we’re just following ancient history, if you strip for me


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

12 thoughts on “we’re just following ancient history, if you strip for me

  1. killian

    Link to Kodak website? Or are you being a tease, like with the “TV DEAL”???
    C’mon, Ian. Some of us are living vicariously at this hour of the am, so details would be nice.
    And I think your hair was (is) GORGEOUS–ok, maybe the cut was a little passe, but the the color, the body,[and that sweet face. . . ]
    Cut in the 2nd picture very Harry Potter. I like it!

  2. CL

    >>But then we got this TV deal
    Cute, Marie. Real cute.
    I know all about how you can’t say anything until the check is cashed. I keep my mouth shut on book deals – things in the arts have a way of falling through. But if you are going to be such a tease, well, soon you are gonna have to SPILL IT!
    And…great essay. At reunions, usually the people you want to see most or are most curious about aren’t there.
    And Killian is right. Your hair was LUSCIOUS. I’ll bet you still have more hair than any guy who picked on you growing up.
    Oh, duh, I thought Steve Shapiro was petting a Chihuahua. But it’s, like, a bag of something. Booze? You 12-year-olds were drinking booze?!

  3. Erin O'Brien

    Knight in shining armour indeed.
    During my 20th (I only attended the Friday night cocktail party), I was stunned by how many of the top echelon of high school populars had gone on to live their lives in a sad reflective glow–being exactly who they were in high school, just one year older each 365 days.
    I guess high school was such a looming frame of reference they couldn’t escape it.
    Here’s to growing.

  4. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    My 20th reunion is next year. Hence, the Weight Watchers membership. Damned if they say about me, “Hey, our valedictorian went and got all filled up with water since 1986! Eek!”
    You do have great hair, Ian. My husband has gone from blonde in our 1994 wedding photo to total gray. And he is just 39 years old. I have noticed a lot of gray in my red curls ever since Helen was born. Do you color your hair? Where is the gray? Since you can’t spill the TV deal, at least tell me who your colorist is!

  5. CL

    >>”Hey, our valedictorian went and got all filled up with water since 1986! Eek!”
    No one cares about that. They want to see the cheerleaders fill up with water.
    I bet the TV deal is for a show called “Everybody Hates Ian.”

  6. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    CL — I think you are right. Before I binge on Halloween candy, though, it looks as though my brother is planning to propose to his girlfriend, which means a wedding for 2006, and my mother has subtly warned me that I may just be asked to be a bridesmaid, so I might want to thin down. Thanks, Mom!
    I like the “Everyone Hates Ian” idea. Maybe Ian is working with Ashton Kutcher on that TV show that is based on his romance with Demi. Gag me!If that is the case, I’ll have to stop reading this blog.

  7. Ian

    What, “Everyone Thinks Ian is a Navel-Gazing, Solopsistic Dork Who Looks at His Own Poo-Poo” is already taken?
    I am going totally gray at the temples.

  8. Andy

    At my 15 year reunion, I put the following on my name tag: “ANDY – Yes, I am fat and balding.”
    As for hair, I would take gray all day. As some relative of mine used to say, “My hair can turn any color it wants to as long as it don’t turn loose.”
    I’m here all week.

  9. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Hey, do they celebrate Halloween in CA? Is Lucy trick or treating? Does anyone eat candy in CA? (I am reading Joan Didion’s “Where I Was From”, and I am convinced that CA is another kind of place entirely).
    If so, there better be a cutie sweetie cutiekins photo of Lucy in full Halloween gear tomorrow (or this week at least!)
    Here is my thought for the day: Halloween as a kid during the 1970’s totally rocked. Racing home from school to change into my costume, trick or treating with friends (unchaperoned of course) for hours, going home for “dinner” once it got dark, then charging out into the night again for more loot. . . . it was the best holiday ever. Now, it is another thing entirely. Trick or treating is just one more thing to worry about (see “Perfect Madness: Parenting in the Age of Anxiety”) . . . what my home state of NJ has legislated recently (re: barring convicted sex offenders from participating in Halloween completely)has convinced me that all of us kids who enjoyed total childhood freedom in the 1970’s have taken all the fun out of every damn thing now that we are parents.
    Why can’t I let my daughter trick or treat without worrying about pedophiles? Why does my neighborhood, with all its restrictions and covenants send a notice that “trick or treating is to take place between the hours of 6pm and 8pm on said holiday — no earlier and no later?” Why does her school send home notices weeks before Halloween warning that “no costumes will be allowed with weapons of any sort”? This included light sabres, by the way, for you Star Wars fans. What the F? For years, my favorite costume what what I called a “hobo” outfit. I had a cool flannel shirt of my dad’s, with patches sewn on, . . . I liked it. I was 8 years old and I liked it. I realize now that it was not PC and I was in a way mocking the homeless and no kid would get away with the same costume, but. . . what the hell?

  10. Frequent Reader

    I think I’ve figured out this TV deal thingy: Ian and Steve have been hired as consultants for the television version of Napoleon Dynamite.
    I currenlty live about 4 blocks from my high school. My class were/are such a bunch of slackers that we didn’t even *have* a 20-year reunion. Either that, or they all hate me and I wasn’t invited.
    Either one seems perfectly plausible.


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