My friend KT recently had the Wardrobe Dilemma of a Life Time – one that I, myself, had been through just the previous year. It all came down to the selection of one outfit – a process that was vastly more important than choosing what we wore to the Year 12 Ball, to our university graduations, or even to our own weddings. You see, I’m talking about the task of choosing what to wear to a 20-year school reunion. You want to look attractive but not desperate. Youthful but not like someone who is clinging to their youth. Affluent but not flashy. Fashionable but not tragic. It’s a fine line to tread, especially when you’re lugging about all that emotional baggage left over from your high school years…
But listen, once you’ve chosen your outfit, the rest is relatively easy. No, really it is. Of course there’s still some residue fear – even after 20 years – that someone might call you a Pizza Face and give you a chinese burn but at least you feel like you’ll defend yourself better than just hiding behind your ridiculously long fringe and wanting to die. At least you hope you will.
My reunion ended up being a low-key affair: perhaps 30 people (of a class of 200?) trekked along to the same pub where we all were underage drinkers another life time ago. (An aside: don’t you just love those signs in bottle shops that warn “If you look less than 30 years of age, we reserve the right to ask for ID”. I always say to the guy behind the counter “Go on, make my day. Ask me. ASK ME!” and he gets slightly fearful and pushes the panic button for security to clear me away. Such larks!)
It’s interesting how a school reunion can end up being as much about who doesn’t turn up as who did. On the list of notable absentees: the guy who bullied me for a whole year in Maths and Science basically because I dared to do better than him and be a girl; the girl who went on to become an Actress of Some Note on Australian TV, who dissed me six years ago in the lobby of a hotel (KT – who was at the same school but one year below me – was kind enough to remind me that this same girl wore a dog collar to the Year 11 Ball – KT, I will always love you for that); and the guy who repeatedly broke my heart in a push-pull relationship because he was too embarrassed to let his friends know he liked an acne-ridden psycho-bitch. Ah, highschool. The best years of our lives? I think not. At least I hope the hell not.
The people who did turn up represented a broad selection of the various “groups” that made up our year – and I was pretty much pleased to see every single one of them. Luckily, the reunion format is a bit like speed-dating – you only really get two minutes with each person and never have to get into the nitty gritty questions like “Why have you become so fat?” or “What happened to your hair?” or “You were going to make something of yourself – what the hell happened?”. I had the rather dubious honour of being the only person who had flown interstate to attend – something my good friend AK made a point of telling everyone we spoke to. But listen, there were “other reasons” for my trip, actually… and hell, so what if I flew for four hours just because I’m curious! It’s the novelist in me, okay? And no, I haven’t actually ever published anything or even written anything for 6 years… Phew, our two minutes is up… Next!
In any case, the room was pretty much united by the appearance of a good old-fashioned Mystery Guest – every reunion needs one! In our case, it was a guy with dreadlocks looking cool in that “I’m dating a 20-year-old and my mother still does my laundry” kind of way and the night’s burning question became not “What ever happened to…” but “Who the fuck is that?”. It turns out not a single one of us in the room could remember him and when questioned closely, he was a bit evasive about who his friends were. I started to think he was some kind of serial school reunion attender researching his next novel called “My Year of Reunions”and was seriously considering if I should go up to him and pretend we’d gone out for two years and say stuff like “How could you forget that you took my virginity at the Year 10 River Rock, you bastard” just so I could get my own chapter in the book. However, it’s fortunate that I decided against this course of action in the end, because it turned out he wasn’t an undercover novelist at all, he was just confused. Whether it was due to an excess of drugs or all that bongo playing had addled his perception of time, he was in the year below ours and had just come to his reunion one year too early. And in which case, I really couldn’t be sure that I hadn’t had sex with him at the Year 10 River Rock (she says as if anyone had actually wanted to have sex with her at highschool).
Anyway, I was glad I went to my school reunion – though many people (my husband included) said they would rather eat their own hands than attend theirs. Nobody called me names. Nobody stood in a corner giggling and pointing at me (at least not obviously). And even if they did, I wouldn’t have cared (much). Because the real gift my reunion gave me was the realisation that I was actually in a pretty happy place with myself, even if that place was about a million trillion (zillion!) miles from where the 17 year old me thought she’d be by now. And that’s something worth traveling interstate for, now isn’t it.