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 10-Year Reunions – The Ultimate in Sadomasochism 

It seems that with each passing week, there’s a new movie out that focuses around one of the anticipates/dreaded events of one’s adult existence – the high school reunion. 

First there was “Grosse Pointe Blank.”  Now there’s “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.”   And the more I hear about these two films, the more I hear the message in my head that reminds me, “Hey, Don,” YOUR 10-year bash is only 365 days down the road!” 

If ever an event could be truly categorized as sadomasochistic, it’s the high school reunion.  Nobody really returns to their alma mater to reacquaint themselves with old friends.  No, they show up for payback. 

They return to laugh at what’s become of all the people they hated; like the football quarterback who’s lost all his hair, works a drive-through window and still lives with his mom.  Or the now-portly homecoming queen, who currents collects welfare and has six kids by five different dad.  And while these people are laughing, they’ll be hoping nobody’s mocking THEM in return, since they’re still single and didn’t finish college.

It’s brutal.  It’s so brutal that some of my friends don’t want to go at all, fearing they will inevitably become the focus of ridicule.

 I understand their fears, because in the end, it won’t matter how much they’ve grown mentally, spiritually, or emotionally since graduation.  It won’t matter that they tackled the alcohol or drug problem they had when they were 18 and are all the more stronger for it.  It won’t matter that they stopped sleeping around years ago and that they’re all settled down with a family now.

Why?  Because the people who labeled them as “dweebs,” “stoners,” and “sluts” will still view them as “dweebs,” “stoners,” and “sluts” they knew when they were teen-agers, despite any progress they’ve made since.

So why bother?  Who really cares what a bunch of people I don’t talk to anymore think of me, anyway?

I admit that I view my high school years with the usual angst and bitterness, and I also admit that, in my worst moods, I wouldn’t have minded seeing several of my snootier classmates stuffed into oil drums and dumped into the deepest, darkest depths of the Mariana Trench.  But to return with such venomous emotions would make the whole reunion event a futile exercise.

Instead, I intend to not only catch up on things with the people I was already friends with, but to get to know the people we never allowed ourselves to know.

I found the reward in this approach when I stopped at my hometown “hot spot” during a downstate jaunt last weekend, where I bumped into two women I went to school with (we’ll call them Teri and Tracy).  They weren’t looked upon highly by the class elite, but neither was I, and I figured they would probably look just as far down their noses at me as anyone else. 

However, I stopped by their table and said “Hi”, not sure if they would recognize me.  They did, and I ended up conversing with them for more than an hour, much to my surprise.

I told them about me, that I was married, that I worked for the world-famous Press Publications in Chicagoland, and that my wife was expecting a baby in September.  Teri was married to a guy from high school, had two kids, and worked for the local police department.  Tracy was divorced, had two kids, worked as a social worker, and was taking courses at the community college.

We caught up on people we knew.  We agreed that our yearbook pictures were aging mercilessly, that our ‘80’s fashions looked as atrocious as ‘70’s garb had looked 10 years before. 

And we discussed various high school caste system atrocities – how Tracy had been labeled a “druggie” even though she didn’t do drugs, how Teri had been shunned simply because she’d dated a black guy, and how I always confused about whether I was accepted or not, since I acquaintances in all the various cliques – the jocks, honor roll students, student council members, band geeks, sluts, druggies, felons-to-be, etc.

It was a great night.  We’d left all the teen-age posturing and labeling crap behind and related to each other as actual human beings.  We’d realized that married or divorced, college degree or no, we were all alike in that we were just trying to trudge through day-to-day life without going bankrupt or insane.  Tracy even tried to get me on the dance floor, which thankfully didn’t happen, since my dance moves might’ve put me back nine years and reclassified me as a “geek” for all eternity.

If things go like they did at that bar in Peoria, it looks like I might actually have a good time at next year’s reunion.  Just as long as they don’t drag that damned yearbook pictures out. 

-Written by Don Hammontree, a copy editor for Press Publications (back in ’97) 

So those of you who feel that way Don originally felt, please give us a chance.  We’ve had some wonderful reunions in the past.  At our last reunion, we had the same photographer as the Glenbard West Class of ’76, who were across the hall.  The photographer said he couldn’t believe our group – he thought that we really liked each other, not like the group across the hall, who sat in cliques and wouldn’t talk to each other.  He thought that we were “one group” with lots of hugging and kissing going around!! 

So hopefully, we’ll see those of you who may have felt that way – we don’t care what you do now or what you did in high school!  We’re all grown up and act like adults, now!!!  We have fun and enjoy each other’s company!  So hopefully, we’ll see you at the Reunion.

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