OK, so I'm understating. High school was a painful, bitter memory, full of tears and anger, derision and doubt.
You see, my high school was in a small, upper-class community in New Jersey, a scant half a mile by two miles in area. There were 113 people in my graduting class. It was the mid-80s, the height of conspicuous consumption, in a town dripping with money. And we were the only class that spent our 8th grade year in the high school. Because of all these things, and more, my school was, shall we say, a wee bit cliquey.
I didn't click with any of the cliques. I was the Anti-clique.
All throughout my high school "career," I was Least Likely to Be Much of Anything. (OK, technically, I was the Class Rebel.) I was the one last picked for kickball. I was the one people pointed at and laughed in the hallways.
As a result, I always felt less than. We didn't have much money. And have I ever mentioned that my Mom was a little bit crazy? Yeah, that probably didn't help matters much. I may have been a little bit crazy myself. Whether the result of malnutrition, crazyMomness or something else, I did, in retrospect, have all the earmarks of being bipolar. I was, at the very least, very immature and afraid, and was lacking almost any sort of positive self-image.
I detested high school, because I believed it detested me. How self-aggrandizing! I may have been a convenient scapegoat for any number of things (and was-- believe me, I'm not completely discounting the cruelty that teenagers seemingly use as fuel), but truth is, I didn't really matter all that much to most people. I projected my poor self-image on everybody around and hated the distorted reflection that faced me.
Surprisingly, the realization that my teenage pain was (for the most part) self-inflected doesn't make me feel sadness or anger or any terrible sense of loss. I look back now on those days with a wistful grin. Oh, I'd do things differently if I had it all to do again... but I don't. Every step has brought me to where I am now, and the lessons I've learned have been hard won.
And things have changed a lot since then, to be certain.
So anyway, I went to the reunion with Paul. What a trouper he is! He made it his goals to A. make me look as good as possible and B. keep me supplied with drinks. Oh, and C. clean up the blood if I made some sort of Carrie scene. He's a great guy.
The first night was at an Irish pub. We got there maybe forty minutes late... and were the first people to show up! It was astonishing-- some people looked EXACTLY the same as they did in high school... others looked COMPLETELY different. There seemed to be little in-between.
For the first time in my life, I felt like I fit in with my classmates. We were all just ordinary people, having a few beers out with people we hadn't seen in a good, long time. All the high school pettiness and pretense had evaporated-- especially in me. Few people recognized me, though most remembered me when introductions were made.
I was especially happy to see my friend S, with whom I never really connected back in school. I figured she was too smart and proper and I, too smart and rebellious. In reality, she felt the utter misfit, just like I did. Nothin' that says I can't keep in touch with her now :) She was the queen of the evening, in my opinion, keeping court while sitting on the long, low bar tables. Nary a soul escaped her keen interviewing techniques. I learned more about folks by eavesdropping on her than I did from my own conversations! Funny.
The next day, Paul and I had lunch with my brother, David. Talk about keen interviewing techniques... I've never heard my brother talk for more than a few short sentences in my entire life. Paul had him talking about economics for hours. Economics! I don't think I'd ever have guessed that this was my brother's hot button, but there it is. We had a great time.
The reunion itself was grand. Food was served on tiny plates at little buffet stations located in odd corners of the country club, and we ate perched at tiny tables or crouched on couches. Nobody ate enough-- but we all seemed to manage to eat at least the minimum one needs to be able to drink and not get violently ill. Someone bought the bar for an hour or two, which was nice. I danced some. The person I would have voted as Least Likely to Chase Money and Russian Models (why wasn't that an option at yearbook time?) showed up with stories of dot-com recovery and a petulant Russian model half his age.* Somebody else had put together a presentation of about 300 photos taken during our high school years.** One girl got terribly drunk early in the evening and gave me her life story, a barrage of hugs and a purple lighter.***
Afterward, we went to someone's parents' house (they were out of town, ha ha!) and had a few beers. She wasn't a huge misfit, but she wasn't really one of the popular clique either. She whispered to me as we were leaving-- "who'd have thought back then that I'd be hosting a big high school party, and you'd be closing it?" Not I, my dear, not I.
Sunday morning, I went to the "family breakfast" and left Paul to work on his economics paper. As I said, nobody had eaten much the night before, so we were all looking forward to eggs and bacon... and got cold bagels and fruit. At least I got to see people's kids. Amazing how we all grow up.
All in all, we spent a whole lot of money to see a bunch of people whom, for the most part, I barely knew or liked. But I loved every minute of it, and regret it not one bit. I hugged nearly every one of 'em, and I'd do it again. In fact, I'm all for helping to throw together a 25th.
When we got back to the plane, my baggage seemed a whole lot lighter. Maybe it was.
* She seemed a little upset that she wasn't the center of attention, so she danced a lot. Like they do on Sprockets. Hoo boy. I think I have video. Maybe I'll share it sometime.
** I wasn't in a one of 'em (but I shied away from cameras and the people who held them back then).
*** To the TSA's dismay, I still have the lighter.
**** The title to this entry refers to A. the number of years it's been, B. the typical reunion party game of keeping score by comparing one's self to one's peers, and C. an exclamation expression the joy at a decision well made.
***** Wow, it's a real entry!