My high school 20-year reunion was last weekend; I did not attend. It was not for lack of intense, some would say morbid, curiosity on what my classmates were doing, what they looked like, who had gone bald, who looked they had filled with water, who was more successful than you had imagined they would be, etc… in fact, I was ready to fly across the county with baby in tow. But then we got this TV deal, and suddenly the distance from Santa Monica, CA to Norfolk, VA looked totally impossible.
Some of the attendees posted pictures on the Kodak website, so it’s nice to see how everyone turned out at least, and though my feelings have always been terribly mixed about my high school experience, it kinda looks like I missed a really good time. If approached correctly, those events can be way more fun than the cliché would portend.
playing King Pellinore in “Camelot” in 1985 – no, my hair was desperately uncool even then, and my friends begged me to cut it
Another problem was this: out of the twelve people I called good friends, maybe two showed up. My particular clique, it seems, couldn’t get it together for this reunion, perhaps preferring instead to randomly get together in other places. True, none of us live anywhere near Norfolk these days, but I was struck at how few of us were witness to the Seminal American Event of the 20th High School Reunion.
I always considered my particular clique to be slightly dorky, studious, absurdly humorous, and prone towards cultural obsession (I mean that in all the good ways). I didn’t think we were “popular” per se, but we kept each other afloat. It wasn’t until senior year, when I was paired up with one of the bitchiest cheerleaders in our class, largely suspected of doing all kinds of fun drugz with the lacrosse team (hey, it was the ’80s, MAN!) that she said to me – “I’d ask you guys to a party, but there’s absolutely no way to penetrate your little clique.”
I was stunned. I had no idea we’d forged something envious. In the weeks that ensued, during the long, hot Aprils and Mays of the coastal South, all kinds of social barriers broke down. It’s always this way the final days before graduation, when the Senior Class is imbued with a social bravery that comes from no tomorrow. I even went on a quasi-date and openly discussed love with a crush I’d had since the Dark Ages of 1981.
Perhaps reunions offer a time when you can go back into the past and tell your schoolmates that everything turned out okay with you. It was touch and go for a while there, but so far, you nailed the dismount of your young adulthood. Tessa likes to tell the story of why she wrote to me in 2000, after we’d fallen out of touch since about 1995 or so. She imagined me sitting in a dark room getting high, and was worried. Hopefully, I’ve transcended that prognostication for her.
Looking at those pictures, it also put into stark relief: we are not kids anymore. This is what 38 and 39 looks like. At the 10-year-reunion, people seemed in fine form, reaching the apogee of their attractiveness, but now we are retreating over the other side. I mean, my skin problems and stupid hair allow me to look young, but I can’t deny I’m 38. If I’m not careful, I, too, may fill with water.
One more thing about the pictures. Everyone looks like they’re having a great time, some even clinging to each other. I forget that many of my classmates went to NA from kindergarten through 12 grade; they were together every single day for twelve years and suddenly it was over. Re-meeting again, now, when they have seen so much and been slightly beaten-down by the world, must mean a lot.
Hell, I look at these faces and think, “I know your mothers! I remember when Amanda was caught chewing animal fat in Mr. Sims’ class! I remember when they airbrushed Boo’s childhood nipple out of the yearbook! Mike has my birthday and damaged his pinkie on an escalator!”
These faces provide continuity in a deeply non-contiguous world. I think I must attend the 25-year reunion and drag my little, impenetrable clique with me.
Steve Shapiro and I usher at my dad’s outdoor concert, 1982