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It’s easier to return to the past when you are happy with the present.
October 21, 2012 7:47 PM   Subscribe

While at college I yearned to feel connected, to be a part of something larger, something that involved more than bricks and mortarboards. I never managed it. Now, two decades later, I felt a familiar ambivalence. Those bright college years are so influential, so much a part of who we become, that revisiting them brings up a host of conflicting, tumultuous emotions. Going back stirs the pot. Maybe that’s a good thing.
Author and columnist Rachel Toor on mixed feelings about going to a class reunion when you haven't exactly become successful in the traditional sense. (This essay also appeared in a 2004 issue of the Chronicle Review, the essays and opinions insert of the trade periodical The Chronicle of Higher Education.)
posted by Nomyte (67 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
If I go to my 20th university reunion, everyone will be so amazed I didn't drink myself to death they're not gonna care what I do for a living.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:03 PM on October 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


Hoe is someone who bills themselves as "Author + Professor + Athlete" not "successful in the traditional sense"? Does she mean rich?
posted by phrontist at 8:09 PM on October 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not going to my 10 year hs reunion because I'm not really they type who wants to sit and explain my non-traditional lifestyle to people I don't really like. I hate how you have to wait until the 20 year anniversary for everyone to just be chill about life and not worry what everyone else thinks.
posted by eq21 at 8:10 PM on October 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure if I'll be going to my 25-year high school reunion. I didn't really fit in with most people from my high school, and the people I really did fit in with -- the music crowd - had their own multi-year reunion a couple years back when we all did a benefit concert for the school. ...A small part of me is tempted to go, to see if the people whose attention I tried so hard to court will actually notice me this time...

...Which is probably why I shouldn't go.

Then again, I read an interview with John Cusack just after he'd done Grosse Pointe Blank and he reported having gone to his own 10-year reunion, and he described it as "like The Great Gatsby on acid". That's fascinating enough a description to get me to go as a sort of sociological observer after all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:22 PM on October 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


A high school reunion is a different story. The only way you're going to see me at one of those is if I'm hunted down, captured and wheeled in on a gurney, Hannibal Lecter-style.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:26 PM on October 21, 2012 [13 favorites]


I can't afford to go to a reunion until I finish paying off my student loans so I won't be grappling with this until the 30 year reunion.
posted by srboisvert at 8:28 PM on October 21, 2012


I went to my 5-year high school reunion, and was kind of a dick. I left before the food fight. Ten year, I skipped - that's the one where wives were invited, and I hadn't had a date in three years. Fifteen was stag again - to go easy on the guys who were divorced, I guess - and many of the guys seemed jealous that I didn't have kids; as though that option hadn't occurred to them. I actually spent an hour discussing microbrews with a former bully that, back in senior year, I'd threatened to [redacted, read your Elfquest]. I think everyone was too drunk to hate each other.

I've not attended any college "reunion"s. I was barely in a class; as a commuter I didn't do much in the way of orientation. I graduated late due to a terrible advisor (cost me a summer's tuition, too). Between working every weekend, 20-credit semesters, and sleeping in my car I made no friends in college. Hell, a friend of mine from childhood (who didn't go there) still talks to more of the people in my "class" than I do. And the University gave Phyllis Schlafly and George Will honorary doctorates, so my donation is the debasement to my degree.

Bleargh. This sounds pretty much like "rich people problems". "This" being both the essay and my own bitching.
posted by notsnot at 8:33 PM on October 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Interesting. College meant nothing to me, socially speaking. I don't have a single friend I met during my time at BU. I have friends and memories from that period of my life, just none affiliated with school. I can relate to the feeling of possibility she summons here, but I mostly feel it in relation to myself rather than attached to all these other people. I guess mine is the introvert's version of the story or something.
posted by mykescipark at 8:33 PM on October 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


"We"?
posted by LogicalDash at 8:34 PM on October 21, 2012


Whoa right after I clicked on this I clicked onto facebook and found I had been invited to my 10 year high school reunion.

I'm scared.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:35 PM on October 21, 2012


I saw pictures from my 10 yr reunion (I would have gone but my friends weren't and tix were expensive because it was at a super fancy hotel) and almost every single guy that had been considered cute had lost their hair and gone doughy. It was shocking how the sort of cute guys just lost their cuteness in a short period of time. Men looking better with age is just for some Hollywood actors (excluding Leo DiCaprio).
posted by discopolo at 8:41 PM on October 21, 2012


We had our 20-year high school reunion a couple of years ago in 2009, just when Facebook was really accelerating in growth. I would get repeated invites from the reunion organizers - good on them - to attend the reunion, presumably because they wanted to ensure the event would break even.

