“Won’t you come see about me?
I’ll be alone, dancing you know it baby
Tell me your troubles and doubts
Giving me everything inside and out and”*
Today is the one-year anniversary of my twenty-year high school reunion. They always hold it on the Friday after Thanksgiving, in the hopes that former classmates will be in town during that weekend. My husband and I attended the same high school, although we traveled in different circles, and didn’t meet until two months before graduation. Since we were from the same school, it made sense for us to go because we (in theory) should know plenty of people. Otherwise, I assume it’s painful for the spouse to be dragged along to a banquet in a hotel room full of strangers.
My husband and I lived in the same town we grew up in at the time of our ten-year reunion, but we decided to skip it. I had just had a baby two months before, and hadn’t yet lost all of the pregnancy weight, so vanity drove me to eschew the party more than any other reason. At the time, I had just completed my Master’s degree in History, and was beginning to take my education credits, so I felt like I was working towards a goal. However, I recall my husband being less enthusiastic about his status, since he was still pursuing his Ph.D. I believe he imagined that a lot of former classmates would be established in their careers, while he was still a student. But the main reason we didn’t go was the price - $100 per person. For a family of three on my husband’s graduate stipend and my part-time job at an insurance company, it was a lot of money to spend. Besides, enough time hadn’t gone by to be that curious about what had happened to everyone.
In the months leading up to our twenty-year reunion, my husband became more enthusiastic about attending than me. It wasn’t just because he finally had a job he felt good about, but because when he was in junior high, he’d made a pact with a few friends that no matter where they were, and what they were doing, they’d all attend their twenty-year reunion (How did my husband keep that a secret from me for twenty years?). He hadn’t kept contact with any of them, but (luckily) the Internet made it easy to find everyone. After a few e-mails, everybody agreed to attend.
In retrospect, my status was better at the ten-year reunion than the twenty-year one. Ten years after graduation, I was progressing, but at some point in the proceeding decade, I stagnated. I student-taught at the twelve-year mark, but didn’t look for a job, since we would be moving, and I didn’t want to work full-time when my children were small. We moved at the thirteen-year mark, and I spent one semester as a teaching fellow at Harvard for a Civil War course. After my daughter was born, I took a year off, and then landed the part-time instructional-aide position, which I held for nearly six years. At the time of the twenty-year reunion, I was still an assistant, looking for a full-time job without success, and an unpublished children’s book writer. This was nothing to write home about.
It wasn’t just my work status that bothered me, since I’m proud of my two children, and if I had chosen to be a stay-at-home mom, I would’ve made peace with it (Though I’d be restless, as I think all stay-at-home mothers are). But I also hadn’t kept up with any friends from high school, and I didn’t have the impetus to find everyone beforehand. While my husband looked forward to going, I felt dread.
Walking in the room was just as daunting as I’d feared. I refused to wear my glasses (more vanity), normally worn for television and driving, so I had a hard time recognizing anyone. I certainly couldn’t read nametags unless a person was right in front of me (I know, sad). All of that hardly mattered since my friends were from several grades, so many wouldn’t even be at the reunion anyway. While my husband quickly located his group, I headed to the bar.
I spent much of the night astonished over how many men became unrecognizable in twenty-years. It seemed that many lost their hair, but gained a gut, and their faces became rounder. The women looked better, overall, but maybe keeping our hair and wearing makeup helped. I liked my dress because it made me look thinner, but the downside was that it also made my chest appear flatter. While I did recognize some people from various classes or because they were popular, we didn’t have enough in common to strike up a conversation.
There were highlights to the evening, when I finally found people I knew. I spoke with someone from an insurance company I’d worked at, who happened to marry someone from my high school. I reminisced and caught up with two good friends from junior high. Then I saw friend from choir, who had introduced me to my first boyfriend, whom I then dated for a year. This choir friend didn’t have anything good to report about my ex-boyfriend, which was depressing. Throughout the night, and during a party afterwards, I got to see people I hadn’t seen in two decades, and it was more fun than I’d expected. I realized that I wasn’t judging them, so it was only my insecurities that made me think they were judging me.
In retrospect, that reunion opened the door to joining facebook, and finding virtually all the people I cared about from my past. As a result, my circle of friends has expanded. It’s nice to see them when we visit, and get to know one another all over again. For each person, after my initial awkward explanation about what I have been doing, I’ve moved on.
“I won’t harm you or touch your defenses
Vanity and security
Don’t you forget about me.”*
- Schiff, Steve; Forsey, Keith, Song “(Don’t You) Forget About Me”, Simple Minds