Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Of reunions and small town papers

It came to mind yesterday, while at a event scattered with random faces from my past, that my ten year high school reunion is due to rear up next summer.


It really should have occurred to me earlier, honestly, given the hushed, wine-sprinkled tones my friend spoke to me in on Saturday night. She whispered of her growing impatience at her boyfriend dragging his heels in his proposal, despite their already-planned-to-the-utmost-detail nuptials. 

We women tend to use the reunion as a yardstick of sorts. It elicits some rumination about whether we are where we would have imagined while being paraded around the gymnasium in prom regalia. And though I disagree on principle with the notion that your classmates should serve as you comparison point, I still have found myself cursing under my breath that single year off between finishing my undergraduate degree and starting graduate school, for that year may be the thing keeping me from being referred to as doctor by the time the kitsch 1999 musical medley rolls around. After all, I have a student loan while they have babies, so it would be nice to have something formal to show other than that dreaded "student" label that threatens to haunt me forever more.

It doesn't help that I grew up in a small town. Our graduating class of 70 was the biggest in the school's history. Not only did it make for seemingly incestuous date-swapping, given the lack of make-out worthy guys, but it also made for an ease of keeping track of classmates. Sure, some of us stayed (generally of the rapid baby-making variety), while lots of us fled to the big city. But Facebook, in all its world shrinking power, has nothing on the power of small town gossip. Of course, my parents decided to the spread of my life updates not only through my mother's chatting over bakery counters, but by declaring my receipt of my degree in the back of the Daily News, along with the obituaries and advertisements for the local AC/DC cover band. Thankfully, by the time my Masters rolled around, everyone had just taken it for granted that I was perpetually in school, and could be bothered to take too much noticed.

Lest I make this sound like middle America, I promise you it wasn't. I went to the high school where someone's idea of a beginning of year prank was to relocate a pot plant to the fresh soil in the middle of the school field. Students flocked to scour it for buds before the administrators noticed, only to find that the culprit was versed enough in marijuana cultivation to have stripped any sign of them. My high school was down the highway from a beach where nude bodies frolicked among the clothed and you would have to deal with the humiliation of forced steady eye contact when running into your unclothed friend's father-- all with a bongo drum soundtrack. 

Our primary division was not between jocks and nerds, but rather hippies and rednecks. I was firmly on the hippie side, sealed there by virtue of my original first name with the girls named after seasons and trees, despite my Grade 10 attempts at being a fashionista with silver nail polish and pleather jackets. The rednecks drank in gravel pits and went snowmobiling. We drank in forested backyards and went to raves. I was deeply chagrined by my little sister's fall to the dark side when she dated one of the chief tobacco chewers, when I would only venture as far out of my group as a jock, who were the few groups of people who could bridge the hippie-redneck divide. Even know, I am shocked when one of the rednecks adds me on Facebook, for although I assume I've left those crude divisions behind, I'm never quite too sure that anyone else will do the same.

It is questionable whether anyone will actually take the helm to organize a reunion, especially given that the woman we all took for granted as having the required level of school spirit now has two babies to occupy her time. So perhaps I will be granted a few more years to get that PhD, a husband, and everything else my 17-year old self expected, and, in the meanwhile, can use my biannual visit to one of the local bars to receive a refresher on the lives of others.

38 comments:

Larissa said...

My ten-year high school reunion is coming up in two years. No idea if I'll go. First, flights home to Hawaii are expensivo. Second, when I think about high school experiences, I'm not sure I want to revisit that.

Dexter Colt said...

My 10-year came and went. As far as I know it took place, but I never heard anything about it. Not that I care to ever see "those people" again. High school was a petty time. I never looked back...

All Mod Cons said...

Wow, school life over the pond seems very different to over here. On a great many levels. We should've had our "reunion" 3 years ago. There might have been a "gathering" of a few people from a one particular class. Not that I was bothered, like the first 2 comments left, I have no desire to revisit those years in the slightest.

sequined said...

My ex boyfriend is technically in charge of planning our 10 year reunion (which is a couple of years off), so I imagine I'll hear about it when it happens.

I plan to invite my hottest male friend and borrow a baby from a friend. Or skip the baby, get trashed, and not take it too seriously.

And I feel your pain about the hometown newspaper. I got written up in our alumni newsletter for winning a semi-competitive award last year. Embarrassing.

twentysomethingandclueless said...

I missed my school's 5th year last year, but that's also cause I'm across the Pacific ocean from my high school. I think I'd make it out to my 10th tho, if I'm still in NYC. :) No idea what I'll have achieved (if anything) by then...Editor at a major NYC publishing house, perhaps? I can dream...;)

Jack said...

