Last weekend, I attended my 20th high school reunion. This was the first reunion of any sort—high school or college—that I had any interest in going to. And not because high school and/or college were particularly difficult times for me. I had as much fun in school as an introverted eggheaded nigga with the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League’s best left-to-right leaning crossover could. I just didn’t care enough to go. There’s no strain of conversation that bores me more than school-specific nostalgia, and I had no interest in reliving or remembering the shit I did when Caribbean Rhythms still aired.
The 20th high school reunion, however, is the first major reunion where you’re more than twice as old as you were when you graduated. Which applies a convincing veneer of importance, like “HOLY SHIT I WAS 18 AND IT’S BEEN 20 YEARS SINCE I WAS 18 WHICH MEANS I’VE LIVED LIKE A WHOLE NEW ENTIRE LIFE SINCE HIGH SCHOOL!” And so, when I received a Facebook invite a few months ago, I began to look forward to attending. Just so I could scratch it off of the bucket list I’d carry if I believed in carrying buckets or lists.
And then, an hour into the reunion Saturday night, I began to wish I had stayed home and watched Shark Tank.
To be fair, the people who put the event together did a great job. There were free Reese’s Cups. White women distributing plates of yellow cake. A DJ who, for the first couple hours of the night, played nothing but shit from the late ’90s and early aughts. (I thought I’d go my entire life without hearing Sunshine Anderson’s “Heard It All Before” again. I was mistaken.) There were even reunion crashers—people who graduated the year before or the year after who came either because all of their homies were there or because they were just really confused. But the act of reunioning itself just didn’t move me much, for a number of reasons that I’ll distill to four.
The old classmates you encounter at reunions are usually spilt into four groups:
A) People you still keep in touch with
B) People you don’t keep in touch with, but you’d still like to know how they’re doing
C) People you forgot even existed, and then you see them and say “Oh yeah. This person exists!”
D) People you gave no fucks about in high school and give even less fucks about now
Perhaps reunions mattered more before the internet. Because aside from the people you talk to/see in person, you’d just have less opportunity to keep tabs on your old classmates. But Facebook already allows you to stay connected with A and B. And if a person isn’t an A or a B, there’s really no reason to ever see them again.
Easily the most interesting part of the night was watching how people became their old selves when placed back into that 20-year-old environment and surrounded by the same people. Gregarious litigators and salesmen who were more introverted in high school became wallflowers again. The high school “bad bitches” who, well, may have seen better days were the center of attention again, while the late(r) bloomers went back to being the Michelle Williams to the bad bitches’ Beyoncés. The football players and the cheerleaders danced and took pictures together like they were at some sort of geriatric prom.
I even succumbed to that, too. Twenty-four hours earlier, I was in New York City celebrating VSB’s acquisition and new partnership and meeting with my book editor. But at the reunion, all anyone wanted to talk to me about was basketball. Probably because all I wanted to talk about was basketball. It was weird. I’m weird.
Number of times I said or heard “Yo, we definitely need to get up next week or something!” Approximately 20.
Number of people I actually plan to get up with this week? Maybe one.
4. It’s like going to a wax museum, except the wax figures can move and talk and take selfies and drink Fireball.
The surreality of seeing these facsimiles of people you remember as 18-year-olds but don’t really remember remember 20 years later is jarring. Like, you know how it feels to watch one of those Legends games where your favorite former pros look somewhat the same and are out there “playing” their sport but really just trying not to tear an achilles? Where the idea of the game is better than the game itself? Well, a 20-year reunion is like watching and playing in that game. But with no spectators. Just yellow cake.