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Ten Years Later

In Epiphanies on July 20, 2009 at 3:45 pm

I was tempted to say “I freaked out, joined the army, and now I’m a professional killer.” Tempted to say it, several times, but I didn’t. Nor did I tell anyone that I was a male stripper. I was tempted to say that, too. I told everyone the truth- that I’d been in Japan and was teaching English, and that I’m leaving again, next year. That got good enough responses, I suppose.

When asked why I was going to my ten year high school reunion, all I could really say that it only happens once. Yes, there are twenty and thirty year reunions, but it’s the ten year that really counts. That’s the one that everyone talks about, that gets made into movie scenarios and is supposedly so jarring. The ten year reunion is where you see that everyone has turned into adults, where the ugly ducklings have all turned into swans, or where the former prom queen got fat. That, supposedly, is where everything is starkly shifted into dramatically different adulthood.

Except it wasn’t.

An old classmate of mine looked out over the dimly lit floor, sighed into his drink and said with bitchy wistfulness “no one’s fat.” There was nothing to pick over, no flesh for the vultures of pettiness. We’d gone to Lincoln High School, which in our time was the most academically successful, privileged school in Oregon. We were the snobs, the elite, and if this had been a bad teen movie, we would have gotten some kind of comeuppance, some ironic punishment for our privilege and advantage. None of that.

Smart, rich, urban kids, it turns out, grow into beautiful and successful adults. My experiences in Japan were not atypical to the gathering. It seemed like every other person had been abroad, and I chatted with old classmates who’d lived in Brazil, Germany, Tanzania, Lebanon, and Italy, to name a few. There were some people with spouses, yes, and some who had children. Mostly, though, people seemed themselves. We’d been intensely smart teenagers, strutting about downtown Portland with youthful arrogance and now we seemed to be basking in twentysomething cleverness and satisfaction, a natural outgrowth.

As much as I’ve changed in the past ten years, even in the past three, very much of me is still that seventeen year old boy who wandered around downtown Portland, reading Kafka in coffee shops, smoking through precocious conversations about Locke and Rousseau. I seemed to see him in stark relief at the reunion, as I searched for my classmates’ past features that I had known them by. Remarkably, I found those features. I did not find them because they persisted, though, but because they had grown into something else, matured, been fully realized. The successful little ducklings had turned into successful ducks.

That’s wonderful, I suppose, but I remember hearing a lot of people saying “No one’s changed.” Not intrinsically, not imminently. But we had become more refined, more well defined. I suppose that means we’d grown up.

  1. Man, it must suck showing up to something all prepared to be snarky and then being let down.

  2. Actually, I wasn't prepared to be snarky. I tried to go in without any sort of expectations, and was sort of surprised at the non-dramatic-ness of it all. I had a lot of fun, make no mistake.

  3. I totally know what you mean! I told Mike that I was terribly disappointed in the whole thing because not a single person had so much as bloated. In fact, there was only one person who supposedly exhibited some kind of physical change and he got more attractive! How is that fair?

    Although I didn't go to the reunion proper, I did go to the after party. It filled me with anxiety because, and this is key, I kind of hated high school. No one had changed; they were all perfectly nice, attractive people with whom I had nothing in common and little enough shared history. I kept thinking, "What am I doing here?" And the answer was, "Not getting a morbid curiosity fix, that's for sure." It also didn't help that I was the only person there not drinking and that it was the latest I've been out in, easily, five years.

    I agree with Maggie though, when you guys were at the house after the formal To-Do: it's hard to remember that Seph didn't go to high school with us. Or Beau. Or Josh. Or Marissa. Or Katie. And that is really the trick, isn't it? You kept in touch with the people you liked and with whom you had something in common. Who wouldn't want their reunion to be populated by all their favorite people instead of just some of their favorite people? But then, every time one of us gets married, every time someone has a graduation party, it's exactly that kind of reunion.

    Do you think you'll go to the 20? It took me three days to recover from the re-lived anxiety of my awkward adolescence, so I have a hard time imagining myself being too excited 10 years from now. But maybe we should have a party on our own, reunite with the people we wanted to see anyway. Or will the curiosity get us? Mom says no one really bloats until 20 or 30 years.

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