Thursday, June 4, 2009

High School Reunions

There is nothing worse than a room full of "mean girls" and ex-boyfriends not to mention all the people whose names and faces you've long since forgotten.  This summer is high school reunion time and there's no way in hell I'm going!

Even though it's been nearly 35 years since I walked those hallowed halls, it seems wounds are still raw, insecurities instantly flood back, and the thought of a room full of my former classmates makes me shaky at best, nauseous at worst.  Besides, I always said I wouldn’t go to a reunion until after a full face lift and that’s not on my calendar yet.

Can you tell I was not a big fan of high school?  Even though I was a cheerleader and active in all the usual shenanigans, I was never comfortable in my high school skin.  In those days, I didn’t find my voice, hit my stride, pull it together, or whatever you want to call it.  Nope, it simply did not happen.   

Sure, I had pompoms, friends and high school crushes.  But there were also all those guys and girls that were so intimidating to me as a teenager.  Not that they were actually mean to me, it's just that when it comes to the teenage years and high school, my self-confidence is still in my gym locker and I doubt I'll get it back in time to attend the reunion.   

A handful of friends, from back in the day, have encouraged me to partake saying the past is history and high school BS of yesteryear is long gone; replaced with age and maturity.  But still, therapy is expensive.  I've spent thousands of dollars trying to get over teen boyfriends, the embarrassment of public showering after gym class, not having the "perfect outfit" to wear each and every day, and all those barely average report cards. The shy teenage girl that didn’t feel cool enough for the cool crowd, was too dumb for the smart crowd, too healthy for the smoke-in-the-bathroom crowd and well, just not enough of anything to really "belong" back then, still feels the pain all these years later. 

Yes, I have a few dear friends from high school whose weddings I’ve danced at, children I’ve celebrated and parents I always call when I’m “back home”.  They are a huge part of my life; I love them; and wouldn’t trade our years of friendship for anything.  And, every now and then in Ohio, I run into a familiar face or two and we reminisce about the “glory days”.  But a big group of my classmates, all in the same place at the same time-- No thank you.  That just feels like too much pressure. 

High school, in my small hometown, came with a lot of expectations that were not in my plans.  For starters we had a class in our senior year-- just for girls-- that still leaves me shaking my head even today.  For an entire semester-- a full half of our senior year of school, we girls, spent 47 minutes a day, five days a week, in a class learning to plan our weddings.  I kid you not!  A full semester filed with the ins and out, the do’s and don’ts, and all things virginal and pure, that goes with a big wedding extravaganza.  At the end of the school year, each girl had a big three-ring binder with everything we needed for the wedding of our dreams.  We even had a chapter on planning the perfect baby shower! 

Problem was, I was not interested in getting married or having babies, but that was not the kind of thing you advertised back in 1976 where I lived, especially since several of the girls in our class were already pregnant and planning their weddings for right after graduation.  

The idea of taking a final exam for a “how to get married” class was just not working for me.  Not that there’s anything wrong with getting married and having kids, I’m all for it.  But at 17 years of age, I thought maybe teaching us how to balance a checkbook, understand an apartment lease, or how buy a car would be good “life skills”, not lectures on bridesmaid dresses, garter throwing etiquette (apparently there IS such a thing!), or picking china patterns.

So to make the high school years ever harder, not wanting to be a bride was not only a surprise to my high school sweetheart, it was a class I barely received a passing grade.  All that added up to being a bad student and probably a bad future wife, as my wedding class teacher often pointed out to me. 

Where does that leave me today, at 51?  Well, I think I’m a good wife and an adult that has found my voice in life.  But, I’m still not up for a high school reunion and connecting with a crowd of former classmates.  It's a strange feeling too.  My former classmates were, and I'm sure still are, really good people; but I still feel out of place. Maybe because, if they had a show of hands, I’m pretty sure I would be the oldest bride in our class of 200.  And, since I chose not to have children, that could be a conversation stopper.

Perhaps I'm wimping out and not giving them, or myself, enough credit.  Nevertheless, I'm staying on the opposite side of the country and as far away from my hometown high school as possible on reunion weekend.  No trip down Memory Lane for this girl.

