former classmates. Some I see once or twice a year, a few more often than that. At my birthday last year, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by women I've called friends for almost 4 decades.


Looking good, Billy Ray! Feeling good, Louis! (name that movie)

And earlier this year a whole gaggle of us had an honest to goodness slumber party, complete with Shrinky Dinks, pizza from our hometown favorite and retro candy (I still have some chunks of Now and Laters in my teeth).

I love these ladies!


But sometimes, I think of people I walked down the same high school hallways with and think, "Ugh." Sorry. I'm being real here, folks. And yes, I'm fully aware that for every person who makes me cringe, there's someone else who is saying, "Yeah well I'd go but there's bound to be people like, Jenny there. Ugh." I get it. I understand it.

Growing up isn't all it's cracked up to be, but one of the best things is we now have the freedom to not be around people we don't like. I mean, yeah, some of us have coworkers who incite the Ugh Reaction but I'm talking about the days when our educational system forced us to be in confined spaces with assholes. And bullies, and bitchy mean girls. (again, in somebody's mind I am all three of those things so I'm not claiming sainthood here)

That's what I'm wrestling with. I've had several messages from old friends, asking if I'm going. One of them bought my freaking ticket (Chuck you are going to get a check from me in your mailbox, I'd cash it real quick if I were you). A few of my closest high school friends are getting a hotel room and are planning on bailing if the reunion is awful.

And I should mention, all of this- the reunion, the hotel rooms- is happening within 2 miles of my house. That, along with the paid-for ticket, should make my decision painless and easy: GO.

Then why am I feeling such animosity towards the whole thing?

Sure, part of it is insecurity. Thirty years is a long time and while nobody is going to look exactly the same, some of us look a whole lot different. You can tell who's been playing with the Botox, which ones have hair plugs and who spends their life in the gym. Flip side of that, you can also guess who has spent a good part of the past several decades giving birth, getting divorced and eating their feelings.

"My upper arms? Yes, I finally said 'screw it' and got Easter Ham implants. Want to touch them? They feel so real!"

But that's me thinking with my withered self-esteem. I had it both ways in high school: being completely ignored, and also, being on the receiving end of particularly cruel behavior. Neither one was fun. It's hard to decide which left the bigger mark.

I talked to my best friend from those days for almost 2 hours on the phone recently. It had been five years since we'd last talked. And within minutes of hearing her say "Hi Polly!" (our old nickname for each other...it involves Joe Piscopo so please don't ask) I was transformed back into that unfortunate teenage girl, curled up under the dining room table, the phone cord twisted and knotted and pulled taut from its perch on the wall.

Talking to her was like a balm on a wound I didn't know I had. 

For both of us, high school wasn't a great time. Don't get me wrong, we had some fun. But we were always oddballs. Our humor was something so different from the norm, people kind of got it but more often than not, we were either made fun of, or dismissed altogether. Boys didn't like us, not "like" like us, you know? We were the ones they hung out with until one of the cute girls came along. And there we'd be, waiting, when that cute girl moved on, with our schtick and a pack of Virginia Slims.

We both agreed that had we done things right, we'd have ended up like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. My favorite quote from the conversation: "What we should have done, is gotten on a bus for New York the day we graduated." I love you so much, my old friend. Dammit, why didn't we?

But one thing she said made me really think about high school, friendships and what it was like to be a teenager. We were talking about the cool kids, the it girls and where we fit into the puzzle that was the Class of 85. "One of my clearest memories is of Homecoming Coronation. Do you remember that?" she asked me. Coronation? Hell yes, I remembered it. I remembered not hearing my name called when they announced the members and I remembered rolling my eyes in the way only an angsty teen can roll them. And then she said:

"I just remember you and me sitting way up high in the bleachers of the gym, watching it, watching our classmates all dressed up and smiling and thinking 'Why the fuck are we even here?'"

And I guess that pretty much sums up my fears about this weekend and all that it entails. Will I be the one sitting in the rafters, looking around at everyone all dressed up and smiling, and thinking:  

Why am I even here?

