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Why I Didn’t Go to My High School Reunion

posted Monday October 19th, 2009

sophie party 1

I had to admit to myself this weekend that I have come to loathe birthday parties. That is quite an admission for someone who named her blog Girl in a Party Hat.

OK, maybe I found myself curled up in the fetal position on the couch late Saturday afternoon because I skipped lunch and it was over 100 degrees out (in mid-October, damn it!) and I had slept for just four hours the previous night.

But I swear it was because of that birthday party.

Sophie and I had looked forward to it for weeks — one more in a long parade of birthday parties already this year; apparently most of her class was born in September and October. This particular celebration was held at a kiddie beauty salon called Snip-Its, and promised a theme of Glamour. It delivered.

By the end of two hours, the girls had put on fancy dresses; had their hair done; put on makeup, which they were then allowed to keep in the makeup bag they picked out; finished a craft (a door hanger made of fun foam — “the princess is in”); donned feather boas for a red carpet fashion show; and eaten chocolate cupcakes with three inches of pink and purple frosting.

Heaven, right?

For me, it was hell. And for Sophie? Hard to say.

She seems to be more and more in touch with her social surroundings, which worries me. Just that morning in ballet, I had watched her approach a couple little girls she was in line with, waiting to do leaps. I couldn’t hear through the glass, but what I saw was obvious: They blew her off, turning their backs and giggling together.

I always tell myself Sophie doesn’t notice such slights (and she does invite them by acting odd, I’ll admit that — it’s never really the other kids’ fault, and sometimes I know they can’t understand what she’s saying) but this time I couldn’t deny it. Sophie turned around and walked to the corner, sinking to the ground and sulking.

A few minutes later she was up again, but by then I had to turn my own back. I couldn’t bear to watch. It was the same at the birthday party. I so want Sophie to be included, to be invited to these parties, but I’m beginning to wonder if we’d both be better off if I declined the invitations.

Maybe the truth is that she’ll never be included, not the way we both want her to be.

Now Annabelle, she’s another story. The other day she told my mom that the kids actually fight over who gets to sit next to her at lunch. She’s got that magic something that makes people like her.

I never had that as a child or teenager. Not til the last few months, when high school classmates started friending me on Facebook, asking if I was going to our 25th reunion. Um, no. As in, no fucking way. I am mature enough at this point to realize it was more my fault than anyone else’s, but let’s just say that I did not enjoy my years at Arcadia High School and no, I don’t wish to relive them.

I was happy and I’ll admit a little flattered to hear from some friendly classmates. I guess we’ve grown up. But still, I declined the invite to the reunion.

(And here I must interject and admit that perhaps I am being a bit melodramatic. I did have friends in high school, but I was an odd duck without a good reason like, say, a chromosomal abnormality. It’s not a time I like to think about — though having kids, particularly Sophie, somehow makes me think about it a lot.)

Standing in the doorway of the party room at Snip-Its, staring at the four little girls sitting around the table with (but not really with — no one spoke to her the entire time, except when she got in their way) Sophie, I suddenly saw each of those four girls in 10 years: cheerleader, cheerleader, cheerleader, bitchy student body president. And my kid, the one who doesn’t fit in.  

Sophie deserves a lot of credit. She tries. She kept calling “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” across the table to the birthday girl, who I swear didn’t crack a smile the entire time — at Sophie, or anyone else for that matter. Driving home, I asked Sophie if she had fun with the other girls. Her response: “Where was Sarah?”

Sarah is Sophie’s BFF, she of the very successful playdate. I don’t know where Sarah was, but I’m guessing Sarah’s mom (who has several older children) is smart enough to not hit every birthday party.

“I’m sorry Sarah wasn’t there,” I told Sophie. “I know she’s your good friend.”

Funny, just the night before, my dear friend Kathy and I had a long talk about how that’s all you really need — one good friend.

“If you’ve got two, you’re way ahead of a lot of people,” Kathy said.

She’s right. And in the end, even if you walk down that red carpet alone, more power to you if you hold your head high and smile.

sophie party 2

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Tags: Filed under: birthday parties by Amysilverman

17 Responses to “Why I Didn’t Go to My High School Reunion”

  1. Oh Amy. You have me crying at my desk again.

    Sad and beautiful.

