Saturday, August 3, 2013

Actually, I Invented a Special Kind of Glue.

The most dreaded of events is upon us. Well, upon me. Whatever.

I almost called this post "I hope your babies look like monkeys" 
but I'm pretty sure the popular kids in my class will all have adorable kids. Life is unfair.

My ten year high school reunion is this weekend.

I've tried to write this post about three times now. Maybe four. Turns out I have a lot of Feelings about this, which is less related to the actual event itself and more to do with the realization that I've been on my own for ten years (what?!) and also coming to terms with the fact that, even though it was all in the past, I still have a lot of hurt feelings from other kids (mostly of the Regina George variety) being mean to me growing up. These will have to be separate posts for later because I don't really want to publish a novella on here.


I’m from a small town. Smaller than most of you not from the Midwest can probably comprehend. My graduating class had 57 people in it. Maybe 58. I can never remember. (That's with three towns combined together, mind you). The rules of Being From a Small Town dictate that you make an appearance every five to ten years, because of reasons that probably exist and are probably stupid. It's probably easier to ignore them if you're from a larger city/school, but in a small town, everyone knows everyone and they will notice if you're not there. (Who cares, right? Well, it's complicated. It's always complicated. And there is not enough space here nor am I probably qualified to delve into the psychology of Being From a Small Town and the effects it has on your Post-Small-Town life.)

As the date has drawn closer, I’ve been filled with an unidentifiable dread. Suddenly, there was nothing I wanted to do less. The idea of spending an afternoon and evening sitting around making small talk with a bunch of people who were mean to me growing up, suddenly seemed incredibly uncomfortable. I know, I know – I need to just grow up and get over it. It was a long time ago. But I find myself mentally regressing into the painfully insecure teenager I was in high school. It’s not a far stretch; that girl hangs out dangerously near the surface a lot of the time.

Here's the thing: I wasn't popular in high school. I think it would be a reasonably fair assessment to say that I wasn’t unpopular, but I definitely wasn’t one of the cool kids. (Though I take consolation in the fact that they say that most of the people who are "cool" as adults were incredibly awkward growing up.)

Image source: Pinterest. Lord knows where it originally came from.

I was teased a lot (a lot) in elementary school and I've pretty much blocked out most of middle school because it was so miserable, but by high school I had mastered the art of blending into the scenery. I was just kind of... there. I was the smart kid, the star student, the band geek, the yearbook editor, the nice girl. If people didn't like me, they at least grew to respect me a little - I was wicked clever, even if I was a bit odd and untrendy. (And by graduation, I daresay I had even achieved a degree of "pretty" - which goes a long way in the shallow caste system of the American public high school). Nobody invited me to things, but nobody outright rejected me, either. I was mostly left alone, accepted but not embraced. I never went to a party in high school. I probably wouldn't have gone even if I had known about them. Alcohol terrified me. Breaking the rules terrified me. Getting a blemish on my record terrified me. Yes, I was your run-of-the-mill Goody Two Shoes, and in hindsight, I'm kind of okay with that. The takeaway here is that I got through it, I landed on my feet, and then I ran as fast as I could to the welcoming embrace of higher education. College probably saved me in more ways than I care to admit and if I were to give an Oscar-style speech thanking all the people involved in that, I would get played off stage before I even finished listing the girls on my dorm floor.

So, I'm going to spend the day reunionating with the peers of my rocky adolescence, and it's going to be... well, I don't know how it's going to be. Awkward, probably. It’s not like we are going to do any serious catching up. Everyone just wants to get together and drink beer with their old high school comrades and probably gossip about the people who aren't there. Which is great and all, except I never fit into that scene, I don't really drink much, I'm kind of over the whole gossip thing, and anything I may want to know about everyone's lives can be easily looked up online. It’s kind of redundant to have a reunion anymore these days. Mark Zuckerberg saw to that.

Also, I had always kind of hoped to show up fabulous to the Ten Year Reunion, but it's so hard to tell what you even need to be able to feel (or appear) accomplished these days. I don't jetset around the country or the world, I don’t have a husband or a house or a baby or a super-impressive job; what I do have is an extra sixty pounds and a lingering wariness. 

I was all set to skip it. I could make up an excuse, I suppose, but I probably would have simply not shown up. Kind of a (probably immature) statement about how I felt about them. Not worth my time. I spent too much time worrying about their approval back then; I don’t need it now. Despite how far I have come and how much more confident and comfortable I am in my own skin (most days, anyway), there is something about this particular crowd of people that cranks my insecurity level up to eleven and makes all my old self-doubt come rushing back.

My sister married a boy from my graduating class, which allows the added bonus of her attending my class reunions, which means, by default, I have someone to hang out with no matter what. (And as an extra added bonus now, I would get to see my nephew!) Except up until about a day or so ago, my brother-in-law was scheduled to work, which meant that they probably weren’t going to make it. Which made the whole prospect even more unappealing. Fortunately, he was able to get the day off. Nephew snuggles are imminent. ALL IS SAVED.

In the meantime, my friend Stacey, who is one of only a small handful of people I still talk to, coerced me into going, because she was coming all the way from Denver, so dammit, I was required to go. ("Handful" being a generous measurement – I mean, my former best friend from high school didn’t even invite me to her wedding last summer, if that gives you any idea of how far apart we’ve all drifted - and we even went to the same college, so it's not like we fell out of touch right away.) She is going to fly in and her brother is going to unceremoniously dump her on my doorstep at an ungodly early hour for a summer Saturday morning, we are going to acquire brunch (though it might be early enough to still qualify as breakfast), and then we are going to road trip the hundred or so miles up to my hometown.