I didn't go, mostly because I hated the people I went to high school with (or, more correctly, they hated me), and I'm quite glad I did not go - apparently the highlights of the even were two "girls" making out, and two "girls" fighting over some boy. Bunch of jerks.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:41 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the end of the essay:
I walked around, as Wallace Stevens had it, an ordinary evening in New Haven, and thought about an old professor, recently accused in lurid prose by a classmate who claimed he had plopped his “boneless hand” on her fleshy thigh. Whatever. Sure, he was interpersonally icky, but from him I’d learned to love Stevens.
That would probably be Harold Bloom and Naomi Wolf. Whatever?
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:45 PM on October 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


But I am thinking of going to my 10 yr college reunion because of the kickass alumnae magazine. I love reading about everybody---they write in about their divorces, their illnesses, their kids, their career changes, every crazy thing they do. Some are boastful, some are not. It's really nice.
posted by discopolo at 8:47 PM on October 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not going to my 10 year hs reunion because I'm not really they type who wants to sit and explain my non-traditional lifestyle to people I don't really like.

You killed the president of Paraguay with a fork?
posted by asterix at 8:48 PM on October 21, 2012 [22 favorites]


Because of trans issues, I get enough awkwardness in my everyday life without going to reunions. Yuck.
posted by jiawen at 8:49 PM on October 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


One of the Big Mistakes I made in my life, I think, from a social aspect, is not having spent the extra $4K (!!!) a year to live on campus in College. As it is, notsnot above describes my college life exactly, except I dropped out. Who knows, I may even have graduated. As it is, a particular class I took in HS senior year is my touchstone for fondly remembered friends who I've mostly lost touch with.
posted by maxwelton at 9:00 PM on October 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow, there seem to be a lot of strong feelings about high school reunions!

I'm not directly in touch with anyone from my high school, a small magnet high in Rochester, NY. My graduating class had something like 105 people in it.

I now live in Maryland. By a strange coincidence, someone from my grade is now a graduate student in the department where I got my undergrad. Another person a grade behind me is now finishing up her PhD in physics at the university where I work.

I'm Facebook friends with a couple other former classmates and schoolmates, and I sort of know what some of them are doing. One wanted to be an animator, went to school to do animation, and now, go figure, works in animation on the west coast. One person is finishing a PhD in atmospheric physics in the Midwest. The avant-garde girl from high school finished a law degree. A few people are still in Rochester, doing this and that.

I occasionally see the Facebook pictures: people staying in touch, keeping up with each other, celebrating each other's birthdays. A couple times I wondered whether I should do more to reach out to former classmates, you know, to build that sense of continuity in my life. But I wasn't especially good friends with anyone in HS. I sort of orbited around the artsy kids, the teachers' kids, but never really became one of them. The few random run-ins I had were awkward and quiet.

My school was small enough that regular class-year reunions aren't practical. I get very occasional announcements about alumni events, usually supporting some kind of alumni performance, or a fundraising event, or whatever. But it doesn't seem to warrant going back to Rochester to talk to people I spent four years uneasily coexisting with.
posted by Nomyte at 9:02 PM on October 21, 2012


Mixed feelings about attending a class reunion? The Indigo Girls: Reunion. (lyrics, background) Amy Ray's meditation on attending her 10th high school reunion.

After going to my 20th high school reunion, which was an odd mix of elation and disaster, I've used this song for reflection quite a bit.
we act empty and innocent
but we are fueled by distortions
of lives led in discontent
trading misfortunes
cause faith is one thing
that is hard to deliver
it feels so funny to be free
Seems apropos to this post somehow.
posted by hippybear at 9:02 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Men looking better with age is just for some Hollywood actors (excluding Leo DiCaprio).

Hey now, no getting personal.

That would probably be Harold Bloom and Naomi Wolf. Whatever?

That "whatever" jumped out at me, too. It was a very odd note, out of place with the rest of the essay.

Personally I skipped my ten year reunion for exactly the reasons of not wanting to have to have dozens of conversations about my lack of conventional success in terms of work or family or much of anything at that point. Now that I'm headed rapidly towards my 20th, and am at least on a path towards some measures of success, even if it remains a bit elusive, I'm still not very excited by the idea of going.

