Friday, February 08, 2013

My 25th High School Reunion

The 25th reunion of my high school was back in October; I was actually in town, just having returned from Cyprus. A friend said, "I'll go if you go."

And I said, "Well, okay, I'll go if you go."

I was chopping up boxes in the driveway with my new $50 Samurai sword when he arrived.

"Come on get dressed," he said. "We're late."

"I can't wear this?" I asked. I was wearing jeans and a grey hooded sweatshirt.

"It said 'smart casual' on the website."

I grabbed an old brown sports coat and put on a $5 Gap clearance-sale polo shirt.

The first day of celebration included a tour of the high school, but we'd missed that; we went to the second day of celebrations, which cost $30, a sort of reception and banquet. Or buffet, anyway, I don't know if you can could call it a banquet.

I went in and signed up and got a name tag; the three girls sitting at the front table didn't recognize me, despite my having known them fairly well.

"I didn't recocgnize you without your mullet," said one, a girl who I'd had a sort of fling with in middle school. Maybe hers was the second breast I ever touched? Anyway, in the top three. (Or, should I say, top six?) It had never much gone beyond that, though.

She still looked good, despite two children; slim and blonde, and recently divorced; I was particularly impressed with her amazingly white and even teeth, and told her so.

"That's the main advantage of being a dental assistant," she said.

There weren't many people there, although we arrived twenty minutes after the proposed start date. Maybe fifteen or twenty.


I graduated from high school in a small town in the Southern part of the United States in 1987. It was a school of about a thousand students; the graduating class had, as I remember, about 300.

As far as high school experiences go, I suppose it was a relatively decent one. I don't recall being bullied, ostracized, or tormented (except by my friends and girlfriends, of course) and while there were the usual cliques and small-town Southern conservative hypocrisy, it never bothered me that much, beyond the usual teen angst borne of hormones and a diet with far too much refined sugar.

I think I was convinced of my own superiority, and also extremely oblivious to the opinions (and feelings) of others, at a fairly early age. And it was a fairly placid time, in general, in middle America - the end of the Reagan Years.

I was okay-looking, and had a cool car ('83 Ford Mustang convertible); my eclectic group of friends included one of the stars of the basketball team as well as the class president, and a couple of stoner types, so I usually ended up at fun parties.

As far as sex, that happened; I've always had more and hotter girlfriends than I probably deserved.


High school makes a big impression on a lot of people; especially in a small-town like this, where people often marry and settle down pretty young, high school is the best of it.

Not ME, motherfuckers. In the last twenty years, I doubt I've thought about high school a dozen times. Maybe something about high school would come up in conversation when I was on one of my yearly visits to America. But overall I didn't feel much about high school one way or the other; college made much more of an impression, but even college didn't hold much of a candle to what came after it.


As it happened, I was actually in America in 1997, when my ten-year reunion happened; I got an invitation packet in the mail. It had all been organized by the girls who always organized all the parties and dances and such. Cheerleaders and student council types.

There was an outdoor barbecue picnic, a tour of the school, and some other shit; and there was a warning in big letters, something like REMEMBER, IF YOU DON'T PAY THE $70 ENTRANCE FEE YOU WON'T BE PERMITTED TO ATTEND.

The rubbed me the wrong way. $70 seemed like a lot of money, especially when I could have gone down to the Blockbuster Video store on a Saturday evening and seen most of the same people. I was all full of myself at 28, having just returned from 3 years in Asia.

I stuck all the stuff back in the RSVP envelope and wrote "I see you still like to be exclusive!" on it. I can't remember if I actually got around to mailing it back, though; I was just back in America, as I said, and I had a lot of other shit on my mind. The joke hardly seemed worth the price of a stamp.


Of course Facebook came along in 2006 or whatever; by the time I'd actually started occasionally wondering what had ever happened to various people, here comes a website enabling me to easily answer that question.

In 2007, I was contacted (on Facebook) about the 20-year reunion; I was of course in Russia at that time, and couldn't go.

Pictures were posted; man, did everybody look old to me.


So there we were at the 25th reunion. My friend (the former basketball player, mentioned above) and I mingled and said hello to the people we knew.

My own story - "I just got back from three years in Saudi Arabia" usually got this reaction from people: "Oh wow! Are you in the military or something?" Then they'd look at me with a kind of combination of apprehension and interest; both afraid and eager to hear my perhaps horrifying stories of insurgents and IEDs.

When I told them I'd just been teaching English, most of them looked relieved, but still fairly interested.

It was fine, actually. It seemed like a lot of the dorky kids had becoming either successful or good-looking, or both; or they had cool jobs, like cops or politicians. Some of them were still dorky, but most middle-aged people are dorky, anyway. "I think we're all kind of beyond trying to impress, at this point," said my friend.

The former class president arrived; he'd been living a bohemian stoner / slacker / working-at-the-coffee-shop kind of existence in another city. Another girl we'd known, another former nerd, arrived with him; she'd been working in TV production in NY.

She complained that she'd never been invited to good parties in high school.

I considered it. "I don't think I got invited either, I just went."

"I never felt like I fit in."

"Well why would you want to fit in with small-town doofuses, anyway," I said.

We mingled and discussed job experiences, our hairlines, sick parents, things that had happened in the past. We played "What happened to ..." for a while. My high school produced a Miss America, a Pulitzer Prize winning writer, and a guy who I often see in bit parts in films.

Naturally none of them were going to arrive.

They played a slide show in tribute to the half-dozen or so of our classmates who had died.

One girl, a former head cheerleader type, was swanning around in a silver dress; she was ostensibly the hottest girl there. Up close, however, the plastic surgery was showing, as were the freckles from a lifetime of Solarium abuse.

Most of the divorced guys there, more sensibly, hit on the Dental Assistant.


But then after about an hour, it became clear: none of the cool kids were going to show up, anyway, so it would be impossible to see first-hand what had happened to them. The dorky people and the divorced people, and the never married, were the only ones who'd come.

They'd been planning on about 100 people arriving; they got about 40.

I sat down to talk to the Dental Assistant girl with her great white teeth; she said a lot of the popular kids -- the ones who'd always organized all the school activities -- had 2nd marriages or new young kids (as they got to the ragged end of the childbearing years) and couldn't make it, or maybe had been disappointed by the low turnout of the last reunion, and just decided to skip it.

A band composed of (former) dorky kids got on stage and played 80s songs.

The girl who'd put up a lot of the money to organize the whole thing -- a dorky girl who I cannot for the life of me remember from high school at all -- clambered drunkenly onto the stage afterwords to beg for donations, saying they'd leave an envelope on the buffet table. She seemed near tears as she got off; had she been hoping to exorcise her teenage demons with an awesome high school reunion, or now realized that her dreams of popularity were again shattered?

"Whoo," I said. "Sad. I paid my thirty bucks, though, I'm not giving them anything."

"I warned her actually," said the Dental Assistant. "I had a feeling."

"Some people just never learn," I said.

Say what you will about American girls -- they have the nicest teeth.


Twenty said...

'83 Mustang convertible, eh? That was the first year the vert came back, after the unpleasantness in the 70's.

4bbl 5.0? Fun car for the time.

English Teacher X said...

Yeah, it handled like a dead whore, but it was fast.

Anonymous said...

You missed a lot at high school. The verbal abuse, loneliness and constant fear and vulnerability I experienced was perfect preparation for a life of teaching abroad.

Grace Thomson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.