Reunions: Not just about unions anymore

NOTE: If you’re reading this in Facebook, you’re probably doing it because I tagged you, which means that you don’t normally read my notes, you big asshole. That probably also means that you don’t know that these notes are actually a feed from my blog, and probably further haven’t realized that I’m a famous blogger now, which is kind of like being a famous janitor except that the janitor gets more chicks and has access to stronger chemicals.

So if that’s you, you need to head over to my blog and read it so that there will hopefully be more chicks and stronger chemicals waiting for me at the next high school reunion, as I’m entitled to.

By the way, I totally read italics like I’m whispering. It’s all like, “Psst! Read this! You big asshole!”


There’s a line from the Stephen King book On Writing (which isn’t about evil C.H.U.D.s but is nonfiction, strangely enough, on writing) that says something like, “When you’re in the middle of it, high school seems like the most serious thing in the world. It’s not until the second or third reunion that you start to realize just how bizarre the whole thing was.”

Well, last weekend, I went to my 15-year high school reunion.

And King is totally right.

Now that I’m a parent, I’m all suspicious of schooling. (Although I think this is a product of my generation, which, keeping with the grand tradition of generations, is completely and totally certain that we’ve got it all figured out and that those before us fucked up big time.) I don’t know if I totally trust school. Today, looking back, I think about the process behind it and I think:

1. From my current perspective as a 33-year-old guy, I actually think I enjoyed those years, but

2.
What a conformity factory. I mean, damn.

I’ve got two kids now, and they’re all free-spiritied to the point that I get migraines and it keeps dawning on me that in another year, I’ll be sending Austin off to school for the first time. Part of me fears for the school. But another part of me is bothered by the fact that he’ll be required to sit down, stop playing, and learn about Alexander the Great.

Not that Alexander the Great isn’t worth learning about. I mean, he’s great. But when I was learning about Alexander the Great, I was not digging it. I only know one guy who dug learning about Alexander the Great, and he’s British and ordered some pink shoes from the U.S. and had me relay them to him, and when I opened the box, I was all, “Wow, these shoes are really fucked up,” and then I packed them in a box and shipped them off and marveled at the fact that in England, apparently young male history buffs who aren’t even gay are into pink shoes, and that struck me more as a serious fashion faux pas than as a statement of diminished masculinity, and then I thought of Austin starting to learn about history and being like, “Dad, I need these giant retarded shoes” and then I’d have to climb a bell tower with a rifle or something because that’s only one step away from thinking that Maroon 5 is the height of good music.

The problem with school is that it has to impart a very specific volume of knowledge in a very structured timeframe. Which means that kids have to sit down, shut up, and learn to retain stuff long enough to repeat it back at test time.

This isn’t a social statement. I don’t make many of those. It’s just that at the time, learning that specific stuff in that specific time — not to mention keeping up with social hierarchies — seems like the most serious thing in the world. And after 15 years, you still end up as a bunch of 33-year-olds standing around and talking about where you live and how many kids you have, and suddenly nobody’s giving you demerits for running in the hallway.

You’re like, “Dude. Detention holds no power over me anymore. I am free. I am super saiyan. My power level is over nine thousaaaaaaaaaand!”

You realize that the principal was just a person.

You realize that your teachers went home at night and watched shitty TV like you do now, that they laughed at coarse jokes as you do now, and if you’re a parent, you’re now the one in position to give demerits and detentions and to force people to learn about Alexander the Great. And if you want to buy your boys pink shoes? Totally your right.

You realize that class hierarchy means nothing, that it was all sort of a game.

You go back to a reunion, and if you’re confident enough to drop your guard, you’ll realize that you’re all just a bunch of adults with the same challenges and opportunities. You realize that you don’t have to just talk to your same old group. It’s okay now to chat with the former jocks, the former nerds, the former weirdoes, the former cool kids, the former foreign exchange student who you always liked anyway but whose first name is actually impossible to pronounce, and even if you try, he’ll tell you that you’re fucking it up and someone (possibly named Mark) can even be standing RIGHT NEXT TO YOU and he’ll say that there is NO DIFFERENCE between what you’re saying and what the Norwegian doctor is saying, even though said Norwegian is like, “That’s not even close,” and you’re all like, “My roommate in college was Norwegian and his name is Tim. Knock it off or I’m sending you pink shoes.”

I wrote on Twitter that I had gone to my reunion, and people joked that I was a masochist. There’s this impression floating around that unless you were on the pep squad, reunions are torture. I wasn’t cool back then, you think, so I’m not going to talk to anyone now.