I'm friends with the people I want to be friends with; I enjoy the blurbs in the "class notes" section of the alumni magazine; but college was just one moment in my life and not nearly the most important or transformative. The way the alumni magazine plays up the nostalgia and tells a story of how central the college years were meant to be just doesn't resonate with my own life.
posted by Forktine at 9:06 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I saw pictures from my 10 yr reunion (I would have gone but my friends weren't and tix were expensive because it was at a super fancy hotel) and almost every single guy that had been considered cute had lost their hair and gone doughy. It was shocking how the sort of cute guys just lost their cuteness in a short period of time. Men looking better with age is just for some Hollywood actors (excluding Leo DiCaprio).

Lots of non-Hollywood men look better as they age, but they tend to be the type who looked skinny and/dweeby in high school. People who were good-looking as adolescents often seem to grow out of their looks, while others grow into them. There are exceptions, of course.
posted by jb at 9:09 PM on October 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not going to my 10 year hs reunion because I'm not really they type who wants to sit and explain my non-traditional lifestyle to people I don't really like. I hate how you have to wait until the 20 year anniversary for everyone to just be chill about life and not worry what everyone else thinks.

I wouldn't want to go to my high school reunion because the people I went to high school with would take it as an offence if I were to talk about the neat things I interested in and doing, or my education and aspirations. Because anyone who does neat stuff and interests or has gone somewhere else obviously thinks they're better than everyone else.

I don't care if other people aren't very smart. I just care if they get threatened and angry when they find out that you're smart.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:10 PM on October 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you didn't wake up in the morning hoping a rock from space had turned your high school into a smoking crater, there was something very, very wrong with you.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:11 PM on October 21, 2012 [13 favorites]


You… didn't like your high school years?
posted by Nomyte at 9:15 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


High school reunion? There are many, many better things to do.
posted by parki at 9:16 PM on October 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


College reunion? Now that would be fun.
posted by parki at 9:17 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


wow some bitter people here. Cheer up mates.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:18 PM on October 21, 2012


AElfwine Evenstar: "wow some bitter people here. Cheer up mates."

I'm a happy person, mainly because I've been able to put quite a lot of distance (physical and otherwise) between myself, and both my High School and college.

It turns out, the grass actually was greener on the other side.
posted by schmod at 9:21 PM on October 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


10 year HS was a bit bogus.

20 year HS was great, everyone had chilled out, was getting old, no one really gave a shit what other people thought of them, so it was a good time.

30 year wasn't as good, as now more people are dropping dead, having health issues, or divorcing their high school sweethearts. Still, wasn't bad.

Looking forward to 40.
posted by Windopaene at 9:29 PM on October 21, 2012


I hated my high school years, but I would never bomb the building: the school and the teachers weren't the problem (I lucked out with a very good school and some excellent teachers). The worst thing about being a teenager are the other teenagers.
posted by jb at 9:30 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I saw pictures from my 10 yr reunion (I would have gone but my friends weren't and tix were expensive because it was at a super fancy hotel) and almost every single guy that had been considered cute had lost their hair and gone doughy.

I went to an arts high school, and a bunch of my classmates were literally part-time models. I was surrounded by absolutely gorgeous people all day, and it used to wreak havoc upon my fragile teenage psyche. (They were really sweet kids, mostly... But I was a sloppy mess and they were just so annoyingly perfect.) I didn't go to the 10-year reunion, but I did see the pictures and it was amazing how so many of my classmates looked a lot older than I would've expected for 28-ish. The guys were fat and bald, the girls all had eye bags and these big hammy arms straining against the straps of their too-small dresses. It made me sad... I didn't get to see them mature gradually, it was like we just cut from them being young, ambitious and beautiful to middle-aged, saggy and stressed-out. Damn you, Father Time.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:33 PM on October 21, 2012


I did my 25th high school a few years ago. I'm glad I waited that long to go because I could be mellow about it. I couldn't have before then. But that's on me and not on my high school.
posted by immlass at 9:41 PM on October 21, 2012


Yeah, high school and college reunions are pretty different beasts. My 10th-year high school reunion was actually way better than I expected it to be - obviously a little awkward, but still fun. Even though the people I was closest with then were mostly no-shows, I got to reconnect with some others, and for a few people enough time had elapsed that I got to hear much more of their personal take on high school, which was often pretty different from what I'd imagined. The person who organized it did a great job keeping it low-key (cook-out and drinks) so that helped a lot.