  2. What an amazingly lovely and painful post.

  3. High school was not my time either. We’re much better now. Truly.

  4. This is very nice writing, Amy. It’s filled with complicated emotions and thoughts. Just terrific.

  5. Every one in a while, I come across a perfect piece of writing. This is one of those times. Thank you for sharing it.

  6. Poignant. As you know these thoughts have been on my mind a lot lately. A Buddhist inclined friend was saying to me last week “the reality is for all of us, we really ARE alone in this life in some beautiful and sad way” . But to her that realization is liberating (me it’s scary but I get what she means and aspire to that kind of enlightenment). Deep thoughts….guess I’m just saying we all have our solitary journey, no matter what, ya know?

  7. PS. would love to know the trick on that messy bun Sophie is sportin there. ;)

  8. “Cheerleader, cheerleader, cheerleader, bitchy student body president”…that’s pretty much a summary of every workplace, restaurant, club and social event, isn’t it?

    This is excellent, as always. I miss you.

  9. I hope your daughter never reads this. If it were me, I would be horrified. She is probably telling herself that people don’t notice how awkward she is. She probably takes comfort in just hoping that’s true. What you put on the web is out there forever. You can’t take it back. Is this really want you want her to read about herself?

  10. Amy- I was alot like you in HS and haven’t changed all that much. I find alot of people surprisingly mean spirited and narrow (my defense I’m sure) and totally get the cheerleader, cheerleader scenario.On the other hand there are people out there who are extremely goodhearted and loving.
    I too worry a bit about my daughter’s ability to “fit in”. They will Not fit in and my take on it is that is going to have to be made into a positive. In other words, I can help her learn who is good peeps and who are not. And to value the peeps that just love her just the way she is. Cousins (in your case sibs) take on a new light. I, as her mom, feel just as much one of her BFF’s since I like to be around to facilitate social interaction.
    I do not think that anything you wrote was inappropriate. Our kids do need extra help with social skills, usually re: to a bit of immaturity, and the average kid needs help with their own developmental challenges around narcissism, cliqueness and kindness! Hugs!

  11. I can relate to this post in so many ways. That little girl of yours is just so beautiful.

  12. Amy writes well, indeed; but in this post,,her skill is trumped by feeling. All of us whose DS loved one has been through this … (anguish).

    This is gut-wrenching stuff. I hate it. And embrace you for it.

  13. Hey as a former cheerleader who life rolled over many times after that, ya never know where you’re kinda find your humility. Most of us are offered many opportunities though. The bed of roses is a blasted myth no matter who seems to be tiptoeing through it.

    And to Z, as a person who spends a decent amount of time around Sophie, I sincerely doubt she has any clue about feeling “awkward”. Actually usually she’s the life of the party and she works it, believe me (I have the photos to prove it). Btw, do you have a clue that Sophie is a (albeit high functioning angel) 6 year old with Down Syndrome? Thought not.

  14. [...] 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 [...]

  15. oh amy, i can so relate. great post, so true on many levels. i think the coolest, smartest, most creative grown ups are the ones who were outcasts in grade, middle and high school. with such a great mom and values you are giving her, sophie is going to continue to grow up be a wonderful, smart, creative chica. she seems like a little girl who will always find the happy in every situation! that picture of her on the red carpet is so dang adorable!! talk about a money shot, she is glowing! are those rhinestones on her shoes?

  16. [...] Two of my favorite blogs have recently posted about when kids are cruel to each other: here and here. My story isn’t as dramatic as Mom-101s or Girlinapartyhats, but I’ve been thinking [...]

  17. I am so glad that I found your posting about this. I am coming up on my 20th reunion and I’m not going to go to mine either. I didn’t go to the 10 year reunion either. I have a few friends that I am still friends with from high school and we have been constant friends ever since graduation. Now, some of those friends have been facebooiking with people from high school, who have magically ‘popped up’in the last few months since hearing of the reunion, I think most of that is just nosiness and curiosity. Neither of which I have taken to. Most of these people have not changed and if I didn’t know them more intimately before the reunion, why would I want to bother now? I think it’s desperate backtracking. Like your daughter, I had a lot of obstackes to overcome and most kids…and even some teachers were cruel, but, I was able to find my handful of mates that accepted me as I did them…and they are lifelong friends. I think that in the end my strengths have come from the pain and abnormalness that I had to deal with when growing up. My going to this reunion would mean going backward. I can reminisce with the good friends I have from high school and I’d rather leave the fake ones in the past.

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