This is how I envision our drive going:

Where, upon our arrival we going to meet up with people we haven’t seen in five to ten years and are either going to sit around and awkwardly stare at each other and/or drink adult beverages and/or do both. 

And I'm probably going to be like,

Because I won't really know what to talk about or what to do with myself and it's going to be weeeeird. That's the thing, really. The impending weirdness and awkwardness. 

Have I used the word "awkward" enough times to get my point across?

I’ve been fretting over this all week, to be honest. (It probably would have been longer, but I'd kind of put it out of my mind as a Thing That Was Happening in The Distant Future and then before I knew it, suddenly it was August.) I hate that I care so much, but I do. I have incredibly high anxiety levels about this for reasons that I can’t even understand or figure out. It’s silly. I went to my five-year reunion (we had a five-year reunion) (it’s what small towns in Iowa do) (apparently not everyone does this) and had a decently okay time, though I was pleasantly inebriated by the end of the night, which probably had something to do with that. (Let’s be real: these things happen when you are 23. God, was I 23? I feel like I’ve been in my late twenties forever. I don’t even remember being that young.) It won’t be awful.  It might be (wait for it) awkward but it won’t be the nightmare I’m making it out to be. Probably. Fingers crossed.

Did any of you go to your high school reunion? How did it go? 


Kelly L said...

I didnt bother with my 5 year . I wasnt a popular kid nor an outcast either. Hooray team mediocrity?
Anyway my first reunion experience was my BF's 10 year and I ran around telling people I invented Post-Its. No, seriously.
My 10 year was last year and I only found out about it because I was wondering if we were having one so I Googled.
Turns out, we were. And for a "small" fee of $75 (plus cab fare), I could spend the evening at a club I wouldnt be caught dead in with people I didnt care enough about to keep in touch with.
What did we do? Ginny and I hosted a "free-union". We sent out FB invites to a bunch of people. All we did was pick a local bar that we could ambush. Only about a dozen or so showed (class of 360), but it was people I liked and wanted to see. So I'll call it a success. I hope u enjoy your reunion!

Kelly L said...

Mine was last November. I personally found it to be somewhat of a cathartic experience. High school was a rough time in my life, and I spent most of it anxious, depressed and hating myself for existing... I was all sorts of socially isolated in high school, and the group of friends that I hung around with on the off hours didn't even go to my high school. My high school was full of some really cool people, but I didn't really get to know them in high school. So.. going to hang out with them was pretty cool. I'm a different person than who I was then.

Kelly L said...

I was actually really, really surprised. I spent most of the night talking to the girls who were my friends in high school, and it was great to see them again, and everyone else? I said hello, did some of the requisite small talk ("so, what are you up to these days?") but didn't feel pressured to be all buddy-buddy with them. It's really interesting to see who has changed, and how much. I'm probably one of the people who has changed the most, and I think that might have contributed to some of my nervousness....

Kelly L said...

I remember you blogging about that! $75 is ridiculous. Hi, we're still in our 20s, that's a lot of money. Ours was free. Maybe next time or the time after we can be like "chip in $10-20 and we'll cater some food or something" but... yeah. I saw who I wanted to see and it actually ended up being kind of fun. Who knew?

Kelly L said...

Mine is the day after Thanksgiving and I think I'm going to miss it. You must share how yours is though. I need to live vicariously through someone else as I'll be missing mine. And probably all the ones here on out.

Also, you must watch Ten Years, you'll love it. Or, hate it if it's NOTHING at all like your high school/reunion experience. I loved it, but again, I've yet to attend one of these things yet. :)

Kelly L said...

gah. I have skipped 2 class reunions. Fuck all of those people. The only people that I want to see are MY friends from high school, who, coincidentally, are the only ones in my class that don't still live in town (save for one of them, but she is successful in her own right). The rest of them are townies and hang out together (still) on the weekends, have a bunch of rugrats with one or more partners, and get drunk and hit on each other at the bars (or at least this has been what I've seen when I have been home).

I had pretty much the same experience as you did. Although, I did get some retribution as a high schooler because I worked in the high school office and got to file away people's excuse notes. And there were a few times that some of the evil dicks got their come-uppin's when they forged a note (especially the time a bunch of them forged notes saying they were at a clasmate's funeral — or maybe they were real notes — and I saw them drinking down by the river over my open block). Also, I (still have) the satisfaction of knowing that little-miss-perfect (my Regina George) got a 17 on her ACTs.

Kelly L said...

Oh, and another fun thing about small towns: rumors. I still hear rumors about myself if I go home for more than one day.

AND the other reason I don't love class reunions is because my real friends were a grade or two ahead of me. And it'd be weird to go to theirs.

Kelly L said...

I went to my 10 year reunion recently as well. Oh wait, it was the same one you attended this weekend! I am glad we went together and I am glad we still keep in touch! It wasn't too bad, right? :)

Kelly L said...

I just skipped mine. I probably should've gone, but i was kind of sick and i just didn't feel up to it.

Plus, my friend Mike who was in the grade ahead of me (as many of my friends were - or the grade below) recently said something to the effect of i'm still friends with the most successful person in my class and i should be proud of that, and it got me thinking about how i'm not the most successful person in my class probably by a long shot, and that made me feel all gross and then i felt gross for feeling gross about it, and yeah. Fucking class reunions and the stuff they stir up...