Kickin' it Old School
I may look like a confident, professional, totally modern 30-something woman, but lately I have become an awkward 17-year old, bristling with defensiveness and insecurity. I'm worried that I don't have the right outfit to wear to the party, that no one will talk to me, that even if someone does talk to me I will either be paralyzed with shyness or blurt out some lame attempt at a witty response and then spend the rest of the night cringing in embarrassment. I desperately want people to accept me, yet I've already resigned myself to the fact that I won't measure up in their eyes. Well, who cares what they think? I don't need those guys anyway - if only The Facts of Life was still on TV, I'd stay home and watch that instead!
The worst part is, I fear this pathetic condition will only grow worse as the evening of June 2nd approaches.
Yep . . . it's time for my 20th high school reunion.
Why did I agree to go to this? I had a nice enough time in high school, but I haven't kept in touch with anyone there and am not exactly consumed with a burning desire to revisit that period of my life. On the other hand, I only live twenty minutes away from the school, and I have no other plans for the night, so why not? If I don't go, I am basically saying that I am too crippled by unresolved emotional issues to spend a single evening in the company of my former classmates, and who wants to be that person? Besides, I'm not doing so badly for myself. I haven't exactly set the world on fire with my career, but I do have a respectable job, a nice house, a wonderful husband and beautiful children. There is no earthly reason why I can't walk into the Class of '86 reunion with my head held high. So why am I so petrified?
Well, a couple of reasons. I have the usual fear, of course - that the other attendees will ALL be gorgeous, fabulously successful, and attired in the most effortlessly stylish, expensive clothing, making everything of mine - my job, my car, my life, my cute beaded halter top that I picked out at Kohl's months ago - suddenly seem all wrong, mundane and second-rate. Intellectually I know this is silly. Although ours was a private prep school and thus filled with more high-achievers than normal, it is still a diverse group - sure, there's a working Hollywood actress and a wealthy arts patron/society-page regular in the bunch, but also a fair share of regular working stiffs with nonglamorous jobs. And it's been twenty years - some people have to have gained some weight, or lost a little hair, right?
I also admit to being more than a little nervous about seeing Ashlyn, my best friend from senior year, with whom I had a falling out a couple years into college. When that happened I was honestly sorry to lose her friendship but unfortunately lacked the fortitude to dig my heels in and try to work things out, especially as it seemed we were growing apart anyway. Now I can see how short-sighted that decision was - it certainly didn't enter my mind that twenty years later it would make things a little awkward at our reunion! But I am trying hard to view the prospect of seeing her, not as a source of dread, but as a welcome opportunity to reconnect and finally smooth things over. While I don't think there is any need to hash out the details of a decades-past misunderstanding, this reunion could be my long-awaited chance to say "I'm sorry we lost touch, I have often thought about you and wondered how you were doing."
My biggest fear, though, is that nobody there will remember me or particularly care that I bothered to show up. Even in a graduating class of maybe 75 people, I don't think I did all that much to distinguish myself. I hung around with a small group of friends and rarely ventured beyond my comfort zone socially, and I wasn't involved in sports, drama, music, school government or . . . much of anything, now that I think about it. And even in our indie little school which prided itself on freedom from public-school style social stratification, there definitely was a prominent "in-crowd" of kids who hung out on the back lawn and listened to Bob Marley and the Dead, threw frequent, wild weekend parties and were widely seen as spirited, creative natural leaders who were totally integral to the life of the school. Everyone remembers them - they are the people of whom you think "We just CAN'T have a reunion without so-and-so, it wouldn't feel right!"
Somehow I don't think anyone is saying that about me.
Incidentally, it is the members of this group who comprise the majority of reunion organizers and attendees - which makes sense, I guess, because they probably have the warmest memories of high school and the strongest motivation to return to that time again and again. I certainly can't fault them for that. But still, when I hear how they've all attended previous reunions, kept in touch regularly and hung out with each other's spouses and kids, it somehow evokes the surreal sensation that high school has continued uninterrupted for the past two decades, with the popular crowd still whooping it up at parties every weekend, and me . . . still being left out.
Okay, so maybe I do have just a few lingering issues. Nevertheless, now that I am relatively unhampered by teenage self-consciousness, acne, braces, and teased bangs, I think it might actually be fun to down a few margaritas with the old crowd, to catch up and reminisce and see how everyone turned out. With any luck, I may even end up having a great time.
And if not, well . . . thank goodness The Facts of Life is now out on DVD!