Planning a Reunion? Here are some ideas.

Here are a few random things that occurred to me as I experienced and reflected on my reunion. None of these are intended to slight the organizers of my reunion. Everyone agreed that they did a great job, and some of my “ideas” are things that they did. Many of these ideas may be infeasible, as I have not really thought them through. They may or may not be of help in planning another reunion. They are in no particular order.

Consider corporate sponsorships

A number of people whined about the overpriced drinks at The Club. It was not about the money, exactly (and they weren’t really that expensive). It occurred to me that one or more of our clan might be affiliated with businesses that could have dropped a grand or two to subsidize our fun in exchange for some publicity.

Consider scholarships

For most of us, the $65 that the affair cost was not a big deal, especially with ten years to save up for it. For at least one, who came only to Friday’s Football game, it seemed that it was cash kept him from attending our Gala Event on Saturday. I am not sure how an organizer would deal with scholarships, but it might be worth a try.

Have a Public Event

Our Friday night football game and after-party at a local watering hole largely accomplished this. It allowed folks who didn’t have cash for the Gala to see folks, but more importantly allowed some other folks to come in and see people. It occurred to me that with a little more advertising, this event might have attracted people a couple years older or younger than us. Especially for people who traveled to the reunion and have little else to do in town, another informal Saturday gathering at a restaurant–or several, one for each elementary school–might be a good idea.

Invite people who didn’t graduate, esp those who transferred

At least one person who had graduated from another school asked if she could attend (and did, if I’m not mistaken). I have no idea how one would track down these people or what to put on their name tags where our Senior Pictures were, but given that many of the best re-connections were with folks we had known when we were much younger, including these folks seems like a good idea.

Consider an event that does not involve alcohol

One person I talked to mentioned that he or she does not drink and hanging out with people drinking is not much fun. Our football game was an alcohol-free event, for example.

Invite faculty

I don’t know just how to track these people down. It would have been fun to see my high school physics teacher or my band director, but not my elementary school science teacher. Actually, 35 years later, even she would be interesting to see.

Wear sensible shoes

One female friend related, “I think my main objective that night was to just take the damn high heals off, I was miserable. ”

The End

Here endeth my reunion notes. Thanks to all for reading, commenting, and relating your experience. If my stories did not convince you to think twice about skipping your 30th, I will close with this comment from a friend from another class.

“It really is weird to become friends with people you spent so many years trying to avoid.”

Posted in All | 4 Comments

Overheard at a Reunion

Here are a few little tidbits that for one reason or another, did not fit in to the previous reunion stories.

Courtney “Cece” Cox, whom you may have seen on a Springsteen video or Friends (a popular sitcom) was in my graduating class. At one point I walked up to a group of people and said “Oh, did you guys see Cece?” “What? She’s here?” No. No she was not, but I had them going for a few seconds. I heard from someone who attended a sorority brunch earlier in the day that “her assistant” had proffered Cece’s regret. I was happy to hear that few people in our class do maintain contact and periodically go hang out with her in LA (the one in California, not Lower Alabama). Cece had related to someone that she felt disconnected or something. It sounded like she stayed home for the same reason that so many of my decidedly less popular friends had avoided the event.

This conversation I somehow heard only half of. I was facing the person I heard, who was in conversation with someone behind me. I am not sure how or why I did not turn to be part of the entire conversation, but here is how his half went.

“No, I am not divorced. I never met a man that I was willing to risk divorcing.”

The other party must not have understood. Perhaps my friend was being a bit too clever for them.

“No, you see, I have never met a man that I wanted to marry.”

Apparently this was still confusing, so he just had to say it again, this time a bit more slowly.

“I have never met a man that I wanted to marry.”

