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.