This weekend was my (gulp) 20th high school reunion. I will admit I went into this weekend with a certain amount of trepidation. While I look back on my high school career with a certain amount of fondness (and probably more fondness than a lot of people tend to -- those adolescent years are killers), I also had, until recently, done a really lousy job of keeping in touch with anyone with whom I went to high school. Thanks to the wonder of Facebook, I've found quite a few people from high school and reconnected, but would that newly rebuilt friendship hold up in the "real world"? (And this made me also wonder -- if Facebook and its kin had existed in the late 80's and early 90's, would I have been a better friend post-high school? It will be so much easier for my students to maintain those high school relationships in our digital era when all it takes is a text or a quick comment on Facebook rather than writing a letter.) So while there was some excitement to see people, there was also a certain level of anxiety.
In a "perfect" world, I would have walked into the reunion Friday significantly thinner, perfectly dressed and coiffed, and on the arm of some delightful man with a wallet stuffed full of pictures of the perfect children at home with a babysitter, but in the real world I walked in as me -- weight to lose, hair not on its best behavior, and solo -- and there was this realization that I was perfectly okay with that. One of the friends with whom I spent a fair chunk of the festivities and I talked about how we've changed, and that was one of them -- that we have discovered in our advanced years that we are more confident and accepting of who we are. I have a job that I love, a home that I've worked hard to build, and have become a person that I really like. Who could ask for anything more?
Friday's festivities included a more casual get-together at a local bar. I arrived fairly early and pinned on my nametag which included our names (duh!) and our senior picture. I took a gander at that idealistic kid in that picture with the big glasses, the short hair with the swoop of bang over one eye, and the funky scarf dressing up the black turtleneck (yes, even then I was a black turtleneck sorta girl) and then grimaced at the name on the tag. You all know me as "Mel." For about 20 years, I have been "Mel", but for the first 18 years of my life, I was a . . . . sigh . . . "Missy." I fought long and hard to shed that name, and suddenly, there it was in black and white. SIGH! I decided to grit my teeth as people called me by the "Name to Which I Refused to Answer", but breathed a sigh of relief at the people who corrected themselves and remembered those last couple years of high school when I began the process of trying to shake the "Missy." The reunion was even more special with the arrival of the person who first dubbed me "Mel" during sophomore year and inadvertently sent me on the road to "Mel-ness." (He sat in front of me in English and intercepted a note intended for my best friend Caity, a note in which I asked her if she wanted to go see Lethal Weapon that weekend because Mel Gibson was so hot. He started calling me "Mel" as an homage to my Mel Gibson crush, and it stuck for 20+ years.)
As the evening progressed, there were a lot of squeals and hugs. Some people looked exactly the same; some looked, well, old. There were some extra pounds here and there, fewer strands of hair, but the same spirits and energies were still there. While just about everyone warmly greeted each other, we did tend to gravitate towards our old social circles, and I found myself at a table full of old "Stage Call" kids. (That was the name of our drama club) There were a lot of "remember when" stories as we reminisced about slumber parties, trips to the roller rink, and time spent cruising the "strip" (comprised of driving from the McDonalds on one side of town to the McDonalds on the other side of town). Because we are older and wiser and more open about things, we also had the chance to talk with a lot of honesty, telling each other how much we meant to each other back then and how glad we were to reconnect. It's always kind of odd to realize how much you've touched someone's life and vice versa.
Last night was the more "formal" reunion dinner. There was a dj spinning 80s classics (yup, lots of Michael Jackson) and a dance floor calling our names. It took us awhile to get out there, but all it took was "Thriller" and there we were -- a bunch of 37 and 38 year olds getting down like it had been 20 days rather than 20 years since high school. There's something refreshing about looking across the room to see a 38-year-old man doing his best Michael Jackson moves, right down to the crotch grab, before dropping to the floor and spinning on his back like an extra from Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. When the dj so kindly spun a little REM and The Clash, we were pogoing, heads and arms flailing, and I could feel the years just slipping off.
Sure, there were a couple people that did not come that I wished had -- in particular Caity (the aforementioned best friend from high school) and Betsy (who introduced me to some of the best music and rescued me from the pop doldrums by slipping me copies of REM, The Cure, The Smiths, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and more) -- but it was so nice spending time with people who knew me when and to realize that, despite the 20 years, some things remain the same -- we still know how to make each other laugh, we still are there to offer supportive shoulders, and we still mean a lot to each other. It's just that now, we're better able to express all of those things to each other without all that teen angst bullshit getting in the way.
Can't wait for our 30th!