That conversation dropped off. From my vantage point, it was not clear whether the interlocutors ever understood that this man was gay. I had not known he was gay, though I thought so (I was glad that he was not interested in women; he had not only hair, but also a job!). I was happy to hear him say that he was gay. I inferred that his saying out loud that he was gay was no big deal, and that he had been out for a long while. He was similarly comfortable saying that he was a democrat, which would likely also have befuddled his interlocutors. To me hearing him say this was significant. I have another friend whom I see from time to time. When I last saw him, he asked about my love life and provided an extended synopsis of the previous few years. When I asked him about who he was dating he responded as if the notion of his dating was an absurdity, or, perhaps, something that I could not understand.

Another striking conversation involved one of the few people in our lily white community who was Asian. With over thirty years between who we were then and who we are now, he was able to talk about how it had sometimes been hard growing up in our little world, and, that he was sometimes called “Chink.”

“But everybody liked you!” responded someone who, as likely as not, had been one of those using that epithet. I knew that Name Caller meant that everyone liked Asian Guy. Asian Guy was significantly higher up the popularity scale than was I. It was my take that as a kid, Name Caller had little idea what Chink meant (e.g., Asian Guy was not Chinese), and even less about how much names hurt. Thirty-five years later, though, they were able to talk about the name-calling intellectually as if it happened to different people. From what I inferred from attendees of previous reunions, this thirty-year distance is what makes a 30th reunion better than the 10th and the 20th. With so much time in between, it is possible to forgive–if not forget–past injustices, large and small, and see people for who they have become. Thirty years allowed some of us to meet as strangers tied together by a common past. Or, as one friend reflected, “It really is weird to become friends with people you spent so many years trying to avoid.”

Postscript: A childhood friend who read these posts but did not attend the reunion related that “It is a well-known fact that Cutest Girl has a fetish for ironed pants. If you had only known! Damn your cousin for discouraging ironing.” And that is how it goes, love lost by a seemingly salubrious sartorial slight.

Posted in All | Comments Off

Reunion, Part 8: The party never stops

Around midnight, after the reunion proper ended and the flowers had been taken to their cars, a group of us headed to a bar. There were perhaps as many as twenty there when I arrived. We hung out there a while longer. Just as I was settling in there, the lights came up. For the second night in a row, I had closed down a bar.

To the remaining die-hards, I recommended that we go drink a bottle of champagne on the playground at our old elementary school. There were six of us remaining, five of us had been to Crestline; we allowed the sixth as an honorary member of our Crestline Club. Having her established gender parity, and besides, she was cute.

As good an idea as hanging out on the playground was, we were, after all, in our late forties. We decided instead to go to someone’s house who lived near the school. A caravan was formed.

En route, it occurred to me that the last time I had been with these people in one room was late in elementary school. When we hit junior high, our little cliques grew further apart, diluted by four elementary schools combined into a big amalgam (of rich white people). This night somehow felt like going to one of those first boy-girl parties, maybe one where the parents were out of town. Being put in that frame of mind, and given that this late-night group was (somewhat predictably) all single, it seemed to me that we should play adolescent games like Twister or Spin the Bottle.

At our destination, I disembarked, grabbing a bottle of sparkling wine out of the fridge. Inside the house, after a brief tour, we found glasses and settled in to the living room.

We had a lovely evening, with conversations switching from the whole group to smaller subsets and back again. At some point I returned to Walden for a second bottle of bubbly. We reminisced about our elementary school days. I was pleased to learn that everyone hated Ms. Douglas, our science teacher, as much as I had. We talked about various characters of our youth, like the bully who had picked on several of us and had some years later, as legend had it, set fire to the school library. We remembered taking ballroom dancing, the highlight of which was the sprint to Pascuale’s pizza while wearing our coats, ties, and party dresses.

We agreed that re-connecting with our childhood friends was the most satisfying part of the reunion and talked of having a reunion for just our elementary school.

I did once give an empty champagne bottle a spin on the coffee table, but it was stopped before it was allowed to come to a stop. As our tongues got tired, we checked the clock and saw that it was after four. . . No. Really. Six people, pushing fifty, all stayed up well past 4AM. As the clock struck five, the reunion was over.

