The One Where I Went to My High School Reunion

High school reunion

My iPhone read 5:51 p.m. as I stripped off my royal blue top in favor of a white and silver striped one and pulled on black capris in place of a dark denim skirt. It was one of more than a dozen wardrobe changes in about twenty minutes and it left me wishing that I had brought more options with me from Chicago. The two dresses, two skirts and half a dozen tops just weren’t enough to choose from as I prepared to go to my twentieth (gulp!) high school reunion. And as soon as I walked into Washington Square Bar & Grill a half hour later, I was regretting that I left my royal blue shift dress hanging in my closet in Chicago.

Some things never change and unfortunately, my lack of good fashion sense is one of them.

Despite my regret about my wardrobe choices, the evening got off to a good start (although I did accidentally blow off a group of fellow classmates on my way in because I didn’t recognize them. Oops). Dinner with several other women in my class broke the ice and eased nerves (as did the two glasses of wine that came with dinner!). Once we finally made our way over to the main event, though, the evening was a blur. There were more than 500 people in my graduating class and word on the street is that more than 200 may have attended the reunion.

In some ways, it was like high school all over again.  Many people seemed to fall easily back into the same cliques, standing around in the same circles that they stood in at high school dances twenty years ago. I bounced from group to group, much as I did in high school, not really having a single solid group of friends like so many others did. And the people who intimidated me way back then still conjured a sense of awkwardness and insecurity (it’s amazing how you just never forget the people who made fun of your acne in 8th grade gym class!).

high school reunion

It also felt like we were back in high school because so many people – especially the women – looked so much the same! Despite twenty years and, for some, multiple kids, many looked just as good as or better than they did in high school. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit jealous. Despite my running and hiking and marathon training, I’m still a good 30 pounds heavier than I was back then and the extra pounds don’t seem to want to go anywhere any time soon. On the other hand, the guys were a bit less recognizable, many with thinner hair and wider belts (like I should talk!). The consensus seemed to be that this was entirely normal and that by our thirty-year reunion, it would all even out.

And while every single girl who has watched a few too many rom-coms secretly hopes she’ll attend her reunion and embark on a storybook romance with that cute guy she never had the nerve to talk to in high school, I was not destined to be that girl. My high school insecurities overtook me and I barely talked to any guy there, much less any who may have been cute and single (although my stealth pre-event Facebook research revealed that about 99.5% of those attending were married anyway).

Conversations ran the gamut, from poignant and sincere to horribly fake, with a little of everything in between. Friends have faced medical challenges and gone through divorces – one even changed her sexual orientation. Classmates who I thought were destined for great things didn’t quite live up to expectations and others have made life choices that I just never could have predicted.  People reminisced about things that I couldn’t remember at all (Phil from volleyball? Still can’t picture him!) or other moments I’d rather forget (like Senior Prom and most of the ten-year reunion!). Some of my favorite conversations – about running or travel, of course – were with people that I was never even close to in high school. I look back on those conversations and wish I would have made more of an effort to talk to people I never knew before, in hopes of discovering more of those connections.

high school reunion

I realized how many friendships I lost over the years that I wish I would have fought to hold onto – I drifted from so many people between junior high and high school for reasons I don’t even recall and I enjoyed talking with some of those people the most. I questioned other friendships as people I once considered close friends seemed to treat me with almost a mocking disdain (I would blame it on the alcohol but that’s when your true colors show through sometimes, right?). Those conversations couldn’t end fast enough. More than anything, I left appreciating those who have stood by me for more than twenty years more than ever before. There’s nothing like the friends you can see for the first time in years and pick up right where you left off.

I was also really touched by how many people mentioned that they followed my travels or read this blog – so much so that I really didn’t know what to say as many of you told me how impressed you are or that you live vicariously through me. It means a lot and I wish I could have expressed that better in the moment.

Facebook chatter the next day threw around the idea of trying to get 300 of us together in five years for our 25th reunion. I’m kind of already looking forward to it, but I hope to see many people much, much sooner!

Have you been to your high school reunion? How did it go?


7 thoughts on “The One Where I Went to My High School Reunion”

  1. Katie, it was fun to read about your reunion but then I read about Ali’s and OMG!!!!!! Ali, are you going to go back for the next reunion 😉

  2. This year should be my ten year reunion, but I have absolutely no idea if anything is going on for it. Plus, I’m in Taipei anyway, and no way would I fly back just to be in a room full of people who made my life miserable for seven years. I’m only in touch really with one person from high school now, and see another now and again when I go back home. Oh well.

    And as I said on Twitter, I’m disappointed at the lack of a grand Romy & Michele moment! 😉

  3. I attended my 40th high school reunion in 2011. Yes, I’m THAT old. I graduated from a solidly integrated, all girls, academic Philadelphia public high school in 1971. I knew one table of attendees from back in elementary school! We were a large class, 670, the boom of the Baby Boom. I was a nerdy, oboe playing, introvert back in 1971, but that was ok at our school. We supported each other. This helped as we were sent out into a world where many of us attended colleges and universities that had just begun accepting women, and when there were still urinals in the ladies room in law school because the builders could not have imagined so many women studying to become lawyers. I made new friends at that reunion—women who like me, have our lives etched on our faces. I’m looking forward to our 45th reunion—the year after my 40th college reunion next June which, si Dios quiere, I’ll attend with a classmate—my husband of 33 years.

  4. When I went to my 10 year high school reunion (8 years ago) my best friend and I had spent the day doing fun things like getting a makeover at the Clinique counter, getting haircuts, and getting massages. Little did we know that it’s not a good idea to drink the same day you get a massage, something about your liver processing all the toxins that were released during the massage and not being able to process the alcohol, so you get drunk quicker. So we ended up really, really drunk. I told my high school crush I had a crush on him back then. (He was actually a year ahead of me, but he was there with his pregnant wife from my class. Awesome.) I lost a ring I was wearing that I bought in Greece, freaked out about it and apparently made quite a scene. One of the bouncers at the bar where the reunion was taking place decided it was time for me to go. I have brief memories of struggling to get away from the bouncer, which is the only way I pieced this together. I was also told I fell and hit my head on the sidewalk outside. The high school crush and his wife drove me and my friend home, friend puking out the window. I was hungover for DAYS, and I think I may have hit my head twice because it hurt in two different places that wouldn’t make sense for just one fall. It was a bad night.

    1. Oh my…..I hope you can look back on it and sort of laugh about it now at least!

      I don’t remember much about my 10 year aside from drinking a lot as well. Luckily, for the 20 year, I had to drive myself home at the end of the night so I cut off the wine about halfway through and drank water the rest of the night, thus avoiding any stupid drunkenness! 🙂

  5. Love it! Thanks for your reminiscences. I think I’m going to write a blog post about it, too, and you beat me to a bunch of the observations I was going to make!

    1. Curiosity, that’s what it came down to.Thirty years of really not caring what happened to those I had attended school with. My life was built starting the day after graduation and my thought going into this was come monday morning my life would be right where i left it. Fear, insecurity, were nothing but self imposed baggage that at the end of things i was able to leave at the door on my way out. I returned to a sea of people whose names and faces i couldnt remember. The joke became “I dont know” when constantly asked who someone was. But despite the anxiety i realized that my biggest regret was never taking the chance to get to know some of these people then.. The friendships that were lost to time. I was reintoduced to some of the finest people i never knew. Granted there were plenty of those that i disliked then that didn’t disappoint now but overall it was a liberating experiance. One I would not have missed for the world.

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