How many of you attended your high school reunions?
I read in a magazine once that your 10year reunion is usually the “show-off” one. Everyone shows off their other halves, they brag about their jobs, and purely by chance they mention the car they drive and where they went on their last holiday. A simple spit-braai that turns into a huge contest, while the men are downing shooters and the ladies are discussing those who are not in their circle of conversation at that given moment.
“My wife is a fitness instructor”.
“My husband is an architect”.
“We got married in Mauritius, an intimate ceremony with only 200 guests.” “Yes, we live in Bryanston”.
“We have just returned from a 3-week Mediterranean cruise”.
“My BMW 3 series has so much power that the cops couldn’t catch me on the N1 the other night”.
It is all about showing your old classmates how successful you have become since leaving school. That you are no longer that 2-meter slightly awkward beanpole, but that you have actually become quite muscular and attractive. Or that you have replaced your nerdy glassed with contact lenses and lost your plumpness since you started cycling. It is of course also an opportunity to rekindle friendships and maybe even a relationship that broke up as people grew in different directions.
Then, 20 years one, as everyone is heading towards the dreaded 40, the picture is slightly different. The beer bellies are out, and frankly, they don’t care that they are no longer driving that sporty BMW. A double cab Toyota is way more suitable for their changed lifestyle and their growing families. Some arrive newly single, or with a second wife or a friend. And instead of bragging about themselves and their successes, the focus changes to their offspring and their achievements. Karate champions, provincial netball players, rugby captains and little beauty queens. And the cellphones are full of pictures of their amazing kids. Parents living their dreams through their children.
I unfortunately cannot talk from experience, as I have never been to any of my school reunions. I was in three different high schools, and no, not because I was a menace or I was expelled! In five years we moved from Vereeniging to Kimberley to Vanderbijlpark. As far as I know at least two of my 1993 matric groups had 10-year reunions. Living in the UK at the time, I wasn’t able to attend any of these. 20 years on, two of my schools did have reunions, and yes, I contemplated attending both. Mainly because I am FOMO (fear of missing out), and extremely inquisitive and interested in people. But I then looked for every justifiable excuse imaginable, not to go. To either reunion.
The truth is, that firstly, I truly believed that no one would even remember me. Imagine arriving at your school reunion, introducing yourself to people you remember and they just look at you blankly?
“I use to sit behind you in Biology and you regulary slipped me answers? And in the holiday winter school we were part of the same group who went to Spur instead of attending extra Maths class.”
“No sorry, I don’t remember that.”
I would rather die a thousand deaths! SecondIy, I get quite anxious at the idea of going to places by myself and not having anyone to talk to. There is an Afrikaans phrase “sy staan daar soos ‘n muurblommetjie”. And that has always been one of my biggest “phobias”. Being this “sad case” person, awkwardly standing against a wall, hoping someone would pluck up the courage to talk to her, or ask her for a dance. Even today, I will never attend a party or a function if I did not know that there would at least bone person I knew and that I could chat to.
For many years, I did however have these visions of going to my reunion facing the girls who were nasty or the boys that never returned my affections. Imaging myself as this butterfly who escaped her cocoon before entering adult world. I few years ago, working as a receptionist at a private hospital, an old school acquaintance crossed my path. He brought an injured colleague in from a nearby building site. VB was one of the cool boys, who looked up his nose at my friends and me. And there he was, standing in front of me, with dusty clothes and dirty fingernails. I was my usual friendly self, without making too much of a fuss. While he was so obviously flirting with me, asking me where I lived, etc. And I was like “seriously, four years ago you didn’t even know me and now you want to know where I live?” Giving him the cold shoulder, made me feel like I at least got my own back in a tiny way!
Recently, after an old high school acquaintance passed away, a school whatsapp groups was formed and stories and photos are shared on a regular basis. We talk about our current lives, our kids, our holidays and we even ask for advice about school speeches and marketing our businesses. I wasn’t in matric with this group, and part of me wish I was. I never had that sense of belonging in my matric year. That feeling of being part of a special group of young people. It sounds like they share fond memories and formed special bonds. The whatsapp banter amongst everyone is light hearted and there is a sense of camaraderie between most members of the group. I do wonder though if the bond is also part of the 40somethings within us that crave to be those teenagers whose biggest worry was passing an English Romeo and Juliet exam or getting a date for the matric farewell? Oh to be those young adults again!
So what are your fond, funny or memorable reunion stories?