Posted in All | 2 Comments

Reunion, Part 7: Closing Down

If you missed the previous installments, I went to a party at a dinner club with a bunch of 48-year-olds. Women who did not want me when I was eight had not changed their minds.

One highlight of the evening was that I talked to two girls who had grown up on my street. As we reminisced, I my mind drifted somewhat from the conversation as I noticed how those little girls had become strikingly beautiful women. My attention was snapped back to the conversation when one of them squealed “We used to fight over who would get to marry you!” Though their rivalry–and their desires–had long since subsided, it was good to know that when I was six, I had something going on. I then remembered a game of “I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours” in the woods behind my house, though I thought it better not to bring it up, as I would not want to crush the feelings of the one who had not been invited. Later, in the safe disconnectedness that is Facebook chat, I mentioned our little game to the other player. She claimed to have no memory of disrobing in my presence. She remembered the plans for marriage; I remembered the nudity. I guess that is how we were different.

I ran into a friend whom I had not known well in high school, but had been my roommate in college. It was great to see him and meet his beautiful new wife.

As the evening got later, I asked the bartender for a glass of ice, which I surreptitiously filled my flask, mostly because I could. Well, that, and I like Scotch. Well, that and paying $9 for a splash of Scotch seemed silly.

For a few minutes in the evening, I made a half-hearted attempt at playing photographer. I got a few good ones, but in retrospect I wish that I had made a more concerted effort to intentionally take pictures for, 15 or 30 minutes. I am becoming a decent photographer. It would have been fun to see what I could have done had I tried a bit harder and whether that is something that I might one day want to do for money. I posted twenty-five or so photos to the Facebook group (if you are in my class and not a member of the Facebook group and would like to see them, send me an email). I would rather have had more better pictures.

Before I knew it, the place was closing down. The bartenders disassembled their stations. The lights came up. The staff was actively trying to clear us out. I prolonged my stay by helping tote all of the centerpieces and other decorations out to the valet parking area. A group of us decided on a bar that was on the way home. I got a ride from the valet area to where I had parked Walden. I was glad for that, too, as I am not sure I could have found my way.

I loaded in to Walden and headed to the bar.

Posted in All | Comments Off

Reunion, Part 6: The Girl U Want

If you didn’t read the previous five reunion posts and would rather not, here’s a synopsis: One time, at a reunion, I was in a picture with four women who were very close to forty eight years old.

Soon after the photo with the beautiful women I had a conversation with yet another fetching woman, whom, judging by jewelry she was not wearing, appeared to be single. Upon learning that I was available she took interest in finding someone who would consider me a suitable suitor. I decided to be flattered at her claim that I was “a catch” rather than focus on the fact that she left herself right off of that list. She had a suggestion. I knew that woman. We had become friends, in the Facebook sense, sometime earlier. She seemed attractive and what she presented on Facebook piqued my interest. Further, I had interacted with her In Real Life the previous evening. I was hoping to talk to her some more this evening, especially now that the Cutest girl had passed up her chance. “Yes,” I told my matchmaker, she seems quite like someone with whom I might click, but, here’s the thing. I don’t believe in God.”

“Oh, that could be a problem,” Matchmaker replied.

I was pretty darned religious earlier in life. For three summers I worked at Camp McDowell, run by the Episcopal church. For two years I was head counselor. While my staff was tending to the kids in their cabins, I interviewed priests about how they were called, what it was like to be a priest, and whether they liked it. After many heart-felt conversations with over a dozen priests, I thought that I too might be called to do the work of God.

As my time as head counselor was coming to a close, I had a conversation with our bishop, a man whom was literally awesome. When I was with him. I was filled with awe. He said he wanted to talk to me, I assumed about matters having to do with Camp. In the course of that conversation he asked what I was planning to do after college. I explained my plan to apply to jobs at independent schools. “After you have done that for a few years,” the Right Reverend Stough inquired, “where were you thinking of going to seminary?”

