The Death of the High School Reunion

Some of my favorite hours are spent watching really, really awful television. When the always something of parenting finally closes shop, but Bernie is still stuck wrist deep in other women, it’s time for a bit of guilty pleasure viewing. And when my husband isn’t planted on the opposite couch to groan when the remote pauses on something my 9 year old would describe as, “mmmm… smootchy, smootchy,” then I’m watching Peggy Sue Got Married. For, like, the 17th time.

I just love teenagers… even when they’re portrayed by 30 year olds. It’s a confusing time: electric and fleeting and wonderful and awful and the perfect stuff to fold into a potpie of sentimentality. And Peggy Sue opens with her 25th high school reunion. The dork millionaire, the paunchy footballers, the receding hairlines, and the provocatively dressed divorcées contribute to an atmosphere that supports the awkward and silly conversations between people who knew each other way back when. The Death of the High School Reunion has been chronicled by better writers many times, but this year is my 25th reunion, and no more than a dozen graduates of the Class of ’89 will commit to a few hours of cash bar and greasy apps in the name of nostalgia.

From the thread of RSVPs there are many “we don’t come ‘home’ for the holidays anymore” sentiments, maybe one “yay, reunion!” affirmation (mine), and a smattering of lackluster “maybe I’ll stop by” messages from people transparently choosing any other activity over seeing the Class of ’89 in three dimensions. Certainly, the very idea of Reunion holds its own mixed bag of cheery anticipation coupled to the dread of forgotten names, forced merriment, and the eleventh hour desire to drop 20lbs. I could list 194 reasons to blow off the reunion. But not too long ago, the 25th would be momentous enough to form a committee, launch a save-the-date, order some balloons, and hire a DJ to spin the music that accompanied our lost virginities. In response, alumni would half-heartedly complain, but still plan to go, switch shifts, get a babysitter, and maybe even alter the family holiday plans for it. I mean, it’s the goddamn 25th reunion. This is the one you go to, right?

Nope. Turns out we’re “caught up” since our social media sites have already chronicled our births and deaths and accomplishments, new cars, cancer battles, wisdom tooth extractions, and kitchen remodels. Or maybe we’re worried our Facebook selves won’t quite live up to the brand we’ve created? Who knows? But no one is coming.

Possibly because social media did not yet exist, we had a fantastic turnout at the 10th. “Ahh… the 10th,” said my wise brother-in-law, Bob, “Everyone is still lying.” I loved that. We filed into the decorated ballroom intent to prove we were becoming Important in the World, while shamelessly dancing to Debby Gibson, and kissing the boys we wished we had kissed way back when. Or maybe that was just me. It was a fuzzy night. At our 10th very few had any real responsibilities and we were all too happy to escape a night on the air mattress at mom’s in order to spend a few cash bar hours together. But 15 years later… hmmm, maybe I’ll stop by.

Because no one really wants one, it looks like the Class of ’89 will have no formal venue to reunite: no balloons, no blown up yearbook photos, no Debby Gibson. Is this a huge tragedy? Not really. But I think we’re missing something when we forgo traditions like these. There’s a reason why it’s so much fun to squeeze and giggle and laugh and wiggle with the people who knew 16 year old you. It’s because they still see 16 year old you. And for the briefest of moments, you are still 16 year old you. That’s the fun of it, and the actual real-time, 3D catch up is just icing on the nostalgia cake.

Prom 1989... me and Lisa, my BFF (split heart necklace and everything)

Prom 1989… me and Lisa, my BFF (split heart necklace and everything) and someone I’d LOVE to see in 3D.

15 responses

  1. I missed my 30th three years ago…I really wanted to go. You’re right about still seeing each other as teenagers. My classmates posted pics of the reunion on Facebook, and I found many of the photos to be quite shocking…not because this one gained weight, or that one is bald, but rather because of the simple passage of time. I haven’t seen most of them since June, 1981… Three decades go by and you wonder how swiftly the years can fly by. There is a voyeuristic aspect to it all, I think…but mostly, it’s about reclining with one’s past, and a shared connection to it. I look at the pictures, and the cliques are long gone, mostly forgotten…the jock now hobnobs with the bandie, the theatre chick snogs the math wiz, and the universe exhales. For a moment, at least… I wish them all well, although common sense and the law of averages dictate that many have suffered great pain, and terrible losses. But we agree to smile, embrace and share the victories… And maybe lie just a little

  2. That’s a shame, but I think you’re right about the social media, everyone feels so connected already, the desire to find out what everyone has been doing is gone! Whenever I get together with some old school friends, we do still feel the same as when we were 16, and yes, it’s nice to feel that 🙂

  3. I went to my 10 year reunion and it was awful! So bad I refused to go to my 20. Everyone still acted like they did in high school. It was like no one had grown up. The jocks sat together…the nerds sat together..the popular kids…etc etc. I was miserable! I went because there were people I really wanted to see, but most of them didn’t even come. Maybe they knew something I didn’t. I got kind of roped into the 30th. What made it interesting was the people I had connected with on Facebook who lived all over the country were the ones who told me they wanted to see ME! Wow! So I went…. bored out of my freaking mind! I was going to be in town that weekend anyway to see friends and visit family so the trip wasn’t a total loss. I went, ate, chatted with a couple of people, then left before the festivities started. They couldn’t serve alcohol because it was a part of the county that remains dry (I know..weird) but you could BYOB. When the awards and announcements were done the coolers started coming in…I left. Went and hung out with some REAL friends and had a great time.
    I agree with your assessment though. I think they are slowly becoming a thing of the past because when I asked others about going? They said…why? I already talk to and have lunch with the ones I care about. I don’t give a crap about those other people. Perspectives do change the older we get! 🙂

  4. Pretty sure I’ve been lost to the ole class of ’89 witness protection level lost :). I think of everyone fondly and miss our experience with slow motion tag. Hope you are well – clearly you turned into an excellent writer!

  5. Pingback: YOU’RE NEVER TOO FAT FOR YOUR REUNION… by Steve Safran | Blooms and Bubbles

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