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Tirade of the Week


11.28.98

Ten Years! Ten!

My ten-year high-school reunion is this weekend. I'm not going. I'm definitely one with Queen Janeane in ROMY AND MICHELE: "I'd rather put this out in my ass." Or Minnie Driver in GROSSE POINTE BLANK: "I was just gonna be mean about them on the radio." The question isn't why I'm not going. The question is, why does anyone go?

I'm aware that some readers who are still in high school won't relate to class-reunion angst at all; you guys can skip this if you want. This is for the old-timers around my age. So herewith: ten reasons not to go to your ten-year class reunion. One for each year.

(1) THE PEOPLE YOU WANNA SEE, YOU SEE ANYWAY

Whether it's every few months, or every couple of years, or every few weeks, the friends I made in high school and want to stay in touch with are usually accessible. Even via e-mail or phone. Everyone else ... well, there's a reason I haven't seen them in ten years. If we didn't talk to each other in high school, why would we have anything to say to each other now?

(2) BEING 28 SUCKS ASS, DUDE

You might look young for your age, but seeing all these people from your past in one place again, trying to recreate a simpler time, really brings it home: you're not a kid any more. You're almost 30. You never get carded. You're worrying about hair loss or the effects of gravity. It's been a long time since you did anything questionable in the back seat of a car. You might as well just invest wisely, take up golf, monitor your cholesterol, and pick out a casket.

(3) "I DECIDED TO STOP MOPING ON THE SIDELINES AND GET IN THE GAME"

If you're doing pretty well, you get to see all your former classmates who aren't doing as well as you are. Depressing. And it brings out the smug competitor in you; it brings out every materialistic, capitalistic, elitist impulse that society teaches us. It becomes about who's got more. Who's making more. Who has more kids (see #5). In other words, it is kinda just like high school all over again ... and then, on the other end of the rainbow:

(4) "I WAS LOOKING FOR SOME VALIDATION BUT I GUESS I CAME UP SHORT"

In which case you get to see all your former classmates who are doing better than you are. Very depressing. I fit into this category; I work in a library, a profession not noted for its flashy paydays. I don't have my own car or my own apartment -- I live upstairs from my mom. Now, I don't feel there's any shame in this. Lots of people live at home, and most, like me, pay some sort of rent. But when you see all these people your own age, who have everything you're "supposed" to have at 28, shame walks in. You feel like a failure. Time is running out (see #2).

(5) "I'M NOT MARRIED, I DON'T HAVE ANY KIDS..."

"...and I'd blow your head off if someone paid me enough." Okay, maybe not the last thing. But the sight of all the breeders at the reunion -- they all have spouses, they've all reproduced, they're all just so fucking responsible -- can make you feel guilty for not joining the great family game and being selfish, hollow, pitiable creatures who resort to having pets or expensive toys to make up for not having children, etc.

(6) "IT WAS JUST AS IF EVERYONE HAD SWELLED"

This is kinda related to #2, except it's about appearances: Nasty as it sounds, it can be a real shock to see how just ten years have taken a physical toll on your formerly youthful classmates. If I see people who were more attractive than me in high school, who are now less attractive, it'll lead to a whole rainbow of negative thoughts ranging from smugness to depression.

(7) "I PEAKED AND I'M KIDDING MYSELF"

This is my theory: If you were the most popular, the most likely to succeed, the star of the gridiron, the head cheerleader, etc., you're probably sitting around in your patched-up, Heineken-smelling recliner, wondering what went wrong: Isn't the rest of life supposed to be as glorious as senior year? Whereas the nerds, geeks, weirdos, and misfits of high school now pull down six figures or at least upper-five. And even the lesser earners are doing what they want to do, whether or not they sleep between silk sheets. There was less pressure on them to succeed, less expectation for them to succeed ... and so they quietly succeeded, whether financially or simply in terms of making a satisfying life. The problem with peaking in high school is, well, you peaked in high school.

(8) "I DON'T KNOW WHAT I HAVE IN COMMON WITH THOSE PEOPLE ANY MORE"

So said Martin Q. Blank. And it's true. You've gone down a path of ten years; unless you're still living with your best bud from high school, a la Romy and Michele, you've made new friends, developed new interests, been in and out of serious relationships, gone places -- you're literally a completely different person than you were at 18. And so is everyone else in your class. So you're going to have a lot of conversations that begin with the dreaded words "So what have you been up to?" At which point you spit out a pithy synopsis of the last decade of your life; they do likewise ... and then, oh then, the awkward silence.

(9) TO THE WAYBACK MACHINE, SHERMAN

Reunions are about pretending it's 1988 again (or whatever year you graduated) for just one night. So the DJ at the party (if there is a DJ) breaks out the oldies -- and, knowing the boring people who dominate your class, the tunes aren't likely to be as cool as the ones in GROSSE POINTE BLANK. You're gonna get a lot of Bon Jovi and George Michael and Rick Astley ("Never Gonna Give You Up") and all the rest of the shit they played at your senior prom. Which, by the way, I didn't go to, either. So my no-show at the reunion is at least consistent.

(10) THERE'S ALWAYS THE 15-YEAR REUNION

Which gives you five more years to get a better job, have kids, get a hair transplant or a tummy tuck -- whatever needs to be done so that you can feel superior to your 33-year-old classmates. Because that's what it's really all about, isn't it?