I was supremely flattered and excited. Even the memory of the conversation still makes my heart swell.

For a number of reasons, however, I never made it to seminary. Today, as I look at the number of problems in our world caused by religion, I have a hard time thinking that religion is good. Still, I embrace lots stuff that I taught and learned at church camp, and a lot of who I am is due to the values and love that I got from the Episcopal church. In other words, I live my life the same way that I did when I believed in God, but for me, I do not need God to do it.

One day, years ago, when I was a professor giving advice to someone about how he or she should move forward with academic life it occurred to me that I would have been a good priest. I like helping people live better lives. I like public speaking. I like building communities and throwing parties. These seemed like the skills that would make a good leader of a church. After all, we know that Jesus liked to party, what with that water into wine stuff.

So, in spite of my not believing in God I thought that perhaps a religious woman could see the spiritual part of me and could gloss over my not believing in God.

Then I thought some more. I think I might be amenable with some versions of God, say “God is Love.” I believe in love. I think it is a really good thing. I think that we should all love each other. If you want to call that God, then I can go with that. The notion that there is some omniscient omnipotent being that is calling the shots, however, seems patently absurd. Like Gandhi, I like Jesus; it’s Christians I have a hard time with. I honestly like to think that I follow the example that Jesus set, but I have a hard time believing that one night he sat down to dinner with his best friends and said, “Hey guys, I’m pretty sure I’m going to get killed tomorrow. I am really happy that we are all together tonight. Here’s what I want you to do. From now on, when you eat, pretend that what you are eating is me, my flesh. You know, because, really, cannibalism is totally hip. And when you drink wine, pretend that it is my blood, because, well, vampires are awesome. Sound good? One day you guys should write this stuff down.”

Even if I live my life no differently from when I believed in God enough to devote my life to her, I suspected that my holding these beliefs could be a problem for someone for whom these beliefs are very important. Bummer.

Nevertheless, I wanted Ms. Devoted to know that I thought that I found her both attractive and interesting. She replied that she thought that I was cute and was somewhat interested. “But I don’t believe in God,” I felt obliged to add.

“I can’t save you!” she replied.

Save me? From what? I thought, I’m happier and healthier than I remember being. Sure I don’t have a house or a job, but only because I do not want or need those things now. My life is fantastic. I am not a guy who needs to be fixed in order to be a warm and loving person. . . oh, “save?” as in “I once was lost and now I’m found?” I never needed that. I was baptized as an infant. Sure, my belief in God may have abated, but if I were to believe in God, I would also know that I was always part of the tribe. One day when I was an infant, a couple hundred people stood before God, me, and a bishop. They all took an oath that I would grow up knowing how to follow the ways of Jesus. I think they succeeded. I thought it better not to say any of that, though.

“Wow. That’s too bad,” she said. “I thought that I could like you.” With that she gave me a hug and a chaste, but sweet, kiss on the lips and disappeared into the crowd.

Posted in All | 6 Comments

Reunion, Part 5: The Club

If you missed the other Reunion posts, you should consider reading them first (if you are on the home page you can just scroll down, otherwise, you can click these: 1, 2, 3, 4). Synopsis: I went to my reunion. I didn’t think it’d be that fun. It at first seemed that I was right. I ended up talking to people (some of whom claimed to read my blog), being excited to see who people had become, and closing down a bar at 1AM. I thought I would be home by ten. This was not quite what I had expected.

With my name tag in place and drink tickets in hand, I headed in to the party. At the door someone was offering some kind of limoncello thing. I demurred, still distracted with the whole drink coupon thing, and not wanting to waste a ticket on such, and unable to deal with interacting with the person dispensing the cocktail.