My 5th-year college reunion was more like what the article described - a lot of fleeting conversations along the lines of "hi, how are you, oh you went into finance? cool," a lot of meticulously constructed nostalgia, a lot of sensing that I should be feeling things that I wasn't.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:46 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


mykescipark: I had a pretty similar experience with college. I still have a few college friends from my college days. But my college run was largely unorthodox, and I don't really feel the connection to / identification with the place, or most of the people, as a result. I'd say I largely had more personal experiences with the people I went to high school with, if we're talking strictly about people who attended the institution (as opposed to, say, all of the friends I had outside of school, while in college).

I don't think I'll ever end up at either student body's respective reunions. In the article, the author ponders the reasons people do not attend reunions:
Or is it that their lives are full and rich and varied and that college was only a steppingstone to better things? That they are looking forward rather than back?
I think this probably most closely describes my reasons for not attending. That stuff happened, it shaped my life, and I grew from it. But it's over. I'm not that person anymore. And the further away from that period of time that I get, the less I identify with the experience.
posted by Brak at 9:53 PM on October 21, 2012


I went to my 10-year high school reunion. I was still single, and about 80% of everyone else was married. About 90% of the marrieds had kids; there were plenty of pregnant women, too.

I was kind of dreading running into some people. A few folks I thought were jerks in high school turned out to be really friendly. Either they changed or I had misjudged them back in high school. And a few people I considered my friends back in high school were now jerks. Either they changed or I had misjudged them back in high school.

Fast forward to my twenty year reunion. I'm now much further away, and it would've entailed me traveling a long, long way and considerable expense, so in the end I decided not to go. I was disappointed, until I checked the pics of the event on Facebook. Wow. The ten-year reunion was huge, with about half of my graduating class showing up. The twenty-year? About 35 people showed up, and I didn't know half of them. And the other half I didn't really like. Even people who lived in town, mere blocks from the hotel where it was held (Mike, you know who you are) decided to bail on the second round. Rather sad in a way, but I'm sooo glad I decided not to go.
posted by zardoz at 10:04 PM on October 21, 2012


Lots of non-Hollywood men look better as they age, but they tend to be the type who looked skinny and/dweeby in high school. People who were good-looking as adolescents often seem to grow out of their looks, while others grow into them. There are exceptions, of course.

That's what I keep telling myself.

Any day now, verb... any day...
posted by verb at 10:15 PM on October 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


Am I the only adult in America whose high school years have no particular emotional resonance one way or the other?

I had some close friends in high school and was mutually indifferent with the rest. Some good experiences some bad. Didn't learn a lot. After four years they let me go.

High school summers I went on long backpacks by myself or worked as a caretaker for the Green Mountain Club and have all kinds of fond memories. College was memorable. Lot of stuff left an impact. But high school? I have very few memories.
posted by LarryC at 10:35 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I didn't actually graduate from either my high school or my college. I just sort of drifted on. I can't even really remember what year I did it in. So there's little hope of me sort of crashing a reunion.

I don't know if anyone would remember me. I was alternatively quiet and withdrawn, and angry and spike. Mostly I was that guy who sat in the corner drawing. Now I'm a fortysomething lady.

Which I guess might be good for some shock value? If I could be bothered to figure out what year's reunion is roughly appropriate, and bothered to go back to New Orleans.

But I don't really feel like there's a past to return to in high school or college. They were both pretty grey, emotionless, uneventful parts of my life. The closest I've ever come to feeling there were old community connections being dug up was going back down to Los Angeles for the funeral of a friend from animation school; there were several people I knew from school, or from the place I worked for a while. My new look was duly admired, some axes were buried. I haven't been back since.
posted by egypturnash at 11:07 PM on October 21, 2012


high school reunion? Ha! I'll never go. For one thing, it was a super strict Christian school. And according to Facebook, my classmates consider themselves to be above the sinful activities of drinking, dancing, and music that contains electric guitars, drums, and bass. So what it comes down to is: if I can't drink and dance at a reunion party, then I'm not going.

I went to a large state university, with a student body that was mostly made up of commuters. I never had a clique or a gang. Just a few cool friends here and there. So, I'll keep up with my friends on my own ... but in terms of a reunion, I am completely uninterested.

