I just received a reminder about my high school reunion, which is taking place this summer.
I tossed it straight into the circular file. As I said when I received the “Save the Date” notice last year, I don’t do reunions any longer. That’s what Facebook is for.
Besides, I’ve spent the last 40 years trying to forget the horrors of being a teenage girl at an American high school in the late 20th century — and I don’t need to spend an awkward evening with a bunch of my peers whose only thing in common with me is that we served time together 40 years ago.
I know – that makes it sound like high school was pure torture. That’s only half-true. It was also an exhilarating period of my life, filled with friends who I was convinced were all going to change the world. As I thought I would do — even though I was a socially backward skinny teen who had trouble making friends. I just knew that once I was an adult, all of that would change.
And for a while, it did. My first jobs out of college had a modicum of glamour. I interviewed rock stars for a living. I worked in television. I traveled.
And as much as I tried to forget the teenaged me, she refuses to stay buried. Today I’m a socially backward, pudgy middle-aged woman without a lot of real accomplishments under her belt. I don’t feel like affirming the opinions of those who won’t be surprised by that. That is, if anyone remembers me at all.
I might feel differently if I had moved away from here. But since I remain, a day does not go by when I am not reminded of something from my youth. Like yesterday, while driving my daughter and her friends home from a day at the beach, we ended up passing an apartment building that had been home to two of my high school friends who got married at 19. A block up the street we passed the hospital where another friend had some scary surgery. And across the street from there was the corner where another friend died in a car crash.
By the time I was 40, five of the kids I hung out with in high school had all died: Two suicides, one AIDS, one cancer and the aforementioned fatal accident. The couple that married too young eventually divorced, and after that I was dismayed to learn that the relationship had been abusive.
I suppose part of my reluctance to revisit those years is a fear of what I might learn about the real lives of my old friends.
Better to remember each other when we were young and had bright futures.
At least on Facebook, I can choose the side of myself I wish others to see.