Just inside the main room I ran into a guy who played trumpet in the band. He asked me if I drank alcohol. Obviously he had not been reading my blog. I replied in the affirmative. He seemed disappointed. It turned out that the limoncello cocktail that I had just eschewed was gratis and gratifying. He was recruiting people who would go get additional cocktails for his wife to whom I had just been introduced. With this new information, I decided to revisit the limoncello station. He was right. It was free, fizzy, and fantastic. I later went back and got another. Contrary to his apparent belief, there was no system in place to enforce a one-per-customer policy, or really, any indication that such a policy was in place.

Drink in hand, I looked around for the Cutest Girl at Crestline. The previous night I learned that she was a teacher and appeared to be single. I had hoped that though I never had a chance to be with her in elementary school, that now, being reasonably fit and possessing both hair and a Ph.D. would be worth something. There she was. I walked up to a conversation en medias res. I’m not sure that I was acknowledged. The conversation I stepped in to felt a bit awkward, though I had been standing there too long to just walk away by the time I realized it. The and-what-have-you-been-up-to questions should have been innocuous, but her marriage had recently ended. There seemed to be one clumsy question after another. The inquisitors walked away, and as I was composing a clever and empathetic way to say “golly, that was awkward, they obviously haven’t lived through a divorce like you and I” she excused herself. Apparently a good haircut and an advanced degree was not enough. Disappointed, I mused that her disinterest was because of her own internal struggle, not because of anything having to do with me.

Sure the Cutest Girl was still cute, in looking around the room, I was struck by how attractive the women were. I am not quite sure how I was invited to be part of this photograph, but I was quite pleased to be in the midst of such beautiful women my own age.

This was shaping up to be a good night.

Posted in All | 1 Comment

Reunion, Part 4: Getting to Thee Club

If you missed the other Reunion posts, you should consider reading them first (if you are on the home page you can just scroll down, otherwise, you can click these: 1, 2, 3). Synopsis: I went to my reunion. I didn’t think it’d be that fun. It at first seemed that I was right. I ended up talking to people (some of whom claimed to read my blog), being excited to see who people had become, and closing down a bar at 1AM. I thought I would be home by ten. This was not quite what I had expected.

Saturday night was the Big Night. It was billed as “The Club, Dinner and Dancing 7-11pm (cash bar).” Several further communiques explicated that “cash bar” meant that you had to use actual US legal tender, not any other paper or plastic proxies that so many today have come to count on. A subsequent Facebook post enumerated the drink costs (“Soft drinks – $4, Wine/Beer – $7, and Liquor – $9.”), but failed to reiterate the whole “dinner” part. I asked whether dinner was included and assured our hostesses that I would have cash and maybe a flask. A response came soon that said yes to the dinner and no to the flask. It was at this point that I decided the flask was a must.

It turned out that the bar itself took only tickets, purchased from high school students, who exchanged said tickets for cash.

The Club is a private club overlooking Birmingham. To distinguish it from other clubs in Birmingham, people know to pronounce this one THEE Club. I was sure that I had attended some event at “THEE Club” in the past, but was at a loss to remember what it could have been.

In my youth, if someone said that they were going to “the club,” without accenting “the,” which rhymes with “uh,” it meant the Country Club of Birmingham, or just the “country club.” I swam at the country club when I was little, played golf a few times when I was twelve or so, and attended a coming out party or two there in high school after my mom stopped sustaining our membership. It was at the country club that my grandmother made sure that I knew to stand when a woman (she probably would have said “lady”) approached the table. Such pomp and circumstance seemed supremely silly at the time, but when I turned forty, standing when a woman approached my table was a very useful skill.

The event’s Facebook page had included considerable discussion about proper dress. Just like in the ballroom dancing classes I attended with my Crestline classmates in 6th grade, coat and tie were required. Not having a proper sports coat on board Walden down in Florida, I made a special trip to the Brooks Brothers outlet to procure a blue blazer.