I must be antisocial or something.
posted by Xere at 12:22 AM on October 22, 2012


dunkadunc: "If you didn't wake up in the morning hoping a rock from space had turned your high school into a smoking crater, there was something very, very wrong with you."

If you did wake up in the morning hoping a rock from space had turned your high school into a smoking crater, there was something very, very wrong with your high school. If your high school was not fucked up, that doesn't mean there was something "wrong with you", it means you were lucky.
posted by Bugbread at 2:30 AM on October 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


The really strange thing to me living in Japan (from time to time) and being married to a Japanese woman is how strong old school ties are here. My wife will sometimes stay in touch with people she went to elementary school with - they'll have gatherings every few years, and I know a lot of Japanese people like that. The bonds are very strong, stronger than my cohort back in Canada.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:36 AM on October 22, 2012


I don't quite get what a "College" re-union is. The Universities in Australia are huge and your class mates are constantly changing from class to class and year to year. I had a bit of an extended gang but I continued to see them all constantly for years afterwards and they were from all different year groups/ graduation years.
posted by mary8nne at 5:48 AM on October 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Woman who worked as an editor for scholarly presses, is published widely, including several books, including a best seller on the college admissions process, who does "very selective college admissions consulting" on her time off from her day job as a professor, writes of feeling poor, odd, less successful at her college reunion? If that's not "successful in the traditional sense," even for the Ivy League, I'm baffled. I was expecting someone in retail, or middle management, or derailed by a chronic illness or a family emergency or disabled child. Of course, then I really don't think she would have schlepped to the reunion.
posted by availablelight at 6:09 AM on October 22, 2012


high school reunion? Ha! I'll never go. For one thing, it was a super strict Christian school. And according to Facebook, my classmates consider themselves to be above the sinful activities of drinking, dancing, and music that contains electric guitars, drums, and bass. So what it comes down to is: if I can't drink and dance at a reunion party, then I'm not going.

You think you had it bad? I was homeschooled.

Imagine being trapped in a high school reunion
...every
 ...single
  ...day
posted by verb at 6:16 AM on October 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Seeing as my 20th HS reunion is coming up next year, I've actually thought about this for some time. I went to three different high schools (all 3 in my junior year, before going back to the second one in my senior year) but my senior year was my favorite. I avoided reunions for so long because, due to low self-esteem issues, I never went to college and I frankly found HS reunions seem to come off as people trying to compare who's better off financially or who is more "successful", whatever the hell that means as a unified definition.

However, I'm getting ready to finish my undergrad degree and pursue my Masters. I have a wonderful wife and two lovely little boys. That would make next year's reunion a prime opportunity to strut my stuff and show everyone how much I've grown.

Except I'm probably not going.

To be perfectly honest, class reunions have outlived their purpose: to catch up with people whom you haven't seen in sometime or haven't thought about. Social media has changed this for us in developed countries. Why the hell would I want to go spend money to drive the 8 hours down there when the people who I actually want to keep in contact with, I already do on Facebook? Shit, I know their daily ponderings and such and I'm happy with that. I am given a small personal window into their everyday lives but not often overwhelmed by intricate details. Hell, I have people who were friends that I attended elementary and junior high with, then lost contact with for 20+ years before stumbling into them again.

I went to DoD high schools for most of my HS career, so I don't really have much to complain about on that level. It was pretty much the same high school experience we all had to some degree. However, despite not having the author's "success", I do think that attending those are a mistake until you are comfortable with who you are as a person. Unfortunately, some people never figure that out.
posted by Chocomog at 6:46 AM on October 22, 2012


High school was a fun time. I'd get into all kinds of hi-jinks with my two best friends, Ralph & Pottsie. Sometimes, we'd just go to Arnolds for a burger and a malted. If we didn't have a dime for the jukebox, our friend could make it play with a simple pound of his fist. Hell, he could make it play songs it didn't even have!

I miss high school.
posted by dr_dank at 7:11 AM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love attending college reunions (same school as Rachel Toor) more and more each time because the success we've achieved (or not) matters less and less. It's wonderful to spend time with people present at the transition from youth to adulthood: it makes me feel truly known and still loved. So here are the lyrics to the alma mater she mentions, which makes me tear up whenever our class sings it together:

Bright College years, with pleasure rife,
The shortest, gladdest years of life;
How swiftly are ye gliding by!
Oh, why doth time so quickly fly?
The seasons come, the seasons go,
The earth is green or white with snow,
But time and change shall naught avail
To break the friendships formed at Yale.