How do you feel about high school reunions?

Welcome to The Fifty Factor  -  Joanna


  1. I'm with you. Like you I had friends and good times in high school, but I also had insecurities. I'm actually friends now with some of the people I was intimidated by in high school. Actually one of them is always on the reunion committee and tries to get me to come! However - I just don't think it's my thing.

  2. I love the "idea" of a high school re-union, but with all the technology around these days, I think it is far easier to stalk *cough* I mean, find out information about people, should you wish to!

    When looking through rose-tinted spectacles I miss being at school, BUT in reality I wouldn't go back there for love nor money!!

  3. Your story brought back memories; some good, some bad. I felt a lot like you did, but minus the pom poms. However, two years out of high school my first hubby and I hosted our first class reunion and I was on the alumni board the following year helping put together the whole Alumni she-bang. Colon High School wasn't/isn't a large school so it wasn't "hard" work to put it togehter (our class consisted of about 77 graduates as I recall).

    Thanks for another stroll down memory lane! (And if anyone reading this recognizes the town of Colon...we no longer live there! We're in an even smaller town now in da U.P!)

  4. Joanna...

    Not only have you found your voice, but it's beautiful, and you can speak for me any time.

    I'm so with you on the whole high school experience and reunion trauma. I too was a cheerleader, pageant winner, etc. etc., but could never outgrow my poor side of the tracks roots. The two high school reunions I did attend were horrifying. I went to my 5th and 10th and vowed never again.

    A few years ago, I bumped into one of the high school royalty who was on the reunion committee and urged me to go. When I told her hell would have to freeze over first she told me I wasn't "represent'in" and that pretty much clinched it for me. Who wants to hang out with that? No thank you.

    So I applaud your candor and humor. And I am honored to be in the same club as you!

  5. So,can I tell you? You make me howl out loud laughing. But, you already knew that. I think you are the snarky, delightfully funny side of my writing personality. Honestly.

    Okay, high school? I loved my four years there. I was lucky enough to go to an all-girls high school where I believe young girls are given a platform to learn their voice and to speak ideas with conviction and belief that they are worthy and intelligent.

    Problem was when you get out into the work place, that's not how most of corporate America saw it...but, I learned them.

    So for me? High school was a great experience. I went to ONE reunion. The first five. Never went back to any others. Not interested.

    I have stayed friends with one girl from school. That's it. My real relationships that have walked my path with me were formulated at University. And, I'm most grateful for that gift.

    To answer your question, I have never gone to any of those reunions either.

    But, I'd come visit you in a heartbeat, because that, sister would be fun!

  6. I'm with you completely on HS.

    Actually, they stopped calling me about our reunions. I didn't want to talk to you then, why would I want to talk to you 30 years later? That's my feeling.

    However, you put it much more eloquently. But you can come visit me anytime!

  7. My 25th reunion was last year. I was nervous, about the mean girls, etc. I was the strange girl who sat at the back of the class, dressed oddly, and made deeply sarcastic comments about the people who picked on me. You know, the one who wore black and was in the Drama club. At the reunion, people were NICE, came up and hugged and asked how I was and what was life about. With the exception of the 2 meanest of the mean girls, one of whom was thrice divorced and even fatter than me, and the other I don't know because she'd walk off whenever I came near. I told myself it was because of my 4 fine children and VP Alpha Husband. Who knows. Anyway, the people that mattered spoke, and the people that didn't, didn't.

    Even the Jocks came up and spoke. It was great!

    It will be fun for you. I don't think anyone was comfortable in their skins at High School. Now it's different. We've found our paths and made peace with them.

  8. What great timing this post has! lol My reunion is next month and I'm in the "no way in hell" category. I went to a small private school and it was hell on earth for me. I was like you, very involved as well but, also like you, I still have feelings and insecurities that surface whenever something like this comes up. Plus, at $50 a ticket, I could go out to dinner with my husband or buy new know, have a good time. LOL

  9. Although my 25th reunion has long past, I've had no desire to attend the 5th, 10th...or 25th! My high school years were great but it wasn't because of school, it was because of my church youth group. All of my fun and happy teenage memories were because of church and my friends there, not because of school.