Somewhat earlier than I needed to I showered and dressed, including my tie and new blazer. I had to trim the tie; Thor’s kitty had somehow gotten his grubby little paws on it and had shredded the edges. As I had the day before, I had my cousin check that I was appropriately dressed. I suggested that perhaps I should iron my pants, but she said that ironing was superfluous. I think it was just because she didn’t want to find her iron, but I was relieved, as I didn’t want to iron anyway.

After I had a glass of wine with my cousin and husband, I headed out. I had checked the Google. I was pretty sure I knew where the place was, at least until I got there. I passed the turn for the place. Twice. I finally made it up there. I parked in some parking lot. I thought there had been some mention of valet parking, but I do not really like having other people driving Walden anyway.

I parked Walden and walked in. It turned out that I should have looked harder for the valet parking entrance, as it took ten minutes and asking half a dozen people where I was supposed to go.

I finally found my way to the correct room. There I checked that my address was correct on some mailing list. I neglected to mention that I have never actually lived at my current “permanent” address. As I checked my address I was reminded of a story that I had heard the previous night; at the 20th reunion such a list had been given to everyone and one guy had reportedly called every woman on the list at least once a year for most of the intervening decade. His calls were somewhat less than welcome.

I picked up a name tag that had my name and my senior photo, bought a few drink tickets, and headed in to see what the night had to offer.

Posted in All | Comments Off

Reunion, Part 3: Friday night after-party, continued

This is the third installment of a description of my high school reunion. If missed the first, about the football game, and second, about going to the bar, about you might want to read them first for a bit of context. Here is a recap: The football game felt somewhat awkward. The next part of the evening at the bar I started having conversations with people from my youth who turned out to be pretty interesting.

The last segment ended while I and the cute flautist were holding court. She was one of the only people whom I remembered having a connection with in high school and she had been my crag that first night. Whenever I got whelmed (I was never really overwhelmed), I would go back and hang out with her, her husband, and whoever else happened to be around. Actually, by this point in evening, she may have left the premises. About 30 minutes earlier she said that she had gotten some kind of communication that indicated that one of her offspring had somehow misbehaved on a school excursion which required her, or, perhaps, allowed her, to take her leave. She related later that her experience at the football game was fairly similar to mine and that she just wanted to go home, but her husband had insisted that she go out to the bar. Even without the flautist’s company, I enjoyed my place by the wall with the pretty flowers I had attended school with three decades earlier.

Another highlight of the evening was running into a woman that in my memory was the cutest girl at Crestline Elementary. As a forty-eight year old woman, I found her no less attractive. Now she is a teacher. Having spent my adult life as a teacher or teacher educator, I rather like teachers. I also learned that she is recently divorced–but not too recently. Perhaps now the girl whom I was too intimidated to talk to in my childhood could now be interested in me. Since she was a teacher, I hoped that my being an education professor would make me somewhat attractive. I save the part about being unemployed and living in a van for later. I did tell her that forty years earlier I had a crush on her, something I could never admit in my youth. As I would learn over this weekend, we are not held entirely accountable for who we were and what we did in our youth. She said something about how she looked different now. Being considerably less shy about making my desires known than I was forty years ago, I related that I found her no less attractive. She responded with something like “Aren’t you sweet!” I could not quite tell whether her lukewarm response was due to her being shy or my being no more desirable than a twelve year old was unclear. Ever hopeful, as that conversation ended, I hoped that I would see her the following night.

As the crowd thinned out I got a chance to talk to the guy with the Really Cool Job whom I had seen at the football game. We reminisced that we had also been to preschool together. It was fun hearing about what his job that had him traveling the world doing cool stuff to help people. As with the banker, I would have liked to spend a lot more time hearing about what he did; unlike the banker, I was pretty sure that our political leanings would not interfere with our having an actual friendship. I had gone to see Cool Job because I had heard that he was with was another woman whom I remembered having a crush on in 8th grade. I had the good luck to get assigned to do a group social studies project with her. She was still strikingly beautiful. And a dancer. And she had a cool air about her. Really Cool Job remarked that Annie Leibovitz had photographed her. Nude. This was turning out to be more fun than I had anticipated. (A few days later, when I typed “Annie Leibovitz” and my friend’s–I want to count her as a friend–first name and last initial Google completed her last name.)

