As my husband and I recently attended our respective 20 year high school reunions, I realized these events are life’s bug zappers and we are but mere moths. We don’t really want to go, but we are compelled by “what ifs”, societal expectations and a shameless curiosity about how that one hot cheerleader and the kid who always ate his boogers really turned out in life.
Here are the lessons I’ve learned after surviving a few of these affairs:
Don’t stay home simply because you’re “not in a great place”.
Out of a job? In a tough season? Everything going to hell in a handbasket? Network the room, maybe someone has the connections you need to turn things around. Not convinced? Make up a life story and take a drink every time someone calls your bluff.
Set boundaries with your date before the big event.
Especially if it’s your spouse. And double especially if there is an open bar. Inebriation guarantees a drapey, “I always liked you” kind of vibe. Fond memories and funny stories from decades before can lead to some old flames being rekindled like those darn birthday candle that insist on re-lighting. Have a game plan for that. I’m fortunate that my husband was smart enough to turn on his heel and run when he realized the gal smooching every man in sight had her sights set on him next. Part of me thinks he didn’t want to be kissed. The other part of me thinks he didn’t want me to liberate her from a few of her teeth… I thought this was funny until my own reunion when another women literally reached out and honked my boobs. True story.
You may be surprised at how much healing can happen at a reunion.
As adults, we’re able to admit that we may have been unkind in our youth. There were more than a few apologies given at each reunion for how we treated one another back in the day, which meant redemption for a lot of people. I took the chance to thank the first kid who was nice to me when I moved to Florida, assured wives that their husbands were sweet gentlemen even as boys, and hopefully reminded people that their most memorable impressions were positive ones.
If you’re thinking of skipping it because you don’t remember anybody, reconsider.
I can’t remember my own kids’ names half the time. None of us remember anything from 10 years ago, or 20, or 50. If nothing else, you can “meet” the people you can’t remember and make new connections. If you take a “plus one”, coach your date to introduce themselves and ask for someone’s name if you aren’t lickety split with an introduction. It keeps you from revealing your dirty little secret and spares you from looking rude when you fail to make proper introductions.
Keep an open mind and treat everyone as if their story is inspirational.
We’re all just trying to get through this thing called life. We don’t all have the same survival kit. Maybe you have money, faith, family, employment and support. Or maybe you don’t. But you have no clue what the others have in their tool box. React to their stories with dignity and respect. Script some genuine and graceful responses you can draw on when someone shares a difficult journey they’ve endured since you last met. You’re likely to hear about battles with drugs, struggles with infertility, and lost loved ones.
Remember there’s no checklist for awesomeness.
At one reunion, a woman showed up alone but made a point to announce loudly at the beginning of every encounter that she is married and does have children, she just didn’t want to drag her husband there and make him participate. How sad. Sad because she had no regard for how that made others feel. Is being married more respectable than showing up alone? Because a lot of single people came alone. Was she only successful if she had children to show for her years since school? What about the childless among us? What were they supposed to tout for their opening line after that? And really? You are such a great wife for not making your husband come? HELLO! Wife who brought her husband right here! In her eagerness to defend her solo arrival, which was clearly uncomfortable for her, she’d just alienated most of the people in the room. Be proud of your story, but don’t assume your ending is any happier than the next.
You can do this!
Don’t bother trying to lose weight or find the perfect dress. Everyone else is focused on their own dress, I assure you. Put on something comfortable, prepare to be entertained, and pace yourself at the bar.
Oh, and try not to honk anyone’s boobs.