    I recently got an email about an "all inclusive" reunion for my school where anyone could attend. This I'm considering. It would be fun to go to a reunion with my sister and best friend. We'll see if it actually pans out.

  10. I haven't been to one and I don't ever plan on going to one. I was a completely different person then and no one would even know the person that I am now.

    Great post, as usual, Joanna!


  11. i've not been to any of my high school reunions either. i went to school with those 36 people from kindergarten to 12th grade and frankly i had enough of them then and am not ready to see them again. luckily i live an ocean away, so it's easy not to show up. :-) i wouldn't second guess your gut feeling not to go. i say good for you!!

  12. I wouldn't go to a high school reunion, but from time to time I do hear some interesting news of what's become of people and am not averse to any of the gossip!

  13. I'd rather pick belly button lint than to go to a class reunion. I went to my 10th and it was a very uncomfortable gathering. The lines that used to be drawn you know...popular vs. unpopular, smart vs. unsmart, pretty vs. geek....were no longer drawn yet, I had no desire to smile in the face of those classmates that had judged me according to their standards and lack of maturity.

    If I'm going to reacquaint myself with someone, it's my choice whether it will be someone from the old high school but personally, even Facebook isn't a thrill for me. PS - Don't get me wrong, I did like high school but we grow and move forward and that's what I did.

  14. I haven't been to a high school reunion since my 10th, back in 1983. I can't even remember much about it.

    I don't even know if my school has had any reunions since then. If I could convince my friend, Margie to go, I'd probably do it.

    There are a few "kids" I'd like to see again. Find out if Carol ever became an OB/GYN like she planned.

    I was pretty anonymous in high school. I wasn't super popular but didn't step on anyone's toes either.

  15. It sounds like everyone feels the same about the dreaded school reunion. Someone must turn up to these things?

    I have never gone to one and never would. I went to an all girls boarding school and left it to go to the local high school (my choice). I am not sure which one was worse! I just did not like school.

    I have always had this view that I neve go backwards only forwards so its the past for me. However, my mother on the other hand has been to everyone of hers. She loved school, has great memories, kept in contact with her school friends etc etc. I cannot relate.

    Everyone is different.

    Oh and by the way I live in a city where women are very career oriented, get married late, have childen late in life if they do at all so its quite the normal thing.

    Perhaps it wasnt in our day - my two best friends from school got married at 16 and are still married to the same guys still living in the same country town. It so far from my life I cant imagine.

    And at the end of the day I am not unhappy with that.

    Ooooh it makes me shiver thinking about school days....thanks for the reminder...we never lose those memeories though do we?

  16. Thanks for all your comments and suggestions. So far 10 comments are in the "no" category and 5 are in the "yes" category when it comes to attending high school reunions. I appreciate all your feedback, but I'm still not going to mine-- ever :-) Keep those cards and letters coming! I love hearing from you. xo

  17. I have made better and closer friends as an adult. There are retired coworkers that I would like to catch up with...

    but I do not feel the need to connect with many of my hs peers. I keep up with my hs bff!! This is enough for me. I feel bad that she never got out of my small Ohio hometown. I imagine that she is happy?

    I am just so happy moving away and meeting new faces. It is only 3 hours away but feels... so much further.

  18. Once again, you're speaking my truth. Like you, I still keep in touch with a few special high school pals, but for the most part, I never felt at home in high school.

    It wasn't the most horrible time in my life, but I tend to remember the cruelty and small-mindedness of my classmates -- mostly "jocks" who cared about little else but sports -- more than I recall the fun times I had. College, on the other hand, was a blast and SO much more interesting! I was comfy in my own skin by then, and felt free to be me.

  19. I have never ever desired to go. My experience was so like yours was. It was a small school, horrible experiences, non productive, gossipy and judgey.

    I have a pile of apology letters from girls in my class. Not liked much. I was a cheerleader like you, but that was even a nightmare. I can't think of one person that could get me to go to a reunion. Not one.