In after years, should troubles rise
To cloud the blue of sunny skies,
How bright will seem, through mem'ry's haze
Those happy, golden, bygone days!
Oh, let us strive that ever we
May let these words our watch-cry be,
Where'er upon life's sea we sail:
"For God, for Country and for Yale!"
posted by carmicha at 7:15 AM on October 22, 2012


Overheard in a very crowded college bar just two weekends ago. "Let's stay near this booth, these old guys have to be leaving soon."

I was in the booth.

I love going back to college for homecoming. The friends I made there are still my best friends in the world, and even though we are all in fairly constant contact via Facebook, nothing really replaces holing up in our favorite college pub and going through a few pitchers as we catch up. Noting really replaces college bar prices either.

Although, I did have to relearn the lesson that at my age, I really should not be eating White Castles after midnight.
posted by COD at 7:34 AM on October 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've totally forgotten - I went to someone else's reunion on their behalf, as a surprise.

My friend Colin went to the American School in London for his junior and senior years of high school (his father was a professor on sabbatical). A couple years ago, when I was getting ready for my first trip to London, he noted that my trip was the same weekend as his reunion; he wasn't going, so he joked that I could stop in on his behalf and say hi.

....I took him up on it - I wrote the alumni board and explained the situation, and asked if there was some kind of reunion swag I could pick up for him. They put together a whole little package of souvenir programs and a picnic blanket and water bottle, and I picked them all up at one of the events and had a lovely chat with a couple of alums. I then brought their good wishes along to present them to a very surprised Colin.

He's already in regular touch with the people he wants to be, and he got some swag without having to truck all the way to London, so he jokes that he got the the best of both worlds.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:37 AM on October 22, 2012


My five year high school reunion was held in a field at a farm in the middle of nowhere. A kegger with BBQ. I stayed about an hour and then left, because it was exactly the kind of party I had avoided in high school. Little more than people getting puking drunk, being stupid, and treating me just as they had in high school.

Still sore about the five year one, I skipped the ten year reunion. I decided to go to the fifteen year one, because I had a husband to go with me. At least if it was more if the same, I had someone to have fun with. It ended up being pretty great. A number of my friends were there, and some of the people who has been assholes had grown up a lot and even apologized for being assholes to me in the past. I left feeling slightly more positive about my classmates.

I wasn't able to make it to the twentieth reunion, because of work and whatnot, and when the twenty fifth rolled around, I wasn't sure I wanted to go. Maybe better to leave it alone on the good note of the fifteenth. But I heard one of my dearest friends who I hadn't seen since graduation (had moved overseas) was going to be there, and my new husband wanted to go, so we went. It was once again held in a field at a farm out in the middle of nowhere. A kegger with BBQ. Spent our time there hanging out with my old friend, and when she left, we decided to go too, because people were getting drunk and stupid.

Unfortunately, at some point, my car keys, which had been clipped to my purse, had seemingly unclipped themselves and walked off. The husband wanted to look for them (in a field, in the dark), but I informed him I wasn't going to give them the satisfaction of seeing they had gotten to me. I hot wired my car, and we left. The next day I heard that my dear friend had been in a head on crash with a drunk driver on her way home and was dead, and two weeks later I went out to that field and located my keys in a patch of cactus.

I'm pretty sure I won't be attending any more high school reunions, and it has nothing to do with my level of success or lifestyle or any other such thing. It's because the only people who attend mine are assholes, probably because the majority of them were assholes in high school. No sense going out of my way to spend time with assholes having parties in cow pastures and pretending we're still in high school.

And if my college has reunions, I wouldn't even know. The people who mattered to me then I am still in contact with, and I wouldn't want to travel all that way to hang out with people I don't know or remember.
posted by Orb at 7:43 AM on October 22, 2012


I enjoyed my 20th high school reunion, if only to see the current models in the flesh.

College I have little interest in.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:45 AM on October 22, 2012


If that's not "successful in the traditional sense," even for the Ivy League, I'm baffled.

After having 20 years to establish her career and finances, she needed to ask Yale for financial aid to attend her reunion. Granted, round trip airfare from the west coast to New Haven can run around $500-700, plus another few hundred for hotel and a likely reunion registration fee, so the weekend trip would cost her about $1000, more if she was bringing a spouse or a child. So, not exactly a cheap proposition, mostly because of the airfare.

