Reunions are held primarily so that you can find out how much better you have aged than the contemporaries of your youth. They also provide an opportunity to observe how those once identified as “most attractive” or “best athlete” are now sporting replacement knees, easily detectable face-lifts, embarrassing comb-overs and sizable paunches. At least that’s what I imagine because I’ve never been to a reunion, never wanted to go to one.
When the very few (two) high school classmates with whom I am still in contact encouraged me to attend my 50th reunion, I declined, saying that I didn’t much like my classmates back then and didn’t much like myself back then, either. Of course, since high school, I blossomed into the intellectual Adonis that I am now.
While I still maintain contact with the few people that I did like in college, I never considered going to that 50th reunion either. (Fortunately, grad schools don’t have reunions.)
Then came the Internet and with it the possibility of “selective reunions” where one can have electronic contact with people that one hasn’t communicated with in decades. Indeed, the Internet provides a veritable time capsule without actually having to see how people have been physically ravaged by time.
Over the years, I have Googled or Facebooked people from the past, or they Googled me or Facebooked me, and we caught up on what has transpired over the centuries since we last saw one another.
My high school heartthrob whom I hadn’t seen since I was 16 and whose parents intercepted my phone calls to her viewing me as an objectionable creature (even then), now has several grandchildren and, most disheartening, is a Republican.
My only Army buddy (we attended each other’s weddings) got divorced years ago, is on his second marriage and doesn’t even remember being at my wedding. Thoughtfully, I emailed him a photo with wife number one. I expected to reminisce about how we survived the absurdities of military life, but he didn’t seem interested.
A classmate from third grade emailed me. On the way home from PS 11, we used to tease him until he turned red in the face and charged at us swinging his schoolbag. Back then, he had trouble reading, but in later years was diagnosed as dyslexic, was taught compensatory strategies and became a prominent psychiatrist with a long list of publications.
The second smartest person in third grade after me (I peaked in the third grade and have been in decline ever since), soared in high school, was adored by all the boys and went on to graduate from Radcliffe. Later in life, she became a Buddhist ascetic and is now marginally employed.
Some people I just didn’t want to hear from. One college classmate who emailed me objected to the speed with which I did or did not respond to her emails. Then she started to divulge events from her life that were so personal (inappropriate self-disclosure) that they made me uncomfortable. When she wrote that she liked dogs better than people because you could trust dogs, I ended our interaction—just too crazy for me. Besides, I don’t even like dogs.
One high school pal recounted the events of his life which I found to be exquisitely boring. When he gushed over his wife as “the love of his life,” I’d heard enough.
One colleague from grad school had died of AIDS in 1993. Another grad school colleague resurfaced as a noteworthy author with her book featured on the front page of the NY Times Book Review. Another colleague, a Medievalist and lefty activist, moved to the West Coast and become a real estate lawyer to the super-rich.
Other folks from my past re-emerged on the other side of the law. One kid from the old neighborhood, now well into his 70s, was lying low in South America. His Facebook page combined rants about people being falsely accused of sex crimes with right-wing conspiracy screeds.
Another more promising lad grew up to become a doctor but lost his license for prescribing proscribed medications for himself.
Most impressive from a felonious perspective was a woman who sold a bunch of us a collection of not-quite-authentic Diane Arbus photographs before skipping town. Yes, a sucker is born every minute. An online search revealed that her new residence was in a New Mexico jail where she’d was doing time for selling not-quite-authentic Georgia O’Keefe sculptures. She turned out to have been a career criminal characterized in an Albuquerque newspaper as “Queen of the Grifters.”
Ultimately, my selective reunions have ranged from being fascinating to being almost as noxious as the formal ones I have so effectively avoided. At least I didn’t have to travel or wear a suit.
Robin Schore lives in Hopewell Borough.