Yup, my 5 year reunion came and went. I asked around on Facebook and it sounded like no one was going. So much for the school spirit everyone was so eager to show back in the day.

When people asked me if I was going, I told them I'm on a different continent now and, no, high school was not so great that I'm going to fork out the money to fly back.

Z said...

My ten year is next year as well... And yeah, I'd like to be some kind of doctor by then, too... Here's to hoping!

lspoon said...

I am crazy excited for my 10 year reunion but I still have 3 years. Maybe I'll be a mom by the too...wow. A lot can happen in such a short amount of time, huh?

tmamone said...

My 10 year reunion is three years away, and I'm already afraid of going! My biggest fear is that all my bullies will be more successful than me. I'll be like, "Yeah, I'm married with [however many] beautiful children, I'm a writer, and I've gotten help for my issues. Life is great." And then they say, "That's nice. I own my own private island."

Actually, since my high school was in a pretty rough neighborhood, I probably can't go unless I have a bullet-proof vest.

tmamone said...

Also, I was a metal head in high school, which definitely did not help me in the popularity department. "Why does every one think that, just because I listen to Slayer and draw pictures of Satan all over my notebooks, I'm sort sort of devil worshipper?"

(Not that I regret my metal head past. I regret a lot of other stupid crap I did, but being a metal head is not one of them)

Alexa said...

i just nominated you to organize the festivities.

my ten year would be this summer but no one has really put anything together to organize it!

Stephanie said...

Rednecks where I went to high school drink in gravel pits and go snowmobiling too! Like, my stepsister's boyfriend OWNS a gravel pit and bought my stepsister a snowmobile last Christmas. You seriously hit the nail on the head. If I didn't know you lived in Canada, I would seriously think you were talking about my hometown!

Erica said...

There's a gravel pit behind my parents farm! Can't say I ever drank there though.

I don't care one way or another about my 10-yr reunion (which will be in 2 years) but I have a friend who is looking forward to it immensely. By then he will be an RCMP officer (a Mountie) and plans to rub this in the face of less-successful classmates who made his high school years miserable. He's delayed joining Facebook for this reason as well!

Beth said...

Do not give a second thought to the babies/marriage vs. student/student loan comparison.
One day you will have it all - and then the real challenge will begin.

lissa said...

my 10 yr. reunion is coming up next year. i wish i could go but secretly, like a fly on the wall. i don't want to participate, talk about all the wrong paths i went down careerwise, but i do want to know what a few people who i lost touch with are up to. hmm who knows if i'll go or not. i think the fact that you're in a phd program speaks volumes for you. nothing for you to worry about.

Deutlich said...

You know.. I still stay in touch with people from the super small town in Germany I lived in.. but I can't say the same for most of the other areas I've lived in..

Except for Blacksburg - another small town (albeit a College Town)..

Jess said...

A lot of people have been posting about their ten-year reunions recently and I was thinking, yeah, that's a long way off for me, but I suppose it has already been six years, and four more isn't really that many. Wow.

Ashley said...

i'm on the brink of trying to decide about whether or not to go back to school for my PhD (all signs point to yes) but I keep wondering if I'm doing myself a disservice by putting off all of the normal things 20-something year olds do to start their lives - marriage, babies, careers, houses...etc, ad nauseum.

i've never wanted to be normal, so i suppose it's all part of my plan. :)

rs27 said...

My ten year reunion is this summer.

I have still not recieved an invitation.

Boo to be being shunned by your high school.

I wish I went to your highschool

Surfergrrl said...

well, you know how i feel about reunions. ha ha. my school was big...and WAS divided into the jocks and the nerds. I was neither. I was the dork.

Yoda said...

I never quite made it to my 10 yr high school reunion ... BUT I had a PhD by the time my 10 yrs were up :-)

Very nice!!

Carrie said...

My 10 Year Reunion is coming up in a couple weeks! I'm still trying to come up a stock answer to the "What do you do?" question, because my job is hard to explain. I wish I could just say I'm a student! And seriously, I don't think you should be ashamed of that at all...

benjibopper said...

facebook is just the weirdest thing, i still haven't figured it. just weird.

anyway, i had a much better time at my high school reunion that i expected. only bad part was everyone kept saying 'hey benj do that funny dance you used to do!'

Katelin said...

my high school class was pretty small too, only 84, and i totally agree that reunions are mini mile stones that you sort of want to show off, haha. i've still got a couple years til my 10 so we'll see how that goes.

Mrs4444 said...

