The day of the reunion rolled up as days tend to do. The anxiety this event was causing was insane. I started dreaming about it! As someone who claims, repeatedly, to have put the past behind me, it became woefully obvious that maybe I confused "behind me" with "churning the past into a buttery lotion and rubbing it all over my body". Because I was coated in the past. At least that's what it felt like. Air ceased to exist and was replaced with a thick, gooey gel comprised of everything I experienced during those short, kind of hellish high school years. The good, the bad, and the awful.
(can you believe I never took drama in high school?)
So. My mind was pretty much made up to NOT attend. Despite the fact that a friend had purchased my ticket. Despite the fact that there was a hotel suite already reserved. Despite the fact that my texts and messages were blowing up with friends giving me eleventeen thousand reasons to go. Stubbornness isn't a super appealing quality but I gots it.
Then my friend Nancy called. Of course I missed the call because that's what I do, but about twenty minutes later I saw the notification and I listened to her message.
Nancy is a friend I've stayed in touch with over the past few years. We aren't close, given that we are both working women who happen to be mothers and she also has a husband and we don't live just a hop, skip and jump away from each other. But, when we do happen to bump into each other, it's nice. She's nice. She always was one of my favorite people back in the Dark Ages. Funny and sweet and optimistic. Those are my three words for Nancy.
She has cancer. And is fighting it. My fourth word for her? Badass. Or is that fourth and fifth? No matter.
The message she left was brief but powerful. So powerful that it blew through my stubborn brick wall and moved me.
Moved me in the direction of "I'm going." The next day I made an appointment to have my hair shaped into something that didn't look so much like Hagrid with his finger stuck in an outlet. I tried on a couple outfits, one courtesy of my homie Danielle, the other a mishmash of flowy Chico's/Eileen Fisher/Old Navy offerings from my closet which is beginning to look like a thick-waisted nun's, by the way. NEED MORE COLOR.
The hair turned out great, so great that I took a selfie and the kids all wanted to touch it. The hair, not the selfie. People usually need gardening gloves to get through it but that day, it was soft and shiny and straight.
|More licorice! I only have four hours to develop Type II Diabetes!|
And so I went...with my old pal Anxiety riding shotgun.
Now, here's the thing: Anxiety isn't a new malady. She and I go way back. The ways I handle her are pretty much set in stone. I either close up, I eat or I drink. The last time I went to a social gathering where I had to face people from my past didn't end well. It was my sister-in-law's wedding, many moons ago and it ended with me being drunk in my ex-father-in-law's car. If you want to skip the rest of this post and just read that one you can do so without any hard feelings.
The pre-party was fun. It was a gaggle of high school friends, nervously twittering and taking pics and of course, drinking. I decided to go whole hog and start out with a gin and tonic. Looking back, it probably would have been smarter to eat something besides the licorice beforehand. Because nerves + empty stomach usually = very bad things.
Nerves + empty stomach + gin and tonics + class reunion?
Asshattery. That's all I can think of to describe what followed. Complete, utter asshattery. Hats are not my friend, apparently.
This lady, however, is my friend. Since 6th grade. We were the poor kids, the ones with not-so-perfect home lives, the ones who were on the fringe most of the time:
|"Terri, I have a great idea. Let's drink three of these before we head out."|
"Sounds good, Jenny. Hey, tell me more about life in the convent!"
Did we linger too long at the hotel, giggling and gossiping and tippling? Probably. But that's just one more aspect of the entire evening which can't be changed. Or erased.
Here's how it went down: we stumbled over to the reunion. We put on our name tags, we made that scary first step into the arena. I know how the Christians being led to the lions must have felt. Last minute regret over not working out very much over the past 30 years dug into my back...or was that the Spanx cami trying to rein in the rolls above and below my bra straps?
It's like a dream now, when I try to remember it. A freaky dream fueled by years of buried memories and the weight of life itself. Flashbacks blew up in my face with every single "Oh my god! Hi!!!" followed by hugs.
Parts of it were good. Hugging my friend Nancy and rubbing her new post-chemo hair was the highlight. A pair of high school sweethearts who are now married were warm and loving and also bought me a few cocktails. Another pal, the one who bought my ticket, was keeping everyone up to their knees in libations. The drinks and the laughter and the fog of conversational din crowded around me.
I'd like to say that Anxiety left the building. I'd like to say that, but it would make me a liar. She never left, she just passed out. Unfortunately, I didn't. Like a zombie wearing a burka, I stumbled throughout the room. My partner in juvenile crime, Terri, kept up with me and we took several bathroom breaks wherein we cried with laughter from adjoining stalls.
There were awkward talks and some that were nice. I could tell some of my more reasonable friends were less-than-impressed with my behavior. Sometimes I stopped and wondered if maybe I should go. Just wander out, call a cab and leave. That's when Anxiety would open one eye and croak, "NO. You have to stay! You're having so much fun!"
So, we stayed. There was a professional photographer there and believe you me, every single time one of my friends would post one of the pictures from that night my heart would seize up in my chest as I quickly looked for the black and white blur that was me. I only caught sight of that blur once, and of course I'm clutching a clear solo cup full of limes and wearing a smile that looks a little more like a constipated grimace.
Eventually one of our more level-headed friends decided it was time for us to go. He loaded our gin-soaked asses into his car and deposited us at the hotel.
This is when things get fuzzy. And super, duper classy.
There was making out. No, not me and Terri although since she's a gorgeous lesbian and I'm basically a sexual amoeba by now, that's not such a preposterous idea. Don't worry, sir, you were (I think) a true gentleman and the moments we shared post-reunion will go to the grave with me. Unless I use it in my book, which I probably will because you can't make this shit up. But please know I will disguise your identity. And thank you, also, for not saying anything to anyone about what it was like to be that close to Drunk Anxiety Girl. Under the best of circumstances me trying to get my sexy on is a stretch: when I'm six sheets to the wind I become Dom DeLuise. And not just everyday Dom, no. Dom when he was around Burt Reynolds. It wasn't pretty and I appreciate your discretion.
I got lost within the eerie hallways of the hotel and cried like a baby with a full diaper. Which basically is what I was by that point. It was like The Overlook Hotel in The Shining though, and I kept waiting for Danny to whiz by me on his Big Wheel or the murdered twin girls to pop out and ask if I wanted to play with them. Forevah and evah and evah.
When I did find the room, Terri and I ordered two large pizzas. I stumbled into bed and when our lovely and thoughtful friend Kathy attempted to remove my eye makeup I screamed at her DON'T TOUCH ME! Sorry Kathy, when I get like that sometimes I think I'm still married. I love you for trying.
Somehow I survived, and when I woke up the next day I was pleasantly surprised to be alive and that I hadn't lost my wallet, phone or purse. Of course my pride was missing but that's not a huge shocker. For a moment I considered leaving a note of apology to the maid who was going to have the unfortunate task of making up my bed later that day:
I'm sorry about the bed on the left. It smells like Aveeno moisturizer, human urine and the tattered remnants of self esteem. Also, there is one eye's worth of makeup on the pillowcase. Fortunately it's all water-soluble and should come out in the wash. If you happen to find a large silver earring that looks like a leaf, please throw it away. I lost the other one somewhere else.
The Nun in Room 308.
So yeah. There it is. I went to my reunion, it wasn't so bad. But, I did drink way more than I should have. I'm sorry to those I may have spit on while we were talking and I'm also sorry I missed out on the chance to have real live conversations that made sense. Hopefully when our 40th rolls around I will have procured either a sense of peace or a prescription for Xanax.
Namaste, class of 1985.