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.