Autobiography of a High School Reunion Dropout

Why I don’t go to my high school reunions.

Sheryl Kraft

Math has never been my strong suit, but I was forced to face the harsh reality of that the other day. My husband, who proudly belongs to his high school alumni association (yes, he gets a monthly newsletter!), reminded me that sometimes you just can’t ignore it.
“Do you realize this year will be my 35th high school reunion?”  He sounded so…old. Well, if he’s old, I thought, what does that make me? (I married a younger man. Can’t say I was as progressive as Demi Moore; I’ve got just three years on my husband. But I’ve been married longer than Demi, so I’ll just take the credit for starting that trend.)
Flabbergasted, I did some quick math (well, it’s never quick with me; I always want to grab a calculator. But since I was busy washing the dinner dishes, there was none handy.) So, I did the next best thing, doing some simple addition in my head.  Thirty-five plus 3…could it be? Thirty-eight whole years since I was back in high school? The thought was enough to make me to lose my appetite – except I’d just eaten.
In all those 38 years, I’ve never been to a reunion. Not once. I’ll admit that I’ve been tempted, but I’ve never gone ahead and done it. I have a friend that I graduated with and she has – happily, gleefully – attended some of them. In fact, she undertakes a frantic diet, exercise, beauty and shopping regimen months prior in anticipation of the “big night.”  It sounds absolutely exhausting. When she sends me photos, I cringe. I used to know all these people.  But who are these people – the ones in the digital photos? I take out my yearbook; my eyes scanning the once-familiar faces then go back to the grown-up versions, searching for any tell-tale beauty marks or bushy eyebrows. But then I realize that today, there’s laser and waxing and those could be totally yesterday’s news, after all.
Somehow, it’s a bit easier to see how young girls morph into women – after all, we all were practicing for adulthood back in middle school when we started wearing makeup and stealing our mother’s or older sister’s shoes and clothes. If I look real closely, I can still see something familiar in these now-women: that slick-straight thick hair, the signature heavy-lidded eyes, a hint of the same pouting expression. But the guys, well, most of them look so…different. Mostly because now they’re either bald or have beards covering the faces that used to be so…childlike. They’ve grown up – and some of them have grown out, too. Wide shoulders where there once were none, big paunches where there once was a slim 32-inch Levi’d waist.
But here’s the thing. I wasn’t one of those gorgeous, wildly popular girls. I was kind of quiet and shy, sort of gangly and kind of anonymous to anyone but my personal circle of friends. My high school days weren’t all that bad: I was in the school plays (but was never the lead); in gym, I always I was among the first chosen for the team (but was never the top scorer), I got asked out on dates (but never by the cutest boy I wanted to ask me out).
Yet some of my high school years were, if truth be told, not so great, either.  My parents went through a painful divorce. I was self-conscious and confused. And I’m sure, a bit depressed, too, although no one back then recognized depression.
Part of me says I just don’t care about going to a reunion.  If these people meant anything to me, then I’d be in touch with them, wouldn’t I? So why do I need to go, once a year, to reunite with people I have no other connection to than perhaps a teacher that’s no longer even here?
And there’s another part of me admits I might be a bit afraid. But I just can’t wrap my arms around what scares me (or should I say, what scares me more). Not being recognized, or being recognized and seeing that thought-bubble over someone’s head that I’m convinced reads, “Wow. She got so old. I can’t believe that’s the same person. What happened??

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