High School Reunion Blues
Wondering whether or not to go to your reunion? Take a tip from the Buddha--and stay home.
By Mary Beth Crain
I don’t know if you’ve seen that new reality series, “High School Reunion,” on TV Land, but if not, I’ll give you the lowdown. It’s about 15 grads of J.J. Pearce High in Texas, who meet on a Hawaii vacay 20th reunion. The promos blare “What happens when the Jock, the Popular Girl, the Spoiled Girl, the Stud, the Pipsqueak, the Bully and the Lesbian get together again after 20 years?” What happens is what you might expect on “reality” TV: a regression into behavior so dumb and childish that you can’t believe you’re watching it. Of course it’s all set up: the participants must, in some way, live up to their stereotypical categorizations and must answer for all the stupid things they did when they were too stupid to know they were stupid.
It’s a yawn, all right, but it made me think about the fact that this summer, my 40th high school reunion is coming up. The last one I went to was my 10th, in 1978. I remember winning the door prize—a bottle of Chianti—because I was the one who’d traveled the farthest, from L.A. to Rochester, New York. After that I pretty much lost track of everybody. My twin brother, Dave, went to our 25th—or was it 30th?—and reported that there were only four or five people out of a class of 520 that he cared about seeing again. So, when we got the e-mails about the big 4-0 reunion of the Irondequoit High Class of ’68, we weren’t sure whether we’d be going or not. We’re still not sure, but as the time draws near, we’re leaning toward shining it on.
I, for one, have all the misgivings one generally has about re-visiting the past. High School wasn’t the greatest time of my life—if they had to give me a title, it would be The Music Nerd. I was training to be a concert pianist and was president of our Music Club, a collection of real dewies who all had big glasses, prominent braces and bad hair and preferred Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 to “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To.” To the jocks and the studs and the popular girls, I didn’t even exist. If you want to know how creepy I looked, I should print the photo my parents had proudly hanging up on the wall, of me with one of those pink plastic hair bands in my short brown hair that never would stay down, and sparkling pink pointy glasses—make that bifocals—to match. It was a face only a mother could love, I’m telling you.
I was also so skinny they had to take me to special stores to get me size two dresses until I was around 15, at which point I shot up to, oh, 90 pounds and could actually buy my clothes at Casual Corner. By the time I graduated, I was 102. I won’t tell you how much weight I’ve gained since then. Let’s just say that the little twig of yesteryear has grown into a big Redwood, and leave it at that. I can guarantee that if I showed up at the reunion, nobody would know who the hell I was. To make matters even worse, Dave was the short, chubby one and now he’s tall and good-looking. My grandmother used to call us Laurel and Hardy and that’s what we’d still be—only in complete role reversal. How embarrassing is that?
It really makes you think about what the point of a reunion is. To reconnect to people? Well, if you weren’t all that connected to them to begin with, that’s pretty irrelevant. To see how kids you knew 40 years ago have changed? Well, when you’re 57 and have all the challenges and worries and obligations that come with advancing age, who cares? To re-live the good old days? Ugh. I mean, I went to high school in those dark ages when the girls had to wear dresses and skirts and the biggest day of our lives came in my senior year, when the administration actually relented and had a “Dress Down Day,” during which we girls could wear slacks to school! Not jeans or T’s or bathing suit bras or gangsta rags, mind you, but nice, respectable tweed pants and un-revealing blouses and sweaters. Boy, did we feel rebellious! So, no, I really don’t care to revisit those uptight days of my youth, when schools were glorified prisons, the teachers were wardens, you needed a hall pass to go to the bathroom, and you got detention for sneaking a Baby Ruth into class. The good old days. Yah.
And above all, reunions are depressing. They remind us how old we’ve gotten, and how little time we have left. At the last reunion, Dave said, they read a roster of classmates who had died. That roster will undoubtedly be lots bigger this time. That’s not exactly something to celebrate, as far as I’m concerned.
But as I’m getting freaked out at the idea of my 40th high school reunion, it suddenly occurs to me that 2008 would be my mother’s 70th. She graduated Benjamin Franklin High in Rochester in 1938. This year she’ll be 88, God willing. If there were a reunion for her, who’d be there? Three people, all in wheelchairs, having no clue as to each other’s identity? Now that’s something to look forward to!
No, I’m in favor of leaving the past where it belongs. Let those jokers on “High School Reunion” fuss and feud over unrequited teenage angst. In the immortal words of the Buddha,
“Do not dwell on the past, do not dream of the future. Concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
Now there’s one guy I’ll bet never went to his high school reunion!
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Senior editor Mary Beth Crain last piece was Pass the Holy Meatballs.
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