Thoughts about my high school reunion
I attended my 20 year high school reunion this weekend. I attended my ten year reunion as well, and an informal, unofficial fifteen year one, but this one felt qualitatively different. One of my classmates said he thought this one felt “less cliquey” – people seemed more genuinely happy to see each other, to hear about each others’ successes. Another classmate echoed the same sentiments in her blog post today.
Of course, the flip side of that is that the people who choose to attend high school reunions are often a self-selecting group of people who feel like they’ve had some success, who feel good about themselves. I graduated with a class of about 650, and about 200 people attended the reunion. Six people have died. That still leaves a huge number of people who didn’t attend. I’m in touch with some of them and know they’re doing reasonably well, but what about the others? I still wonder about a number of them.
But that’s not actually what I wanted to write about. What I’ve been thinking about today, day two-post reunion, is this: In high school I was straight-identified and aside from a confusing month at theater camp, never thought for a second that I was anything other than straight. I came out as bisexual in college, but even then most of the people I’d been with were still men. I just happened to fall in love with a girl. Now, I’m a happily married woman who happens to be married to a woman, and I’ve been out for eighteen years. It’s so familiar and comfortable to me, I forget that for others, it’s an adjustment. Perhaps that’s why my high school boyfriend and prom date, who I was madly in love with, hasn’t friended me back on Facebook. I sent him an email explaining the shift in my identity, not wanting it to be too jarring to suddenly see me married to a woman, but haven’t heard back. Maybe he’s just not on Facebook much, or maybe his wife doesn’t feel comfortable with him having contact with exes. I don’t know. But after my reunion, I’ve been thinking about how adolescence is such a self-absorbed time, and we can so easily forget that people form impressions of us, those impressions stay, and then often we struggled to re-adjust. Did people find it hard to adjust their image of me? Did I just seem to be the same person? As far as I know, I was the only out queer present at my reunion this year. But there are other out queers in my graduating class who didn’t attend. Did they choose not to go because they didn’t want to deal with people having to re-adjust their images? And it’s not just about sexuality – some of my fellow alumni have chosen jobs or careers I couldn’t have pictured them in back in high school, some of them have made decisions that surprised me.
It occurred to me that attending high school reunions as an out queer is a political act at times, though probably less so with newer graduates. There were a few people in my graduating class who were out in high school, and in many high schools today there are even more. I checked the library database of my high school, and confirmed that the copy of It Gets Better, the book, has arrived an is on the shelf. And it’s been checked out! That makes me happy.
Time is a weird thing. Nostalgia is even weirder. In a way, it’s completely unnatural to put ourselves back in a place we haven’t been (emotionally or physically) for twenty years. And yet, there’s some craving for connection that propels me to do it. Some yearning to know that I’m not a self-absorbed adolescent any more, and neither are most of the people I graduated with. We can all adjust to each others’ new realities. We have to.