MidLife GridLife – 2 Cool 2B 4 Gotten

Ah, September!

It used to be met with great anticipation. The Labor Day weekend marked the end of a long, hot summer, meant to be exciting, but quickly grown dull. September meant buying new clothes, reuniting with old friends, and stories to dish.

It can again. Along with Back to School Night and Homecoming, September is also High School Reunion time for more than a few classes.

When I told people I was going to attend my 20th high school reunion (Foothill High, Class of ’82, FYI) the most common response was “Why?!” The number of exclamation points attached varied from person to person, some using cartoonish elongation of the syllable and hand gestures to punctuate their disgust and disbelief.

My cousin had attended freshman and sophomore years of high school with me and we had long ago decided we would team up for the 20. We were looking forward to the event, but we seemed to be alone.

This assessment proved to be fairly accurate when I learned the party had almost been cancelled due to lack of interest. The “planning committee” was less than diligent in tracking down potential attendees and the number hovered precariously around 50 until the week before the planned date when the already committed began calling the formerly unreachable and the number swelled to a respectable 130.

The event itself was nothing more than an overpriced dinner party at that picturesque hotel off of Highway 160; pleasant ballrooms, lovely grounds, and seedy accommodations that my cousin referred to as “the cellblocks,” as in “turn left at the cellblocks and drive all the way to the back. Our room has a window, thank god!” But the party had a life of its own.

We walked around the “lake” and the swimming pool, and the concert venue, and the bar, and down the hall, following the signs that bore our alma mater’s mustang, glowing more with sweat than anticipation.

In the eleventh grade when my cousin and I decided we would commemorate the 20th with our class, it had been a long time away.

Three months ago when my cousin booked her trip, it had seemed like a little slice of Grease.

On the endless walk from room to reunion hall, one zit prominent half an inch below my lower lip, another clinging diligently to the side of my nose, carrying an extra twenty (or so) pounds in saddlebags below my waist, I felt more like Carrie on the way to prom.

Silly me! From the moment we hit the check-in table (where I was erroneously marked “unpaid,” but allowed to pass) the party was a blast. A blast!

First of all, I was apparently much more popular in high school than I realized, which is the ideal reunion revelation. People had stories to tell about me, men had crushes to reveal—cute men—and, like the gang at Cheers, everybody knew my name.

Well, everyone who mattered. A lot of them were probably lying, and I loved them all the more for it.

I was fatter than some and thinner than others—just like high school—and, as the evening wore on, it mattered less and less. We were divorced, had kids, didn’t have kids, remembered when we were kids. Right away it became apparent that everyone could find something to talk about for five minutes after 20 years.

By high school standards, it turned out pretty well.

Only two people fell down on the dance floor, only one ex-football player swam in the scenic man-made lake, nobody threw up and nobody punched anybody else out. I—president of the French and Forensics clubs who failed government and was prohibited from graduating with my class– hung out with two football players, a renegade cheerleader, and a burnout all night.

At one point, the cheerleader decided we should go to a strip club so she could audition (we did, she didn’t), and the hotel management knocked on the door twice to ask us to turn the music down.

We drifted apart around 4:30 when the cheerleader fell asleep on the couch. For me, the evening ended as all good high school events should, sleep-deprived and shoeless, watching the sun come up.

2 cool + 2B = 4 gotten.

Tips for Reunion Revelry

1) Go. This is not high school; you can leave at any time. There will be people there whom you would never want to be, and this will feel great. Frequently, they will be people you did want to be while still in high school. This feels even better.
2) Leave your spouse at home. A spouse is an albatross around your neck as you crane it to see who the chick is that had the guts to bare her midriff. People you have never once mentioned, and never plan to see again will bore your spouse. A significant other cannot laugh at old jokes without lengthy explanations. They inhibit your ability to flirt shamelessly and often. Spouses are baggage. This includes you. Reunion-related family activities are the exception.
3) Get a room. Give yourself the opportunity to revel after last call, host an impromptu slumber party, fix your make-up at your leisure, and eliminate the temptation to drive home when only you think you’re sober.
4) Go! Do not be swayed by the scaredy-cats who affect disdain, only to go home and play At Seventeen over and over on their turntables. And, if possible, talk your classmates into going—who better to dish with later!

Conversation Express your views, debate, and be heard with those in your area closest to the issue. RSS Feed

September 17, 2011 | 3:43 PM

What a great article, Ms. Johnson. Thank you for putting a refreshing spin on the once-dreaded HS reunion. It’s been 20 years since I’ve been to a high school class reunion and in 2012 it will be my 35th. (GULP). I wasn’t planning on making the trip home to South Dakota but after reading your article—and hearing about what a great time you had—- I think I’ll pack up my my crow’s feet, age spots and well-seasoned sense of humor and visit my classmates at good old Warner High School!

Leave a Reply