The Parents Yap About Reunions: Reunited, does it feel so good?
It's reunion season! Have you ever attended your high school reunions? With all of those old memories being dredged back up, is there any wisdom you can pass along to your kids to help them survive - or even thrive - in the social jungle of high school?
I went to my 20-year high school reunion a few years ago and I think it fulfilled my lifetime interest in attending these sorts of events. I liked high school well enough, but like most people, when it was over, I was ready for it to be over. Of course I was curious to see how everyone had changed over the years — were the hot guys still hot? Were the high school couples still together? Did the Most Likely to Succeed, you know, succeed? And how would I measure up after twenty years? Ack.
I wasn’t really a “popular” kid in high school. I wasn’t an outcast, either. I was more of a “floater” — I had friends in a lot of different social circles, but I don’t remember any pressure to be popular. I had a lot of friends, but I was never concerned about being in with the right people. I went to a very small, private middle school — I only had about 30 kids in my whole grade — so there was no “popular crowd.” There weren’t enough people to have an in-crowd to be left out of. By the time I got to the bigger (1200 people or so) public high school, I didn’t know or care who the popular kids were. My kids have all gone to the itty bitty Walton, and have had much the same experience that I did. At such a tiny school, there aren’t enough people to create much of a social caste system. My two youngest are still at the Walton, and my oldest is at the Galvin. So far no one has mentioned being popular or not. It’s not an issue.
My reunion was fine. I’m glad I went, but that’s about all I can say about it. Some of the hot guys were still hot. Some not so much. Some people were completely unrecognizable from their high school selves. Some looked exactly the same. I would like to think that I have held up pretty well over the years, but after three kids, I know I won’t be able to fit into the little green cheerleading skirt I once wore. I grew up in Upstate New York, and I have lost touch with most of the people I went to school with, so the 20-year reunion was the first time I had seen most of my classmates since graduation. Suddenly people and memories that had been shelved in the dusty archives of my mind all came tumbling out at once. Long-forgotten funny escapades, anxieties, and insecurities were suddenly front and center. It’s nice to see how far we have all come.
Tasha Schlake Festel
I love me a good reason to get dressed up. A high school reunion is just as good as any other!
One of my best girlfriends is pregnant and on bed rest. Totally captive. It was the perfect situation for a fashion show of six possible outfits for my 20th (+1) reunion. And she has awesome stilettos and we wear the same size. Bonus!
We agreed on my navy dress from Rada Boutique and her snakeskin peep-toe stilettos. The saying goes that "clothes make the man" but let's face it, they really make the woman. And sometimes they make the woman look hot at her reunion. Heh heh.
Time to 'fess up, everyone! One of the reasons we go to reunions is to see how everyone is aging. Admit it! Since the reunion crowd is self-selected, the people at mine just a few weeks ago looked pretty darn good. Damn! The female grads of the Nazareth (Pennsylvania) High School class of '91 are smokin'!
I wasn't popular, but I wasn't not popular either. I was kind of just there. Normal. Other than being class president, I was rather unremarkable. That worked for me. I don't remember being particularly concerned about any of it one way or the other while I was in high school. And in the end, it's all irrelevant, isn't it? Social status in high school is no indicator of future success. After all, sometimes the popular kids are the ones that end up working for the geeks.
I guess this is one of the lessons driven home by a reunion and walk down memory lane that I'll try to impart upon my kids. Status is temporary. For some, high school is just something they need to survive to get on with their real lives. For others, it's the peak, the high point, it's all downhill from there. I had a good high school experience. I came out of it unscathed. I hope my kids will too. And if they don't, I'll try to remind them that despite how world-ending it all seems when they're living it, very little will matter after graduation.
When we look at our kids' classmates, no matter what grade they may be in (even preschool), we can probably pretty accurately predict which kids will be "cool" and which kids won't. We can guess which ones will be the jocks, and which will be the burn-outs. We even have an inkling of who will graduate with honors and who will settle for a G.E.D. But we have the context to know none of it is all that important.
Reunions allow us to see our old classmates and be back there again, but armed with what we know now. Knowledge is power. And power is pretty cool, even if I never was in high school.
