7/01/2009

High School Reunion


old buddies Nathan and Chipper reconnect : Nathan came from Los Angeles and Chipper, all the way from France

I went to my 30th high school reunion this past weekend. I wasn't sure at all that I wanted to go; for weeks beforehand I spent countless hours angsting with various friends and my therapist about the potential emotional pitfalls of this event. My high school had over 3000 students in just 3 grades.....844 in my graduating class alone. After I graduated, I left home, moved out -moved away from my hometown vowing never to return. Have never been to a previous reunion. Would anyone I know be there? Would people be friendly? What would I have to say to people I haven't seen or spoken to in three decades? Would people still foolishly expect me to look as I did 30 years ago ?
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Went to my 25th college reunion last fall, which turned out to be semi-hideous, in spite of the fact that I graduated from a small, fairly intimate private university. Hubster's guy friends were all fairly fun; men are so simple. They just want to get drunk and tell all their old war stories one more time. Women are so much more complex. I keep up with a few old girlfriends, have lunch once in awhile, see a movie. Those friendships are current and never a problem. Many of my old gfs, however, once intelligent competitive students, are now mostly trophy wives; all they have left to compete over are material possessions. Boring !
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For this upcoming high school reunion, one of my old gfs was guilt-trip dragging me into going with her for solidarity's sake. She said her therapist told her to get out of her rut and try new social situations.
"So let me get this straight," I said. "I am going to an event I don't particularly want to go to, because of what YOUR therapist said?"
"Yes," she answered.
"And how is high school a NEW social situation, exactly?"
"I need to see my peeps,"she replied.
"Who do you keep up with? Who are your 'peeps'?" I said.
"Well.... there's you, " she said.
And there you have it.
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I kept thinking that surely something would come up, at the last minute, and I could bag it. Nothing appeared on the horizon as a handy excuse - of course, I could have just lied and made something up. Several gfs did. My personal weakness is that I can't ever really sell it, ( the lie I mean) can't really convince even myself, unless it's based on something real. My shrink tried to convince me to "be the change you want to see in the world" and all that psycho-babble. Her idea of fun : sit back and watch the event. After talking to various people who were also trying to decide whether or not to go, I came to the realization that everyone feels insecure about these events. We just handle them in different ways. Some people will spend the year prior investing huge amounts of time, exercise, plastic surgery, fashion make-overs into getting ready for the big day. Maybe I'm just too lazy, maybe I'm just too poor, but I couldn't go this route for whatever reason. Love me or hate me, but take me as I am. Lot's of self talk in the wee hours : "You have two degrees from a major university. You're a well respected professional who is kind to others, and a good friend. People like you. Just be yourself." Yeah, right.
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Had a pre-event luncheon with one of my gfs to plan a strategy for this weekend. We both realized we each owned about 15 min of mindless chit-chat; after that, the joke was over. We made a pact to split when that moment arrived. In spite of the fact that I am fairly introverted, I decided to summon whatever social skills I could, and be the one to organize some activities in conjunction with this reunion that would bring the people I know and care about together. Try to get control of the situation and make it what I wanted it to be. (All while my therapist is trying to get me to recognize that I can't control/change/shape everything the way I want, and that sometimes I need to just let go and be more zen.) Where would we be without therapy these days?

My core group of best friends shared a calm dinner before festivities began : Dave, Judy, Caroline, me, hubster

In the end, it turned out to be not nearly as bad a reunion weekend as I worried it would be. There was the main event, a Saturday evening semi-formal cocktail party in a rented ballroom downtown, as well as several smaller meetings and luncheons of sub-groups of friends at other times and venues. The Sat night event was the least interesting activity of the weekend, however, and I was glad it was not the only one I went to. It was way too crowded, the a/c experienced system failure ( disaster in this city where weekend weather was topping 104 each day) and the music was so loud that no one could talk at all. I got to say " Hi ! How are you ?" to the ten people I knew there and that was about it. Far more fun was a Friday night intimate dinner with friends and a casual outdoor mixer, where I visited with an old high school bf and several core gfs. I hadn't seen or spoken to this boy in over 30 years, but found him the same thoughtful quiet smart person I had been drawn to, all those years ago. The Saturday night main event was full of ken and barbie doll look-a-likes; there's a lot of pressure growing up in a town where many graduates go on to become Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, all of whom are still active in the "Mrs Texas" pageant scene. Hubster, a Yankee, was surprised how many tall, thin, tanned blonds there are in my old high school graduating class.
Jane and Lauren, whom I've known since early childhood
By far the most interesting folk, the ones I felt the deepest interest in chatting with, however briefly, were girls from my childhood years, earlier than high school days. It was fun to run into members of my elementary school, or old girl scout troop.

The jr high gang. front : Stretch, Amy, me, Spud. back : Tiny Tim, Amazing Amoeba, Lauren, and Randy
The highlight of the entire weekend, however, was a luncheon with friends from my junior high days. Some of us are a bit hard to find these days, but many made the effort to show up. We were all a nerdy smart bunch, many years ago, and bonded together partly out of safety and partly because we all found each other so funny. This group of people has the power to make me laugh so hard, my eyes tear up and I start laughing, crying, and blowing snot. Old jokes from back in the day, new jokes about politics, our jobs, our lives, nicknames for various people we know, satires of movies or books - doesn't matter what the subject is. We looked at old yearbooks with notes scrawled in them from each other and shared memories of favorite teachers. Made promises not to let another 30 years go by without seeing each other.
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Overall, it was an OK weekend. I really enjoyed the small group events and survived the major cattle call event. Came away with a new found appreciation for my own little hubster, who, like Goldilocks felt upon finding the baby bear's bed, seems just about right to me. Not too oily and used-car salesman-like, or mullet-headed redneck-y, or Eric Stratton, Rush Chairman from Animal House "DamnGladToMeetYou"ish, as many of the other boys - now men- at my high school reunion seemed. People were kinda freaked out that I not only understand what it is that he does, but that I can explain it to you in terms you can understand. But hey, that's my life.
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I'm not strong on conclusions, but I found some quotes that help sum up my thoughts on this topic:
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No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man. Heraclitus
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Time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have retained of them. Marcel Proust
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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. Marcel Proust
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A friend who is far away is sometimes much nearer than one who is at hand. Is not the mountain far more awe-inspiring and more clearly visible to one passing through the valley than to those who inhabit the mountain? Kahlil Gibran
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When it was all over, I showed my mom pix of people from the big weekend. "How are her parents? Do they still live in the old neighborhood? Is her dad still alive ? How many kids does everyone have ? " My mother was full of questions. Questions which I realized I forgot to ask. It was so much more fun, just retelling all our old jokes from back in the day. I should have written all that stuff out.




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