When I left for the football game I figured I would be back to my cousin’s place by ten and with the pesky reunion activities out of the way, I could hang out with my cousin and her husband, an activity that I really enjoy. As the conversation with Really Cool Job and Ms. Photogenic came to an end, I noticed that we had closed down the bar. This reunion thing was turning out to be a substantially more fun than I had imagined.

Posted in All | 4 Comments

Reunion, Part 2: Friday night after-party

This is the second installment of a description of my high school reunion. If missed the previous post, you should read it first.

The first part of the reunion at the football game was about as I expected. There were a few people that it was good to see again and everyone I had talked to, even those whom I did not really remember was pleasant, but still felt disconnected. As I headed to the bar where the latter part of the evening had been scheduled, I hoped that with a bit of lubrication the rest of the evening would be more interesting.

I walked in the door, and standing at the bar was a guy I remembered from elementary school. He had not signed up for the reunion, but was crashing this event scheduled in a public place. I had not realized it, but it turned out that the reason that I had not seen him in high school was that he had moved out west at the end of seventh grade. The fact that I had not noticed that he had moved was indicative of how many of my elementary school chums I lost touch with after we left our happy little pond. It was fun to see him and hear about what he was up to, add one to the “glad I did this” list. We had not been really close back at Crestline Elementary, but he now seemed like someone I would like to hang out with.

Drink in hand, I went to an outside patio where fifty or more were already in attendance. It seemed that they had the good sense to skip the football game. Perhaps these were my people.

I stumbled into one conversation in which I heard a guy complaining about the Fed required his bank take TARP money that he would rather not have taken. Being the die hard liberal that I am, I had been pretty clear that the TARP money was pretty damn good for banks, and especially, bankers. I struggled to make what I thought I knew align with what he was saying. I wished that I could have an entire evening, or at least half an hour, with him to understand just what it was that I was missing, but knew that was not to be.

I flitted around for a while longer without much success in connecting with people before finding a seat next to Ms. Flautist. It felt a little bit like sitting at the back of the gym during a dance, but at least I was sitting with some people whom I sort of knew and I was somewhat relieved just to sit still with some really close acquaintances. It turned out to be a great place to sit. We were in a well-trafficked spot near the door, and people paraded by and talked to us. It was like holding court. I had several nice conversations and a surprising number of people said that they enjoyed reading my blog. Actually, they said “posts on Facebook,” but since most of what I post on Facebook is links to my blog, I chose to believe that they loved my writing.

Wow. People whom I hardly know read my blog. This was turning out to be pretty fun, affirming, even. This was starting to be fun.

Posted in All | 2 Comments

30 Years: My High School Reunion

I recently attended my thirtieth high school reunion. I skipped previous ones, largely because there were not that many people from high school that I had much desire to see. I might have gone to my 20th, I suppose, but it was held when was writing a dissertation proposal, and I had neither time nor money to spare. For this one, time was not much of an issue, and I was only a few hours drive away.

In high school, I was not in the popular crowd. I was a leader and well-liked in the band, but outside the band room, (and maybe the computer room) I felt like an outsider. As I trolled Facebook looking to see who was attending, I saw few people whom I really remembered and was interested in seeing. Was it going to be only the “popular” people whom I never really connected with? I wondered whether this event would bring back the feelings of otherness that I so often felt in high school. I have been working on techniques to feel more grounded and happy, so I sort of wanted those unpleasant feelings to creep up so that I could practice squelching them.