Back in 1987, I would cruise down Main Street Stoneham to Redstone in my cream-colored 1972 Plymouth Scamp. Eddie Money’s Shakin’ anchored my cassette mix’s set list, and blared from the speakers, competing with the rumble of the car’s cherry bomb muffler. I rolled down the windows to let the wind whip through my mullet and diffuse my Polo cologne, checking the popped collar on my Levi’s denim jacket in the rearview mirror. I was awesome.
In light of such a striking image, it makes perfect sense that my high school reunions don’t cause me concern or bring on anxiety. I’ve attended each reunion, but the decision isn’t really a tough one. When I was a senior my classmates elected me to a third consecutive term as president, which--along with the cachet the title carried and its weight on my college applications--morally and ethically bound me to plan all high school reunions until I’m dead. Even without the obligation, I’d go to my reunions. While there’s the usual catch-up small talk about careers and kids, most of the time is spent laughing with friends over stories from our years at Stoneham High School. I see nothing wrong with entering the time warp for one night every five years.
I surmise from the absence of many faces at the reunions that high school wasn’t great for everyone. Reliving those years for some people is more nightmare than celebration. I never gave thought about whether I was part of a popular crowd or not. I just had a great group of friends and we had a lot of fun. I did well enough academically, no one bothered me, and I always had a date to the prom. I never set out to design my social circles, they just fell into place. I didn’t spend any time wishing I was part of another group.
My high school experience impacts my parenting only in that I hope my kids look back on their high school years fondly and look forward to their reunions with anticipation. I know there will be times when they’ll go through the pain of the phone not ringing or not get invited to things. Only with the wisdom of hindsight will they be able to understand it doesn’t matter in the long run. Should my kids not have the same positive experience as I did in high school, I hope they’ll still go to their reunions.
People change, and the further we get from graduation, the easier it is to see that every last one of us-- the sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies--was full of crap in high school.
Having gone to a small high school, my reunion experience doesn’t measure up to those reunions you see portrayed on television or in the movies. Those TV reunions are a brilliant forum to showcase high school as a hyperbole of itself. The old insecurities, the chance to reveal long ago crushes, reliving glory days and days of awkwardness take on epic proportions on the screen. My favorite reunion movie is Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.
Maybe some of you went to very large (or at least highly organized) schools where reunions are costly, gala events, but most of the people I know had reunions where getting together was the main focus. I helped plan my class’ twentieth reunion a few years ago, and even this casual event was a LOT of work to organize because no one is sitting on a big block of free time to devote to planning a reunion.
“Whaaat?!” you say. “But she seems too young to have graduated so long ago!”—Alas, it’s true, but thank you for your imaginary kind thoughts!
We went for a cost-and-family-friendly event, the weekend of our town’s annual festival, and planned for it to end in time for everyone to make it to the town’s big fireworks display. Very down home, but fun. It was essentially a kind of potluck in a hall with a bar, ‘80’s and ‘90’s music on Pandora and five or so raffle items. For name tags, which I think is a must, we had each person’s senior picture printed on it. Too bad for you if your picture was dorky! We had a classmate design a t-shirt logo to commemorate the occasion, and another classmate made a great CD of old pictures that played on a screen during the evening, which was nice, too.
Being involved in contacting classmates and fielding r.s.v.p.’s, I was surprised as much by who came as I was about who didn’t come. I confess my feelings were kind of hurt that some people didn’t even bother to respond to the invitation. People I had been friends with… Talk about sparking paranoia and insecurity!
In the end, I learned that people either grow up or they don’t. In our case, there was zero drama. Everyone was pleasant and funny and all there seemed genuinely happy to reconnect. I figure that the people who didn’t come either couldn’t get over high school, or couldn’t be bothered to think about high school. Either way, it’s all good, as the kids say. I think that part of the happiness I felt at the reunion was seeing people associated with what was a happy time for me.
If you have a reunion coming up and are hemming and hawing about whether to go or not, I say you should go for it! People may surprise you—and probably in a delightful way!