    Once a guy from my class called and begged me to go. Then he proceeded to talk about each classmate in a down grading way. I was like, what? He then had the nerve to ask me if I had a financial problem and couldn't go. Oh how I wish I would have said yes and made him buy me a new outfit and rent a car the whole way. (he is the richest in our class) boo hoo. So that was the clincher. I don't need it.

    So I support your stress about the whole getting together thing. And a funny note, I just learned that a lot of them read my blog. Har har. How unfunny.....

    Have a great day.

  20. i think there should be a no-reunion reunion. like. a reunion where everyone commits to staying at home in their pjs and watching tv.

    good for you for not going. i'm did not go to my 10th. nor will i go to my 20th.

    i will go to my 75th. because i'll be the only one there. because i plan on having a cyber heart transplant.

  21. High school was a nightmare for me until I ditched enough of it to get bumped into Continuation school. I would never go to a regular high school reunion- way too much drama- especially as I went to school in California where the new graduation present for girls is a pair of boobs (terrible!). But I wouldn't mind seeing the continuation people again. Well, the ones that weren't peddling drugs or shooting at people in the parking lot.

    You can make the best of friends in the worst of places...

  22. On the fence. I did not got to my twentieth and sort of regretted it after. But just sort of. I think it would be interesting, but don't feel I am missing anything life changing in keeping it in the past. Thinking of how tough those years were gives me much more patience with my teenagers! Great post.

  23. Put the invitation down and step away, ma'am.....I went to the 5 and the 10 year reunions - no more! My mom still lives in my hometown and she keeps bugging me to go to my reunions because she runs into the parents of my schoolmates and they apparently give her a tough time for my non-attendance.

    Don't care.

    Don't go.

    That's my vote!

    Also, check out my blog for a little surprise later today...

  24. Wow....I read that post and thought...dang she's talking about me too! I feel and felt exactly what you described. I actually helped plan three of my class reunions and still didn't attend. I've never been able to put into words why just did. Thanks for that!

  25. High school reunions can be interesting ground to cover. The environment is usually one of comparisons and seeing how people turned out. Not sure if they serve a good overall purpose at the end of the day. As you said, you have friends from high school and the others have moved on with their lives. Not sure what real benefit one gains from attending this event. If this is not something you are comfortable with, then why would you bother. No reason to regress to adolescence and stir up memories that were not all that good.

  26. Some of my best friends are from high school (actually even further back) and I have them already. So I'm in the "no way" category. I think some people look back on hs years of being the best of their lives. I'm glad I'm not one of them, if they do actually exist. It's so weird how all those feelings come flooding back... I can totally relate. And your writing is very funny and simpatico :)

  27. I'm rootless...I, too, grew up in a small town in Ohio, but had a very different experience from you. By my junior year, I came out of my shell and started to discover a new side of myself. So I do have good memories.

    But my family was all in NY and PA, and once I started living out of state for grad school, I found less and less to pull me back there. I was living overseas, studying history, politics, foreign language...and my old friends were still interested in boys and small-town gossip.

    I just visited my hometown last fall, because it is a beautiful, unique place, but the only people I was interested in contacting were my friends from college.

    Btw, what part of Ohio are you from?

  28. My high school experience was miserable - I had braces, glasses, acne, was called 'olive Oyl' because I was so skinny, dressed like a total geek, was insecure - and had ZERO social skills thanks to a hellish home life.
    I'd NEVER go to a High School Reunion.
    The fact that I'm unmarried and don't have any kids would send me right back into geek purgatory.

  29. I love that you took a poll of your readers re their thoughts on high school reunions. Like yourself, I live by the mantra, just say no. No good can come from walking down memory lane.

    Excellent, excellent, post!


  30. I'm still aghast over Wedding Planning 101.


    Thanks for following my blog!!

  31. Never been to a reunion. I hated most of those idiots THEN. And it's easy enough nowadays to keep in touch with those you actually liked.

    Excellent writing. Glad I found ya!


