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Things have gone a little John Hughes around here this week.

The other day I had lunch with two dear girlfriends I don’t get to see very often, women I met once I moved back to Phoenix. We talked about recent purchases at Last Chance, recent travels, and recent blog posts.

“Wow, you’re so brave!” one remarked over the post about Sophie’s experience at birthday parties and mine in high school that I’d put up earlier in the week.

Nah, I told her. Writing that piece wasn’t brave. But posting it on my Facebook page was.

Or maybe it was just dumb. Or even a little mean.

The truth is usually a little more complicated than a blog post. And when I started getting emails from classmates apologizing for being mean (if they were — they didn’t recall any incidents but wanted to say sorry just in case) and also some from others recalling good times we did have together in high school, I realized that although I did toss in a parenthetical about how I did in fact have some friends in high school, I probably shouldn’t have gone so far in general, in comparing my situation to Sophie’s.

Not that the comparison is wholly inaccurate.

The emails were fascinating. One classmate who would have been considered part of the “popular” crowd in high school admitted she hadn’t used the word geek in years, but thought it when she saw some of our nerdier classmates at the reunion, and was a little horrified at herself.

Another wrote something really lovely that he gave me permission to repost here. (He also told me I could rewrite it if I thought it needed it, which it most certainly does not.)

This is a guy who always struck me, looking back, as comfortable in his own skin — the thing I never was. Friendly to others (including to me, he reminded me we were on the school newspaper together, something I’d frankly forgotten) and an all around nice guy; Class Clown meets Guy Next Door. Certainly not someone I had the luck of hanging around with. 

I read your post, this guy wrote me on Facebook.

I had to go back into my mind and see a glimpse of your little life growing up from that perspective. I know what you are saying, because I knew you all during this time. I will tell you this, I got to know you more during the  Newspaper Era than any other time and I really enjoyed you as a person, and I could tell you had a big writing career ahead of you. Sorry the memories of your childhood/teenage years were sometimes alone and painful. I think your feelings are amongst a lot of others out there as well.

I too, was going to blow off the reunion as I didn’t feel like sharing the past 34 months of divorce, foreclosure, failure and insanity with my classmates. I went anyway, and it turned out to be fun in some ways, predictable in others, but in the end, another party. The difference this time was: At our 10 year reunion, we were still climbing, at our 20, it was more of a parade of things we had accomplished, at this one, it was an admission of “who the fuck cares” …. and if you remember my personality at all, this reunion was the most fitting for my C+ student, but socially functional brain to handle. If it wasn’t for football and dating [a cute cheerleader] as a sophomore, I don’t think I would have been a memory for many. It’s funny how all have our isolated defining moments, and really, it’s all front page news in our own brains, nothing more. Here today, gone tomorrow as something else takes it’s place and the water subsides, ripples come to an end. Narcissism continues and people fade into the soap operas of their lives that only exist between their own two ears.

Now that was a brave email to write. So was the one from the popular girl with the geek story.

The complicated truth — or part of it, anyway — is that I still have a lot to learn from Sophie. No, I wasn’t popular in high school. But even so, I had classmates I, too, deemed too geeky to befriend. I thought of that as I looked at pictures of the reunion someone posted on Facebook. I guess high school really is just one big hierarchy, a la The Breakfast Club.

It’s not that Sophie will befriend just anyone (I see her give the heave ho to people all the time, particularly doting adults) but she’d never turn someone down for being a geek. And, unlike her mother, she doesn’t hold a grudge.

This morning, Annabelle was balancing her cake for the cake walk carefully as we walked from the car to school, slower than the other groups. (OK, here’s a digression — how could anyone not know what a cake walk is?! Ms. X graciously provided a super explanation.)

As we headed toward school, I saw the future “bitchy student body president” and her dad, ahead of us on the sidewalk. I noticed the girl turn around, look at Sophie, sneer a bit, toss her head in the air and literally skip away. I wanted to catch up with that little girl and trip her. Sophie didn’t even notice.

 We got to school and Annabelle showed off her cake, and I forgot all about it. Sort of. I better not see that girl at the school carnival tonight. And no, I can already tell you that I’m not going to my 30th high school reunion.

 Not brave enough.

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9 Responses to “Why I Didn’t Go To My High School Reunion, The Aftermath”

  1. I am touched by you and your classmates that also had the courage to reveal themselves.

  2. I don’t know why I don’t know about cakewalks. Is it a regional thing? Was I a deprived child?

    I really like what that guy wrote. “it’s all front page news in our own brains, nothing more.” I should get a tattoo of that.

  3. Actually, kids have changed a bit since the cruel ’80s. Of course, there are still the bitchy self-centered ones, but there are alot who are not. Don’t know why other than there are more of them who excel and don’t need to be so snotty, but a surprising revelation.

  4. Now I have to rush off to facebook to read all the other comments. The other day, a guy who went to high school with me 43 years ago told my husband (out of the blue and with some resentment) that I was a “teacher’s pet” and “smart.”

  5. How can anyone not know what a cake walk is? Did this younger generation get deprived? Our school carnival is next week and I can’t wait for the cake walk! We still have the store-bought rule though.

  6. some things never change. my 13 year old experienced a (possibly inadvertent) snub last night when her friends called from a party to which she wasn’t invited. or was she invited but, in her charmingly typical manner, spaced it out? the joys of cell phones and impetuous teens is that you can know you’re missing out on the fun in real time, not just when Monday morning rolls around and everybody’s talking about the party you missed. Ahhhh, middle school!

  7. I don’t go to reunions, either. I think it’s funny, because I was a child that moved around a lot (parent marriage/divorce issues). I went to three elementary schools, one junior high and four high schools.

    As a result, I didn’t have a lot of self confidence and I think that I probably had a much better experience than I remember. I often think it would have been much better if I could have stood up for myself more. It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends, but I think I worried a lot more about what everyone else was thinking or felt than what I wanted, which I look at now and think “Dumb!”

    FB is funny, I have friends there that I never would have ever thought would remember me. I also see a lot of people that I just think “you know….no. I don’t need to go back there.”

    I like myself a lot better now than I did then, though I’m finding out that seems to be more universal than I would have thought.

  8. Love this post- trip her for me too!
    PS- I am 53 and never heard of a cakewalk- it must be a regional thing?

  9. As an American Studies professor, I read about cakewalks in 19th-century minstrelsy. I, too, didn’t know they were still around. They sound more fun now. Maybe it’s a southern thing. Do the walkers still do creative dancing, instead of simply walking?

    But more importantly: I’ve only ever been to two reunions, mostly because I’m usually too far away / too poor to travel / too nervous. But one of those 2 reunions surprised me, because the boy who used to carry around his own full-sized box of kleenex — for his frequent bouts of crying-under-a-table — actually showed up at our 10-year high-school reunion. And he looked happy. Therapy, he said, worked wonders for him. So has the computer revolution, I guess by providing high-paying satisfying jobs to nerds everywhere.

    Seeing him happy made the whole reunion worthwhile. Everyone else was complaining about how uncool it was. “But look, John Eric is happy,” I said (not his real name, of course).

    “Oooh, Elaine likes John Eric!” someone else said. “Elaine likes John Eric.”

    So I left that reunion early, fearing high school may never end.

    That probably doesn’t sound like a pro-reunion story. But I wanted to tell it. Maybe my point is that if all of us middling mostly-nerdy-but-not-quite people could actually have the gumption of the truly nerdy yet awesomely brave John Eric, maybe then high school would finally end. So I’ll start it here: I do like John Eric. I think more of us should emulate him. Maybe even carrying a kleenex box along the way.

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