I had a lot of friends across a lot of groups in high school, but I kind of don’t think I’d come close to saying I was cool.

But you know what? I enjoyed the hell out of my reunion.

What’s not to enjoy? You learn things about people and how they developed. It’s like a human time capsule.

Sarah had two kids. Dane is still ridiculously tall. Nancy’s a photographer. Reggie is willing to put up with the white-kids dance if someone would just play Michael Jackson. Jeff is a lot more tan than I remember. Ryan is willing to fight if anyone disagrees that the Class of ’94 song was “Runaway Train.” Andy, the Chinese guy who once told a student teacher, “Your hairs looks funky,” was nowhere to be found but appeared as a Facebook friend suggestion the very next day.

A room full of people. Just people. Cool people.

Those of you who refuse to go to your reunions, just fucking go already. Stop being a dick. High school is over, and like it or not, these are your peeps. They’re raising the kids who will work with, befriend, and marry your kids. At the time, it all seemed like the most serious thing in the world, but after the second or third reunion, you start to realize how bizarre it all was.

“Kjetil.” Starts with a breathy almost-H sound. I think he was fucking with me. Crazy Norwegians.


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Comments

  1. My progression went like this:

    5th Year: The assholes are still assholes, but now they can drink legally.

    10 Year: The jocks who verbally abused me at my locker are noticeably chunkier and thinner up top, finally, everyone’s pretty okay, clique distinctions begin to blur.

    20 Year: We all adopt the same rosy memory of what it was all about; the bad memories are fading; we all like each other more than we thought, and thanks to Facebook, people I never really hung out with are more friends now than they were then. We realize now the reunion is not a success and prosperity pissing contest, that no one really cares whether you have a nice car and/or a kickass job or not, they just want to see you and pictures of your kids and tell funny stories about the days when we had Trans Ams and summers off.

  2. John says:

    I felt like the social groups structure started breaking down by senior year. Maybe it’s because people were getting more mature or because many of them were working and getting exposed to a larger group of people. I didn’t go to the 15 year because I went to the 10 year and realized that I’ve stayed in touch with everyone I care to have contact with. Maybe I’ll make the 30 year when my kids are 20 and 17 (yikes!) and I have more time.

  3. Johnny B. Truant says:

    People are fonder of one another and less contentious when they don’t see each other. I remember I had this roommate in college that we all hated (there was one both years I was in the dorms, actually) and despite hating them, each year, when we were ready to move out, suddenly it’s handshakes all around. It’s like, “You’re okay as long as I don’t have to see you again.”

  4. Marie says:

    I agree with you totally about reunions. There were few people with better reason than I not to go to a reunion. I hated hated hated high school. But I went and had a pretty good time, and from then on it’s gotten better.

    That said, believe me, I know from my own experience and that of my homeschooled children, one does not need to go to school to learn about Alexander the Great (and a lot of other good stuff). We live in an information packed world, my friend, and it’s darn hard to avoid learning what you need to know to get by in this world if you pay attention at all.

    Not to persuade you to homeschool, just saying there’s more than one way to learn things and maybe even better ways.

  5. Alice says:

    I totally read italics like David Attenborough doing a nature documentary.

    I have to say, I have not gone to my reunions, primarily because I refuse to travel halfway across the country for that sole purpose.

    However, I’m wondering what the hell you’re doing on facebook, because I have found facebook to be the exact same thing as a reunion. Constantly. And the thing is, facebook suggests people and I think, GOD NO. And then they friend me. And I can’t refuse a friend request. So then I’m friends with the people I swore I’d never see again. And it’s true, they’re all normal grown ups and I like them and enjoy our comment-laden interactions. So…yeah.

    And also, I wish I could find my high school yearbook because the hot preppie/jock from my class now is a biker with a zz top type beard. I was like, WTF happened there?! I could send you the profile pic, but without knowing the starting point it lacks impact. BEST FACEBOOK MOMENT EVER, when I saw that and thought, I have aged better than him. WOOHOO!!!

    This is more inane and rambling than my usual comment. Which, I believe, makes it more appropriate to your blog. LOL.

  6. Johnny B. Truant says:

    I actually had several people talk to me and I thought they might be fucking with me, like they were going to kick my ass later. But no, they actually wanted to talk. Strange.

    Luckily, I’ve gotten bigger since HS, but in a “strong” way vs. the “fat” way that seems so popular lately.

  7. Peter Davies says:

    I’ve just agreed to go to my first one after 20 years – its taken that long to get over the f*** place and some of the people that went there!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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