My life now has virtually no sources of stress. I have no debt. I choose not to work. I am not worried about putting kids through college. I am accountable to no one except myself. Given my situation, my work to focus on being happy seems a little like shooting fish in a barrel. Nevertheless, I am more happy and at peace now than I was when my trip began.

The reunion. Friday night we were to go to the football game and eat barbecue outside the lunch room where I once bought chicken patty sandwiches. In hopes of being attractive to the many women who never spoke to me in high school, I wore new clothes, purchased on a recent shopping excursion in Florida when I had my sister play the role of fashion consultant. I had my cousin approve my sartorial choices before I headed out. It was sort of like going to prom. Alone.

With Google’s help, I found my way to a secret back parking lot that did not exist thirty years earlier. I perambulated the unfamiliar path, trying to connect what I was seeing with the school that I remembered. I passed through what was once the smoking area, a place that I was not cool enough to go (not that I ever would have asked my mother to sign a permission slip for me to be there). At the entrance to the road that I recognized would take me to the back of the lunch room where our event was to be held, was sign that said “No Entry Permitted.” I told the woman who appeared to be guarding the gate that I was there for the reunion. “Oh, it’s right down there, sweetie.” Apparently I was going to be able to avoid the $7 entry fee for the football game. This was a good sign.

Now it was time to engage, to find old friends and to meet people whom I had not really known. Near where I expected to find the registration table I saw a woman that I recognized as a flute player. I had liked her in high school and always thought she was really cute, though I had never had the gumption to make my desires known. In the world of Facebook, we were friends, and in her case, I was pretty sure that she would be someone who would recognize me and even be glad to see me. I was right. I was introduced to her husband and we talked for a while.

This was pretty fun so far. At the registration table an attractive woman greeted me and we chatted for a few minutes. Then she walked away. Uh, was I not going to get my name tag? Was I already being shunned?

Well, no. Yet another beautiful woman sitting at the table explained that Ms. Shunner was, in fact, not working at the registration table, she just happened to be standing behind it and chose to speak to me even though she was not required to do so. Ms. Registrar gave me a name tag and a plastic cup with “MBHS 1982″ on it. She even penned my name on the bottom. I asked where the keg was, sort of wishing that I had not left my flask back in Walden.

I milled around a bit, feeling a little like everyone else was communing with old friends as I looked on at a bunch of acquaintances whom I barely remembered. In the moments between conversations when I started to think that I might just want to be somewhere else, I stood still and remembered that it was a beautiful night. I did find a few people to talk to, and when I tired of not knowing anyone, I returned to the cute flautist and insinuated myself into that conversation.

After I had grabbed what turned out to be a really good barbecue sandwich, I realized that I might rather have selected the sandwich after I had found a dinner partner. I walked around the tables of people, but none looked inviting, perhaps to make me feel less like a loser, this was because the tables were actually full. I finally found a table with just one guy and three empty seats. It was with someone whose intelligence fell a couple deviations away from the mean, and not the side of that mean where the bulk of my friends are. I had been to elementary school with him. He never seemed to have a hard time pushing beyond his abilities. He did not seem self-conscious about sitting alone. Note to self: maybe you are not as smart as you think you are. It was most interesting to catch up with him and see what it was that he was doing.

Halftime was approaching. We were herded to the football field where the high school kids were able to look at us, as some sort of cautionary tale, perhaps. They clapped. We left the field. It was time to leave the premises for somewhere that would have kegs available. Not wanting to repeat my dinner-with-no-table experience, I endeavored to find someone who was going to the bar down the hill. One guy who seemed like someone I would want to talk to was leaving, he too had been in the less-than-popular crowd that I identified with and now has a Really Cool Job. Sadly, I had just heard him say that he was going to someone’s house first. There would probably be people at the bar, and, I remembered, going to bars alone is something that I do with considerable frequency.

Off I went.

Posted in All | 17 Comments