High school class reunions are funny things (in more ways than one). We spend 12 years trying our darndest to get out of school and, by extension, away from our classmates. Then, every decade or so, we migrate back together like humpback whales returning to their breeding grounds (hopefully without the breeding-but more like whales than we’d like to admit).
It’s as if those of us who graduated in the 1980s need an occasional reminder that permed mullets, parachute pants, and Wham! aren’t just the fantastical stuff of our recurrent nightmares—but elements of the actual trauma we managed to survive (with various degrees of psychological scarring).
Some folks avoid class reunions due to concerns about how their physical appearance may have declined over the years. I’m happy to say my looks have actually improved with time—unless you count my expansive love handles that grow more lovable with each passing Mexican dinner. I’ve also developed a reptilian skin flap under my chin that I’ve learned to flare out as a sort of mid-life mating call. So far, it just seems to give my wife a severe headache.
Speaking of my wife, in addition to her professional success, she has managed to stay slim and beautiful throughout our marriage. So when my 30-year reunion rolled around this year, I was anxious to show her off, proving to everyone that I was actually able to find someone to marry me without having to place an order with a suspicious overseas website. Believe it, or not, during high school, I wasn’t the loosely strapping (in places) dollop of post-dweeb manliness that I am now. I think the girls in my class thought of me as an annoying little brother who, with the right treatment, might reach puberty by his late twenties.
When my wife and I first arrived at the reunion venue, it was extremely dark inside, concealing age spots, wrinkles, and other blemishes on my sport coat. As “Don’t You Forget about Me” by Simple Minds roared predictably through the speakers, I noticed that most people were holding drinks, so bowing to peer pressure, I threw caution to the wind and ordered some of the hard stuff—a couple of Diet Cokes on the rocks. (This occasion was clearly too intense for Diet Dr. Pepper. )
After milling around and trying to decide how early we could leave without being noticed, I finally bumped into a couple of my former running buddies. Both have families and successful careers now, and it was just plain weird to stand there as adults discussing children and daily commutes when the main topics of our school days conversations probably made us permanently unfit to serve on the Supreme Court. It was good to see them, though, and to know that we all “made it,” despite the dangerous risk we once took with a Bic lighter and the aftermath of a Taco Bell bean burrito.
After catching up for a few minutes, it suddenly became clear that there was no chance of making a graceful exit. The reunion organizer was a vivacious classmate with enough blackmail material to coerce a few of us onto the dance floor for some organized humiliation—just like old times. The “game” involved pairing us up and forcing us to maneuver an inflatable ball between ourselves from our waists up to our necks without using our hands. Luckily, I was partnered with a female classmate whom I had somehow convinced to dance with me a few times when we were teens, so at least she was used to my deodorant. We actually did pretty well, probably because she runs marathons, and I run to Walmart about twice a week.
After my great victory on the dance floor, my wife was rescued from further embarrassment when our eldest and most expensive daughter texted us to come pick her up from whatever event she was attending that required a new outfit. Even though we couldn’t stay long, I’m glad I went to the reunion. And once my wife gets over her headache, maybe I can convince her to play that game with the ball.