On the other hand, they start sending out email and mail about landmark reunions about a year in advance, so you have alot of time to save up. And you can save hotel money by staying further out, or sometimes they may even let people stay in the dorms.

I guess what I'm saying is, if you need to ask Yale for money to attend your 20 year reunion, I can understand why you would say you have not achieved success in the traditional sense. Maybe she worked admissions for them and has a relationship with them that made her comfortable in asking. After the education I received there, the financial aid they gave me for that education, and the leg up their name and reputation gave me in the work force after graduation, I would be too embarrassed to ask them to subsidize my reunion attendance.
posted by onlyconnect at 8:25 AM on October 22, 2012


A Colin story again, speaking of Yale - that was his graduate school, and New York is only a couple hours away from Yale by commuter train. But he still blows off any New Haven events and sticks to going to occasional events at the Yale Club in New York because even Metro North isn't worth the bother for him.

(That's an interesting question - how many people blow of reunions in lieu of going to their university's local club events?)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:41 AM on October 22, 2012


I went to my husband's 10 year high school reunion. We'd been dating about two years. What was amazing to me was how easy it was to identify who had been an OK person in high school and who had been a total waste of enzymes, even when I hadn't known them.

Because we'd been together for a while and had just bought a house, "boyfriend/girlfriend" seemed a little inappropriate to the setting, but nothing else was really accurate, so he was introducing me as his "partner in crime." At one point, a guy whom I later learned had been my husband's primary bully in high school came over, just full of attitude -- I don't know if I can explain it, he just had this meanness and swagger like he expected people to be intimidated and get out of his way. Then he saw my husband and his eyes gleamed, and he yelled out his last name and came over with a smirk. "How's your life going?"

"Pretty well," said my husband. "I work at {large software company in Redmond}. This is my partner in crime, Kathryn."

The guy stuck out his hand, and I shook it. He clamped down on my hand tight and drew me in a little closer, his smirk deepening into a sneer, and said "Oh really! What kind of crime?"

"Sodomy, mostly," I said blandly.

Man, you'd have thought I was wearing a joy buzzer the way he dropped my hand; he blanched, stumbled backwards, and spent the rest of the night avoiding us. I'm not sure any other reunion will ever top that, so I figure I just won't go to any others.
posted by KathrynT at 9:31 AM on October 22, 2012 [36 favorites]


Class reunions? If I want to know how my high school football champion is doing, I'll ask him next time he's over to mow my lawn.
posted by porn in the woods at 10:16 AM on October 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Didn't go to my 10yr HS reunion, cannot imagine the shambles my life would have to be in to make attending the 20yr one an interesting or appealing idea. College reunions? I might attend just to get into some drunken fisticuffs with the relentless alumni donations idiots who think they're getting my help in manifesting destiny all over downtown NYC.

i do, however, attend NYC nightclub reunions. some things are sacred. like NASA.
posted by elizardbits at 10:44 AM on October 22, 2012


(That's an interesting question - how many people blow of reunions in lieu of going to their university's local club events?

In my experience (former President of the my local alumni club) the people most active in the club are the same people most likely to regularly go back for Homecoming.

I've been out 22 years, and I think I've been back to campus 6 or 7 times? But 3 of those trips were probably the first 3 years after I graduated, when I still had friends on campus. I went back this year, and it had been about 5 years previous to that.
posted by COD at 11:14 AM on October 22, 2012


Relative to my classmates, I'd look like a total slackass loser at my university reunion, but I'd look like a total fucking genius at my high school reunion, so it'd kind of balance out. If I bothered to go to either.
posted by Rykey at 11:38 AM on October 22, 2012


Sarah Hepola on memories of high school, college, and her twentieth high school reunion.
posted by onlyconnect at 1:54 PM on October 22, 2012


College reunion? I went to a big ol' public school, so I don't think I have to worry about that. High school, however...I thought these days we weren't supposed to have reunions any more because Facebook exists?