  32. Joanna...thank you for popping by my blog!!
    First I read your profile and was cracking up - I soooo relate - am 49 this year!! Yikes!
    Then I read this post!!I went to high school in a large public high school in LA. I was not blond or apple pie or look like Farrah -I was different looking for the crowd in LA - not ugly - just not "LA" - I just didn't fit.
    I went to my 10th reunion at a fancy place near the beach - and wondered for 4 hours why on earth I had showed up at all. Was horrid and really the folks I might have wanted to see were not there.
    Fast forward to the last month - I have a Facebook and someone from those years found me - yikes - now I have all of these folks - most not all that I didn't care for in high school sending me cute little messages and do this test things - cause I'm smarter than you stuff - uckkkkk. My 30th is this Aug. - and no.... not a chance I'm going. I'm very happy with the comfortable in my skin, mature me - thank you very much!!
    Wonderful post - am off to read some more of your delightful posts!
    Namaste, Sarah

  33. I really enjoyed your post on reunions. I have been to everyone and we just had our 50th last year. I was not one of the group because I didn't go to grade school or Jr hi here with all the kids. Just high school. But I got on the committee for planning and had so much fun and the reunions (when they got past 20)
    were really fun. No more pretense and it is nice to keep up with some of the people. I did a website and loved putting that together.

  34. Hi Joanna, I love your blog. It's very well written.

    I never went to any class reunions until the 50th last summer. I was really hyped to go. My sister came along since it was in our old home town.

    I connected with a few old friends but haven't heard from them since.
    I talked with some people that I hadn't been friends who now live in the city that I do. That was fun. So, after all was said and done, it was interesting but it made me realize my life and current friends are far more fun and significant than the old ones.

  35. Hi Joanna, thanks for popping over. I think of that saying, 'you can choose your friends, but not your family' applies equally to those you have no choice over associating with at school.

  36. Seriously? I think HS reunions are for the most part just show and tell sessions for adults. Ooh, look at how much weight she's gained! Oh gawd, did you see the captain of the football team? He's bald and has a paunch!
    Ick. I wouldn't want to do it, even if I looked good. Screw that!!!

    Justine :o )

  37. Last year I got in touch with 'my first love' - who I last met in 1978. I moved away from the city I went to school in and now we're 140miles away. But we have met a few times and we text each other nearly every day. We're not starry-eyed teenagers any more but it's been great getting in touch again.

  38. I'm with you! I'd just as soon forget those four years. I did go to the 10 year reunion because I was visiting my ill mom and she really wanted me to go. I took my 5-year-old son so I'd have an excuse to stay just a short time (hey, we use whatever coping mechanism works, right?). When I arrived the former senior class president was greeting people at the door and he said, "Why I'd forgotten all about you!" I just smiled and thought, "Yep, that about sums it up!"

    Who'd want to revisit THAT?!?

  39. I skipped the 10th but went to the 20th, although I was living 2,500 miles away. The 20th reunion was an absolute BLAST! It was kind of hard to process so much information in such a short amount of time. It would have taken me 2 weeks to talk to everyone I wanted to talk to. One bizarrely memorable experience was one woman who approached me and apologized for not being nice to me in high school. Wow! I never noticed that she wasn't nice to me, but I guess this was some kind of guilt she had harbored for 20 years! Who knew?

    I brought a disposable camera to the reunion (this was in the days before tiny digital cameras) and took candid shots of people throughout the night. That was such a good move! Even though the pics aren't the best, I was able to capture the moment in time and review the faces in a calm atmosphere. Most of the women looked very much like they did 20 years ago, but the men looked very, very different!

    I am planning to make the cross-country trek to attend the 30th next month. If it's half as fun as the 20th, it will have been worth the effort and expense.

  40. I am so sorry to hear about your high school experience. I was one of those that mourned the end of my high school days, and I wasn't even a nerd! In fact, on my "to write" blog list is to share my high school experience. I went to every reunion until the 25th when I could finally say "I'm over it." I love Facebook because a lot of people from that era in my life are my friends all over again. Instead of sharing boyfriend woes, we share menopause experiences.

    If you had gone to high school with me, I just know we'd have been best buddies!


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