"chief tobacco chewer," that's very funny :) 10 year reunions are boring (in my opinion); there hasn't been enough time to pass and people still stick to their clicks. Later reunions are more fun, I think; people have dropped labels and don't really care if you were Most Popular anymore. (You weren't Most Popular...were you?? no offense intended, haha!)

NamesAreHardToPick said...

Our class was half of yours! Still, that is a small class. And why am I not surprised that you were on the Hippies die anyway? Even though, with the invention of Facebook, you would think that everyday would be high school reunion day anymore.

Nilsa S. said...

I'm back. Finally. Sort of. Checking in before I whisk away to NY this weekend. Man, I need that escape.

All I know about my 10-year reunion was ... it was a blast. I hadn't really stayed in touch with many people, so it was fun to reconnect. And it was particularly humorous to see how good all the women looked and how beer-bellied many of the guys looked.

Also, the whole children versus degree thing? Everyone was in such a good mood (alcohol certainly helped) that we all seemed happy for one another no matter what stage of life.

So, I say go, you'll have fun. And if you're not having fun, you can leave. It is your right. But if you decide not to go? Well, you can't change that.

Matt said...

Your small town has it's own AC/DC cover band? Thats awesome.

2 more years until my 10th reunion...my graduating class was about 2000, so a bit dif because there was alot of people I really didnt know in high school.

Kristen said...

ohhhhh, so you're princess pointful! I just a link here from the lighter side of growing up and I finally figured out who you are.

Hi!

Oh, and I thought my high school graduating class was small but wow! I was wrong.

Abbey said...

Holy lot of comments Princess.

My reunion was a couple years back. I had a lot of angst about not having any of the 'right' status marks. No final degree, no boyfriend - never mind husband, no kids, no land, no nice car...nada.

I tried to go with two approaches. 1) I talked a lot about how well published I was - who can really say that? Makes me sound smart and successful is my guess. 2) Looked down at all those baby-makers. Even if I wasn't really believing it, I figured I'd be reverse haughty for those that just made babies.

In the end. Kind of a waste of money time and energy. I'd do it again for my 15 or 20. I better be a Dr by then.

Sheila said...

Ack! This year was my HS graduating classes 20th anniversary. I have never been to a reunion, and never will. The people I wanted to stay in touch with, I've stayed in touch with... well all except for one of my boyfriends who seems to have fallen off the face of the earth.

Besides, in 1988 I was a waver (as in new-wave), with my dime store clothes and head half shaved - how could I show my face now? I wear mother of two items like jeans, tennis shoes and my hair back in a headband. I lost all my coolness!

Jocelyn said...

You will be the Endurance Reunionizer, with the big payoffs of their jealousy and envy coming at the 20 year reunion, when you are not only outearning them, but your kids are 4 and 6, while their kids are in jail--having turned out badly after Mom and Dad got divorced.

Crushed said...

We kind of had a reunion at a mates stag do recently.
I see him every month at least, but some there I hadn't seen for ten years.

I was surprised to see one formerly renowned ladies man was now as bald as Montgomery Burns...

And everyone said I hadn't changed at all :)

chasinglibby said...

i'm still a ways away from my reunion...if one ever happens. but just from running into high school classmates randomly, the funniest thing is how much people grow up. friends from childhood who never spoke a word to each other in the walls of the school are now friends again. etc. etc.

then, of course, there are the people that NEVER change...haha.

Heart Of Darkness said...

I'm with you on this. My ten-year reunion will be in 2010, but already now I know a few people that are loosing weight, and getting their stuff in order, just to be skinnier, more successful, better paid, have a hotter husband etc, etc, etc then the rest of the graduating classes...

...it's like we measure our personal success by the defeat of others.

WKC said...

Yeah, that'll be me, pushing 28 and still in school (unless I can somehow get a PhD in 5 years, which, knowing me, won't happen). Sometimes the only thing that amazes me more than the wandering I've done is the wandering I still have to do.

Miriam D said...

Hey girlie, I have been reading you from afar lately but I had to come out and say I totally understand where you are coming from with this reunion. I came from a tiny school too and while I think my own self worth shouldn't be based on my classmates, those thoughts steal creep into my mind, and in particular I tend to compare myself to two other people in my class.

Anyway I enjoyed your description of the cliques in your high school!

the frog princess said...

My 10 year should *technically* be this Summer, but the class of '98 never could get our shit together so it's happening next Fall.

I find it amazing that in my graduating class of 457, I recognized about 95% of my classmates as they moved to the podium. And when I see them next Fall I may not have bouncing babies on my hips or a rock on my finger, but I will be living in the big city, will have set foot on 4 continents, and most of all... I will be *Happy*

Oh, and Skinny.

That's good enough for me ;)