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Monday, December 13, 2004

Learning from the past, but not from the present

Today my sister asked me the dreaded question that puts a damper on my ability to picture myself as someone barely out of her teen years who just happens to have a job, a college degree, a couple of pets, a partner, and a mortgage payment. She asked if I'm planning to go to my 10th year high school reunion. I denied that such an event was on the horizon, but she humbled me by sending me my high school's website. And there it is on the front page--a 1995 reunion in the works.

I amble over to the alumni register and seeing that the one friend I still talk to from high school is registered, I decided to do so myself. (No, I'm not up there yet.) And now I have a dilemma--should I go?

I write a lot of West Texas and how thoroughly it screwed me up. I hated high school and living where the world didn't extend past the two small towns in either direction and where I was treated like little better than a freak by most of my classmates for most of my time there because of my persistent inability to conform and my tendency to read too much. But that doesn't mean I didn't have good times and that I don't have any curiousity about the kids I graduated with. There were less than 80 of us, and thus my ability to just leave them behind like total strangers is compromised.

Sure enough, I found myself looking through the alumni list curiously. Who got married? Who has kids? Who got away? Who stayed because they wanted to and who stayed because they're trapped? It looks like most people are married and have kids, which is typical enough for West Texas. And there are probably a few who did things you didn't expect.

I joked with a coworker that if I go to this, I need to show up in a mink coat and cocktail dress, smoking a cigaretter from a cigarette holder, with a rhinestone-collared poodle on a leash, and refuse to drink anything but martinis. You know, take no chances that anyone thinks that I live less than the life of a glamorous single city dweller, a la "Sex and the City".

But the truth of the matter is that I can't really work up much enthusiasm. I felt like a fish out of water in high school, and I don't really relish the idea of spending a night at a party where I feel odd and out of place again. I just can't picture myself actually bothering to work up the energy to go, much less try to talk my boyfriend into it. Once reason starts to kick in, I realize that the last thing I care about is pretending to care about the marriages and kids of people that used to treat me with disdain in high school. And while the revenge motive ("Me? Oh no, I didn't have kids. I just relish sleeping in only to wake up to champagne and oral sex too much.") runs deep in me, I can't convince myself that I could actually make anyone jealous enough to make the drive worth it. I do want to see pictures of the kids of people that I actually liked, but again, maybe not at the cost of the drive down there and a tedious evening with the same damn people who made the senior prom so terribly dull.

High school classmates are like friends in the sense that there's no blood connection. But they are like family in the sense that you don't pick them. They connect you to the past, but it's hard to imagine why they might illuminate anything. People get older, they have kids, so what? I guess there's the "you never know" factor. But if it's not fun and it's not enlightening, I just can't see the point in going.

Though it would be nice to have an excuse to go back to the Big Bend again.

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Blogger bitchphd said...

Ok, I am the person who is going to say "go to the reunion." I was kind of ambivilant about mine for many of the same reasons, but I went and had a blast. First, in the mean-spirited snarky sense: a former bookwormy outsider, I now looked waaaaaaay better than all the formerly popular kids, and had accomplished more and just had a more interesting life.

More importantly, though, the unexpected surprises: all the other kids who, like me, had been sort of on the margins--so much so that in a lot of cases we were marginal to each other--had become the most interesting people, and it really was a pleasure to see them an find out what had become of them.

In other words, my experience was, the reuinion ends up not being about the people you think it'll be about; it ends up being about the people who are way more interesting as adults than they ever were as kids, which is as it should be.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

My 10 year is coming up in a couple of years. I went to a small high school in Iowa (less than 40 people in my class), and managed to be somewhat marginalized. This never bothered me much, and I worked my ass off to graduate as a junior and get out. Oddly enough, this caused a great deal of controversy. At this point, I have no real interest in going to any reunion, however I will probably go out of spite (and to see one or two people that I have not seen since graduation).

The only thing that worries me is that none of them will remeber who I am, and the spite factor will fall flat. ^_^

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