Twenty Years Later…

My high school reunion came, and then it went. I did not attend.

It wasn’t as though I were oblivious to the occasion. Plans were underway for quite some time, I knew about them, and I’ll admit that for the briefest of moments I did consider going.

I have a friend who couldn’t believe I was even entertaining the thought of skipping out on my 20th high school reunion.

“How could you do that?” she asked incredulously. “You have to go! You’ll have so much fun!”

I gave serious thought to her words for about five minutes. They were coming from someone whose high school experience greatly differed from my own. Her senior class had fewer than 50 kids. She lives in the same tightly-knit town she grew up in, the same one where most of the people she went to school with also still reside, and whose kids now attend the same school alongside her own—and mine. Everybody runs into each other all the time at the gas station minimart or while they’re stopped at the only stoplight in the center of town.

My high school? It had just under 250 seniors. Many of them—myself, included—fled from the city as soon as they were able, so 1994 Woodrow Wilson graduates have been spread across the country like seeds on the wind. Fourteen years, a marriage and two kids later, I finally settled down about 20 miles from where I grew up, but most of my closest friends from high school live nowhere near our hometown.

None of them are the type of people who would attend a high school reunion, anyway. That probably speaks volumes for the company I keep.

“But you have to go! It only happens once and you’ll regret it forever if you don’t!”

I heard those same words right around the time of my senior prom. I went to my prom because I didn’t want to look back one day in the distant future and regret not going. My boyfriend at the time took me to the only high school dance I ever attended but I don’t think he really wanted to be there, either. The deejay was terrible, the food was mediocre and definitely not worth the price of admission. At the end of the evening when we left—early—to go and shoot some pool at a friend’s house, I realized that prom was nothing but hype. Legend. A romanticized ideal perpetuated by teen movies and cautionary tales which reiterate a notion that one day we’ll regret the decision not to attend.

Prom was a waste of two hours of my life that I’ll never get back, so I decided that I wasn’t going to fooled by that advice a second time. The world would not end if I didn’t attend my 20th high school reunion and I certainly wouldn’t be missed.

Well, I’m pretty certain, at any rate. I did some online sleuthing out of curiosity but Facebook was oddly quiet after the event last fall; no one posted anything about it. For all I know, the plans fizzled out and nobody went.

Maybe we all had the same idea.

Thanks to decent genetics, I haven’t changed much in 20 years. My hair is different now. My breasts grew a couple sizes bigger after having kids but Gravity hasn’t had her wicked way with them yet; they look fantastic. Even better than when I was in high school, if I do say so myself. I marvel at them in the mirror sometimes. Seriously. They are incredible and they’re the source of all my power.

More importantly, I didn’t go to my reunion because I don’t feel the need to compare and contrast or compete with who’s got the most interesting life now. That seems to be the real reason that people attend these things, right? Not to catch up with one another, no matter how much we might convince ourselves of that noble goal, but to see who’s done exceedingly well for themselves, who’s turned into a raging alcoholic, who’s living in a cardboard box under a bridge. I don’t see the point. We’re all making our way through this world the best we can. What more is there to say about it?

Truth be told, I was also a little afraid to go because of a real possibility that no one there would even remember me. I was one of those “sweet” girls who got along with everybody, belonged to no cliques, didn’t do any extracurricular activities aside from working backstage for the drama department during my senior year. I was very plain. I didn’t stand out. I was entirely forgettable.

I’m left to wonder whether that isn’t a small part of the reason I dye my hair bright colors. People might not remember my name or my face, but they’ll remember seeing that chick with the pink hair, spotted only for an instant before being lost among the crowd.

That small aspect of myself has become one of the biggest parts of my identity. It’s also why, twenty years later, no one I attended school with would be likely to recognize me now. That’s probably for the best, I think. I don’t need to relive those “glory days” because they weren’t glorious. They were just… days.

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