We shall see. I have at least 30 hours to mull it over some more. I'd love to hear some reunion stories, good and bad. Regale me, people!













14 comments:

  1. Go! If it sucks, leave! Ya just never know Jenny and you have not one thing to lose. I mean what is the worst that could happen...you have a fun time? You are so witty, smart and beautiful! Stand tall and be proud of who you are and what you have accomplished. Lady, you have a beautiful family, a writing career and some pretty kick ass friends. Live your life for today and not yesterday!

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  2. Go! I have found the older we get, the less people care about the petty shit...people just want to get out, stay out past 10:00 and have some fun!

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  3. Go, and show the ingrates what a bad-ass mother fucker you are! They just might be scared of you.

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  4. I agree that the older we get people are no longer out to impress with the umber of toys they have, how important their job is, or how skinny their are. The bad part is that after five minutes of "catching up" there's nothing to talk about. The other good part is that my husband and I graduated together so we have fun talking about everybody after the reunion. The weird part is that those damn feelings of insecurity never go away once you're back in that room with those people. It's an evening like no other, so for that reason alone it's worth it to go!

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  5. Hey Jenny, I think you know what I'm going to say :) Well, let me back up since two things I'll say won't be a surprise to you, and the third might be. First, I LOVE that you included the pic of the 6 of us from your b-day party! I'm honored, in fact, to be one of the friends you've wanted to keep in "real" touch with. Second, I would absolutely love it if you came to the reunion tomorrow because it would be awesome to see you again! BUT, here's the thing that may surprise you: I would totally get it if you decided not to, since you just didn't want to risk seeing certain people. I've been there...in fact, that was exactly why I never went to any of our reunions before, and lost touch with most of our class. Speaking just for myself, realizing that our class has WAY more truly nice, genuinely kind people than I was choosing to remember, and reconnecting with so many of you over the past 3 years, has been one of the best things that ever happened to me and as a result, I can't wait for our reunion tomorrow...and for a long time I never ever thought I would be THAT girl! But like I said -- that's just been my experience, and if you decide you just wouldn't be OK with going, I understand. Still...I hope you will! In fact, since I'll have my recorder anyway since some people talked me into playing in the talent show...if you come, I will play you "Going to California" -- how's that for incentive? :)

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  6. I just went to my 30th reunion last week. I really didn't want to go and only did because I used my high school best friend's wife's ticket and so many of our other friends were hassling me to go. Also, he picked me up and dropped me off, so I couldn't use my "but I don't like to drive at night" excuse. The last 14 years have been hard on me, I have a magnificent son but he has special needs and this has really drained a lot of life out of me. I'm not very fun any more. I''m really just trying to survive day to day. So I was really ambivalent about going. (It was much easier to decide to attend the 10th one, the only other one I went to.) It turned out okay, I enjoyed seeing my friends (most of whom still live within an hour of me and I just don't make the effort to see them, sadly) but the few "cool" kids who showed up were just as annoying as before and the not-cool-in-fact-I didn't-even-remember them people who set up the reunion were partying hard the entire time and that's not my scene and never was. It would have been so much more fun to have our own party somewhere, maybe rent a smaller private room or use someone's house and catch up that way. Although the chick who had a crush on my friend back in high school was very amusing, she was all over him all night (even though her husband was there! and my friend has been happily married for 18 years) and the next day, she started posting pictures on Facebook. Give it up, honey! I have to admit there was a lot of schadenfreude about that, she was never nice to me---probably jealous of how close her crush and I were and still are, after 35 years of friendship. I feel for you, Jenny but hope that you go, so you will write about it!

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  7. You can always opt to see the few people you want to see...minus the reunion. My 20th was last year, and I haven't attended any nor do I ever intend to (my husband was a classmate of mine and he feels the same way). The way I look at it is, I'm not doing things that causes me anxiety, unless I have to, or want to. I have to give a mini-presentation at the next staff meeting because public speaking is on my evaluation for this year. I have to sing the solo descant in choir at church next Sunday because I said I would. What I don't have to do is make myself go to an event comprised of (now) virtual strangers, most of who I haven't seen in the last 20 years - by choice!

