Reunions: Regurgitated Roles
“I just received the invite for my ten year reunion. I’m so excited!” Sarah sat on the back porch, giggles oozing from her pores. I sat there completely baffled. Most of my wardrobe is over ten years old. I didn’t get the excitement level.
“Ten years? Isn’t that like saying, ‘Hey, Mom, I’m home for the weekend. Can you do my laundry?” I pictured most of them still borrowing the family car. “Are they even out of college yet?”
“College usually takes four years and I’m sure most do their own laundry.”
“Our kids have been doing their laundry for years,” Char chimed in.
“That explains my water bill.” The girls do our laundry twice a week. Add to that four kids who change outfits every four hours, each doing their own laundry, and I’ll be replacing our washer and dryer every six months. People complain about having an empty nest. Not me. I’m looking forward to my appliances surviving past their warranties.
Still, going to a ten-year reunion is like going to a community college; you’re still basically in high school. If anyone shows up bald and over-weight, they were probably that way when they graduated. However, Sarah really wanted to go and the rest of us were overdue a weekend getaway, so we booked the hotel and the girls bought new outfits. That, of course, is the main reason for going anywhere, so the girls have an excuse to buy new clothes. That’s why they always wanted to go dancing, out to eat or volunteered to take the trash down to the curb.
“But the neighbors saw me in this last week,” rang their logic. I made Zac start taking the trash out, so the girl’s wouldn’t be embarrassed by last week’s fashion. If this keeps up, the clothes will have my bedroom while I sleep in the walk-in closet.
Reunions are social nightmares I never understood and I probably never will. I had fun in high school and I’m enjoying my life now. I prefer to live in the present, not the past, so I see no need to connect the two. I’m not the same person I was in high school, thank the Universe, and most of the people I attended that circus with aren't either according to Facebook. However, gather a bunch of narcissistic bullies together with alcohol and soon old prejudices and behaviors come to the forefront and I’m back to getting picked on so they can feel good about their lives. Want to meet for a beer? See me on any given weekend. Want to reminisce? Join me on any of the nostalgic groups on Facebook. However, I prefer not to fall back into the cliques that made me start thinking of my first murder mystery plot.
Stepping into Sarah’s reunion I saw that I was right. The cliques still existed, those little huddles of groups that thought the world of themselves when the world could really care less. Often kids not in the inner circle of students who thought looks made a high school career wanted to be those very kids. I must admit, I never did. They weren't funny; they weren’t cool, and most weren't really good looking. They just thought they were and because they did, so did everyone else. It was like the first country club any of us were ever really a part of, some were lifetime members while the rest of us were the hired help.
It was funny, really, to see everyone clumped into the same herds that they were in years ago. What was even funnier was that I didn't know anyone there, but still could point out the unique groupings. The nerds perched around one table while the jocks huddled around another. The cheerleaders squealed as the stoners missed offered high-fives. I even spotted the slut table at which point the girls were ready to leave.
The sad part, the part that should have warned us that life would always be that way, was that it was the same among the teachers. Sit around the teacher’s lounge and you see the cliques are still very much active in the adult world. The odd, bizarre teachers are huddled together while the coaches and sexy English teacher are helping the pretty kids squeak into college. Educators should look out for every student, not just the popular ones. Yet, I watched as Becky was shunned by peer and teacher alike because she wasn't as pretty or popular as Karen. Perhaps her home life wasn't the perfect picture and maybe her family couldn't afford the clothes of the mall boutiques, but she had the same future possibilities and the same feelings. Yet, Becky never had a chance and at a reunion she still wouldn't have a chance. People would pick up right where they left off and the whispers would begin and the jokes said too low behind drunken hands, making the once popular again. Kids are cruel in high school and only change when they get pushed out of their comfortable roles. Some are strong enough to survive and get stronger. Others shrivel within themselves and never recover.
“Not everyone was like that,” I hear the middle of the road kids say. However, there was quite a bit of truth in the Breakfast Club. You can hear Claire Standish saying, “Do you know how popular I am? I’m so popular. Everyone loves me so much at this school.” And right then you knew it couldn't be about looks because a young Molly Ringwald was not as pretty as the basket case Ally Sheedy. These five kids – the Brain, the Athlete, the Basket Case, the Princess, and the Criminal – were thrust together for a day, punished for being who they thought they were supposed to be. In the course of the movie, they shed the peer pressure, the masks that they wore to survive and bonded. Yet, Claire called it when she said that Monday she would go right back to ignoring Brian Johnson in the halls because her friends wouldn't understand. “I hate it. I hate having to go along with everything my friends say.” But she will. I had heard Sarah say it over the weekend. “We were friends until she moved up to more popular friends and stopped talking to me.”
It was a popular theme in teen movies of the ‘80’s. Pretty in Pink. Can’t Buy Me Love. The Breakfast Club. Don’t cross the line between popular and unpopular or there will be consequences. Everyone could relate. Everyone agreed with how tragically wrong it was and yet, come Monday there will be a return to proper roles. As John Bender told Claire, “You know how shitty that is to do to someone, and you don’t got the balls to stand up to your friends and tell them you’re gonna like who you wanna like.” The lines are drawn in school and once school is over everyone goes their separate ways, some taller for standing on the diminished backs of others, some with footprints that will last a lifetime. Reunions are a regurgitation of roles and I ditched my role as soon as I graduated. I’m fine not returning.
Memory Lane is not a road I want to travel. “Hey, remember how skinny you were I kept putting you into a locker?”
“I remember you being a dick. Is that what you mean?” And soon I’m forty-five and back in a locker. I fantasize that most of the kids that used to beat me up are now somebody’s bitch in prison. I don’t want to go to a reunion and mess that up.
I understand people wanting to return to relive their glory days, especially former jocks that can no longer get it up. It’s their way of recapturing that heady feeling of success and popularity. However, I don’t need the past. Today. The Present. These are my glory days and where I want to spend my time. These are the days that matter, with my family and the friends that I wouldn't trade for any of the memories of yesteryear.
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