My high school reunion is fast approaching. There is no way in hell I’m going.
The reasons are obvious: the cringing awkwardness, the burning mortification of being reacquainted with people you could barely stand to look at decades ago, the screaming wish to not be there, the horror, the horror.
I’ve skipped all of my high school reunions and have no plans to attend future ones. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed a coterie of close friends in high school, not to mention several satellite buddies and many gal pals. I was popular with all kinds, even though I generally abhorred the conceited, pathetically delusional jocks and cheerleaders.
I had the time of my life with those friends, especially my best friend, Ian. The two of us even went to the same college, where he met his future wife, gleaned new interests (like money), then our paths began to diverge.
We were doomed to lose touch. By late college and beyond he’d become something of a boor, intellectually incurious, cerebrally inert. His cultural immaturity, which manifested itself as an irrational hostility towards the arts, books, fine food and world travel, made him a hopeless philistine, a materialist contented with easy mediocrity and smug conventionalism. (I can only imagine how he’d deem my very different life.) Except for wine, women and song, so to speak, we had zip in common.
It’s a shame. We’ve exchanged occasional emails over the years, but nothing’s clicked. We are different people, only vaguely relatable, and that happens. Still, if there’s one person I’d go to a high school reunion with, it’d be him.
But that won’t happen. From what I’ve gathered, I think he’s also boycotted the reunions, those sad, saggy assemblies of forced jollity and shattered dreams. Now, I know oodles of people genuinely enjoy these things, going so far as to head organizing committees and track down fellow alumni and all that crap.
What a dismal business. High school was mostly rotten, with the exception of my friends and our extramural activities (huh-hum), the rock bands I played in, and my junior year English teacher, who taught me about 80 percent of what I know about art, life and literature. Recently I wrote this about those days:
“My California high school was a miasma of mediocrity: Clorox-white, suburban, middle-class, filled with dullards and animated by cliquey teen clichés — jocks, stoners, nerds, punks, cheerleaders — ‘The Breakfast Club’ writ eye-rollingly real. This callow pimple-verse was of course dominated by the chest-thumping jocks, those entitled, vainglorious meatheads, who actually believed they were special and that anyone but them gave one goddam about a Friday night football game.”
I was an angry teen, see, which is scarcely uncommon. And it sounds like I hold a grudge, which I kind of do. Yet I’m not blaming anyone for my misery. People are who they are, and who they are as teenagers isn’t necessarily who they become.
But all I know are the characters I knew in high school. And yet maybe that bullying jerk is a benevolent, cherub-cheeked pastor now. And maybe that overbearing chirpy cheerleader is an amazing New York sculptor. Could be.
I’m not chancing it.