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  8. I totally get it, Jenny! It's like the friends I had in high school that I really liked, I still see them. So what's the point of going? But then curiosity got the best of me and I wanted to see what everyone else looked like, so I just went to the first night which is a "bar mixer" (second night is dinner, etc.). Was just about the right amount of time I cared to spend with them - they really never cared about me, and I really never gave much thought to them after high school. I also get that at "our age" it's all about "Keeping up with the Joneses" and I don't play that game. But I have to say, it was fun just to see/hear where some of them were at. Other than that, not much interest in future reunions, as I regularly get together with those who were and continue to be good friends.

    But I'm really dying to hear if you went - - and if so, how it went! Please don't keep us in suspense too long!! :-)

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  9. I so get this! My 15 year class reunion is coming up next summer. I went to my 10 year class reunion and I had all of those feelings of insecurity flooding back when I walked into the room with a bunch of people who treated me like crap my entire high school career. But here's the thing, I went because we grow up and some of become adults and to some of those who treated me badly, well those people treated me like they were my best friend. So bizarre right? I have to say though it felt wonderful to walk in with my kick ass self and show the ones who doubted I would be anything that I turned out to be way more than even I thought I would have turned out to be. And those insecurities that I would be treated the same quickly faded away as soon as a lot of the back then "cool kids" actually talked to me about adult things and gasp family and even talked about life as if we had always been good friends even though they had nothing to do with me back then. So I say that I hope you went and if it ended up sucking, I hope you didn't waste anymore of your time and went and did something fun for yourself. But I hope you went and found that when we all grow up some, what we were and how we were looked at changes to the point that it doesn't even matter and everyone is there just to see each other. And I agree with anonymous! Don't keep us in suspense too long!! =-) And since I can't figure out my blasted google account login I'm leaving this comment as anonymous but signing my name anyways. Keep on keeping on. There are a lot of us who think you are pretty amazing for who you are!
    Adinda

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  10. I'm just DYING to know if you went! And, if you did, I bet you're going to say it was great. Or at least not at all scary. Or you didn't die. My experience with reunions is this: so much angst before hand - and then I show up and realize that high school is over. And everyone is a grown up now. And everyone is happy to see me if even if they don't remember me. Or maybe they do remember me which surprises the shit out of me because I never thought they knew who I was to begin with. Some people looked great and some people looked like shit and no one cared. I never felt what we are trained to feel - that someone is displaying the goods in order to make the rest of us feel bad. Because, again, high school is over. And we all grew up. It turns out that the person people should've been worried about was me. I'm the judgey one! Primarily self-directed, of course, but still. So now I know to smile at everyone, hug everyone, admit that you don't remember but hug anyway, and never worry about what a high schooler 30 years ago thought of me (because they probably didn't think anything). Looking forward to an update!

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  11. I was super glad I went. I got to see some people I hadn't seen in ages! (And was actually mostly really happy about it) I felt like I didn't get to talk to everyone very much because I kept running into people. It was good to see you too, Darlin! the 10 year, I didn't feel much pressure. At the 20 year, I forced my hubs to come with me...(mostly because I was actually excited to have a husband) For the 30, much to his relief I didn't force him to come, and had a blast with so many of the girls I grew up with and feel so fortunate to still call my friends. I think we had a pretty amazing class all.

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  12. I am forever grateful to you two Polly's and your witty banter for making humor OK, and for making this painfully shy, quiet new girl in 8th grade giggle. Those may have been the most painful 6 years of my life (the bullying was baffling to me and pretty awful) but finally being able to slip back into anonymity in college and to finally grow up with all of that teen angst as a backboard...I let humor guide me. Thank you. As far as going to reunions...it's a fun time to chat with the people I like and am curious about and it's also a good time to look those certain bullies in the eye (those that show up anyway!) and be just as aloof as I was back then. We may not have hit the jackpot in the wealth and glamour department Jenny but we are rich in our strength in facing adversity and damn lucky to still have a good group of pals to rely on. Cheers Lady!!

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  13. C'mon, dear girl! Fill us in! :)

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