Happily, whoever was supposed to plan the 10-year didn't get their shit together. I have one remaining friend from high school and back then she said she'd drag me if necessary. Now that (oh god) we're at 15, I dearly hope nobody gets their shit together to plan one for this year. And my friend is now married, so I say she can drag him and leave me home. Because in all honesty, I don't have an interesting job or SO or children (I'm sure nobody would be surprised to hear that), so I would have nothing to talk about and be a giant loser there anyway. It's one of the reasons why I skip Facebook too, come to think of it. I don't need to know what others are doing because I always lose in comparison, and as far as I can tell, that's what reunions in the first few go-rounds are like.

Meanwhile, my mom is so yay reunion that she was on the 40 year planning committee, made a bunch of friends, and had a good time. Of course, that's because folks back then didn't leave town much, so reunion pretty much boils down to "everyone's still here."
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:15 PM on October 22, 2012


My five-year high-school reunion is coming next month. I feel ambivalent about it. The old classmates on my Facebook feed all seem to be doing well: One can deadlift her body weight several times over; another went to Cuba to study; and another is in a successful local band.

Because I haven't done anything as interesting as that, and because I've failed to do anything with the potential my teachers told me I had, the idea of going intimidates me. Moreover, I still resent the contempt and mockery I got in high school.

I deserved some of it: If I had met someone as simultaneously pedantic and ignorant as I was, I would have mocked him at least as harshly.

That said, I didn't deserve all of it. My class's valedictorian once wrote on Facebook that I looked like a pedophile. I'm unattractive, and was no less so back then, but that remark crosses a line. I didn't know of the insult until earlier this year, when someone revived the thread. I wanted to throttle the guy. I had respected him back then. I hadn't thought he was one to kick dogs when they were down.

I've since forgiven him. No one is really themselves in high school. I, for one, was trying to keep my parents, who used my brother and me as bargaining chips in their divorce proceedings, from abandoning me. I went along to get along, and I didn't do anything that made me happy. My mother even forced me to go to the prom, and it was a predictably miserable time.

Now that I've separated my decisions from those of my parents, I think I can meet the accomplished people of my class without shame. They never knew me. I never knew them. It's worth the risk. I plan to arrive on time.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:02 PM on October 22, 2012


I cannot fathom voluntarily revisiting that era of my life. Yay, present day!
posted by Space Kitty at 4:42 PM on October 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Next year is my 25th, and I am skipping it, just as I've skipped all the others. Not because I don't think my life is interesting enough - I'm pretty pleased with my life, actually - but because my high school experience was a toxic mess that left a really foul taste in my mouth. When I had the opportunity to spend my Senior year abroad, I fled with both relief and delight. I see no point in spending time with people who made me miserable.
posted by MissySedai at 5:22 PM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I ain't going until I win the lottery; that'll show 'em!
posted by jadepearl at 6:13 PM on October 22, 2012


I went to my 25th HS reunion and had a ball, mostly because I was drug-addled. I have no lasting need to feel approved by any of those people, and i think that's why I had a good time.
posted by Bubbles Devere at 6:41 PM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the many high schools I attended had its 25th anniversary reunion this past weekend. The school closed in 1987, this wasn't so much a graduating class reunion as a catch-all for anyone who cared to attend, but it was mostly folks who were there the year it closed, which is when I was in Grade 11.

Just looking at the photos now on Facebook actually made me feel physically ill. Twenty-five years later! There are many tortures I would happily endure before I'd go to a high school reunion.

I can't even wrap my head around a university reunion. My university experience didn't look anything like the Yale experience the author describes, and besides, I'm still close with my friends from that era.

Now, elementary school, on the other hand, I would attend a Grade 8 class reunion in a heart beat. When Facebook hit critical mass it was former classmates I spent K-8 with that I was happy to find.
posted by looli at 7:41 PM on October 22, 2012


There's something like a Russian Facebook and I decided to make an account there for some reason. It pulled up a friend I had in elementary school.

I had a best friend in elementary school. I'd always been told to stop being so timid, so on the first day of first grade I consciously chose a kid, approached him, and said, "Wanna be friends?" It worked remarkably well. We were pretty much inseparable for three years.

A couple weeks into the 1993-1994 school year my mom decided that we should go live with the man who would become her second husband. I never saw my best friend again. Ever.

Anyway, so Russian Facebook pulls up this guy who matches on name, location, and approximate age. He has a brother five years his elder, just like my best friend did. I'm looking at the face and it's not really clicking for me. Maybe?

And to be honest, I don't care. Whoever this guy is, he's not Andrey from third grade. That was twenty years ago. That kid's gone now.
posted by Nomyte at 7:59 PM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


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