Sunday, August 15, 2010

High School Reunion

My recent high school reunion and the related social activities were a blast, but I was a little surprised by some of the things people I hadn’t seen in decades chose to share.

And, as always, it was all novel material.

It also was a delight to see classmates from that intense, hormone-ridden four-year period known as high school and walk away believing that for the most part, they now lead decent and happy lives. (The few who’ve done jail time – including our class president – didn’t show and another classmate is currently serving a life sentence for murder.) At my age, it's also a comfort to know so many people from my past are still alive.

Without a doubt, the women looked better than the men at this reunion. Maybe it’s because woman will take advantage of generally accepted options to fight the appearances of aging – like hair dye, cosmetics and plastic surgery. Many of the men looked old – lots of hair lost and pounds gained – and some were recognizable only by nametags or voices. Hard to believe these old guys were in the same high school class as me.

I was fortunate to experience the weekend with two women who have been my very close friends since high school even though each lives in Texas now. Since Husband No. 1 refuses to attend reunions, these women make great dates. Between the three of us, we can cover a lot of ground and collect a lot of news/gossip to rehash later over wine.

But I always seem to collect the juiciest items, possibly due to my years of practice asking questions as a journalist. And while we all self-edit the information we choose to relay to others, I was surprised by some of the revelations – and how quickly they were shared.

Why would people I haven’t seen in decades suddenly announce they are in unhappy relationships? Or reveal within minutes that they’re gay? One classmate made sure folks knew she had invested in her breasts. Another made clear her income was higher than most. More than a few took mere seconds to brag about themselves or the accomplishments of their children. We even had a classmate who didn’t care that others knew she was smoking a joint during a break in the festivities.

Then there were the undercurrents – like the classmate who reportedly has been stalking another one, off and on, for decades. There also were those who seemed to think the high school castes still should exist after all these years. Others appeared reluctant to consider that people might change or mature since high school. And some believed boyfriends or girlfriends from that era still carried a torch for them -- or they, themselves, confessed to crushes on fellow classmates.

Yes, it's the stuff novels are made of, isn't it?

But when you really think about it, isn’t it odd that we have high school reunions every five or 10 years to see people we might have spent just four years – or less – with during our teenage years? True, some of my high school classmates go back to elementary school days, but I’ve rarely seen most of them since high school graduation, either.

Yet, there is a connection. And it continues to link us in some way through the years as we move in our different directions and worlds. But exactly what is that connection?

Is it because seeing our classmates again takes us back to more innocent times when our whole lives lay ahead? All things seemed seemed possible then. Or is it because high school is where many of us first truly became aware of the dynamics of friendship and formed relationships we thought would last forever? Or perhaps we experienced the thrill of first love that set the standard for every relationship that followed?

Whatever it is, something prompts many of us to keep going back to these events. At the same time, I can understand why others avoid them. What about you? Have you attended your high school reunions? Why or why not? Do you enjoy them? Did people share intimate details of their lives with you or others?

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