I got the dreaded call. You know the one….where your best friend calls you and says: “You’re going.”
While I usually treasure any time we get to hang out, I felt like she was hanging me out to dry. I resisted. I made excuses. I blamed my inability to attend on the fact I had no working water heater and could not shower. She was not having any of it. So…in the big picture of forty-three years of being best friends, I said okay. I was to attend yet another high school reunion.
My first dilemma —as all women can relate— was what to wear. I had an image to project. Or protect. I had pounds to hide. I had designer hair stubble on my legs, accented with a bazillion mosquito bites. I sported unwanted skin tags, and the most uneven tan. I was a hot mess. And I mean hot. Even applying my Cover-Up Girl makeup I set the hair dryer on the cold setting just to get through the ‘make up and pretend you’re still seventeen again’ protocol. This was turning into work. I won’t even go into the whole wardrobe debacle. But I clearly had choices of various chic looks: Matronly, Flirty and Fun, Saggin’ and Draggin’ but Still Braggin, and my all time favorite: Beyonce With a Touch of Betty White. I stuck with basic black, traded up for a bra that bravely tried to defy gravity, and wore sleeves to hide the fact that no shower meant hairy armpits. I had gotten a pedicure, but was not brave enough to show off these old, tired, feet. I had hidden as much as I could. Sure wished I had some of that wrinkle concealer. I would have rolled in it. Can you tell my confidence was waning? Just like in high school. Some old haunts still follow us around and speak to our weaknesses, do they not? “Okay…let’s just get this over with” was my recurring thought. I was never good at tests, and thought this reunion was just another one I would barely pass.
Well, when we showed up we got a name tag with our senior picture emblazoned in the corner. I don’t know how long we all stared at one another’s chests trying to put a forty year old picture with our late fifties brains, but soon the neurons powered up and connections were made. We had made the journey to this corner restaurant to talk, story, and see how we all had aged. It was like a museum of has beens. But time is a great equalizer; we all had our flaws and failures. Pretty soon our wrinkles and receding hair lines were decked out in huge grins and “remember whens…”The lines of division which stamped ‘Popular’ ‘Loser’ ‘Bully’ ‘Nerd’ etc. soon faded. We had our scars and successes, our hang-ups and let downs. But for one evening, the walls melted and we all just enjoyed being reunited.
I have to thank my best friend for a great night. Not one person came up to me and commented on my hair: that which was on my legs and that which I dyed to conceal the gray. I was told that I had a ‘pixie’ face. Now…with my hearing going a bit, I thought the guy said I had a ‘piggy’ face. I must have looked shocked until he repeated ‘pixie’. Whew! Resembling a little elf is far easier to take than being mistaken for a sow at the State Fair.
I can’t tell you how much I laughed. I tried to speak to everyone…which is SO unlike high school where you only speak to those at your lunch table. And I found an entire group of gals who were true friends back in the day—and we did sit at the same lunch table! Such good people were in that room and we were kind enough to remember those who were no longer with us. We shook our heads like old people, recounting the various classmates who did not not make it home from their military tours, the tragedy of suicide, the ones who lost their battles with catastrophic disease. We spoke with pure joy of being grandparents, our children’s successes, and empathized when the topic of job losses and downsizing interrupted our journeys to Oz. Failed marriages, successful divorces, and second chances were exchanged like tender, heartfelt currency. We understood. None of us had been dealt the hand of perfection. We were kind. Authentic. And generally relieved to have overcome our fears, to stand shoulder to shoulder and just reveal who we had become. The acceptance and lack of judgment of another–so lacking in the halls of high school–truly prevailed. We had turned out pretty darn good.
While my little brain has such a hard time believing that it has been forty years since high school I count last night as a great memory, rich in hugs, laughter, and disbelief at how much we have in common.
Yes…the reunion was so much more fun than high school and I am looking forward to the next one.
I may even shave my legs.