Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Confessions: Reunion Edition

Believe it or not, this weekend is my 25th high school reunion. It's hard to believe that high school was 25 years ago, considering that I'm still just a big teenager. I haven't really aged that much at all, at least to my perceptions. Which brings to mind: If what I perceive is shaped by my perceptions, then what happens when those perceptions clash with your perceptions, and how does that conflict of perceptions alter what I perceive? Anyway, I am not attending my reunion this year, primarily because the windows in the solarium at the Fortress need to be cleaned. However, in honor of the 25th reunion of the Class of '85, I present to you the Reunion Edition of Confessions.

First, let's recall 1985. Reagan was President. Gorbachev became the General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party. Terry Anderson was taken prisoner in Lebannon. The mayor of Philadelpha orders the bombing of the MOVE headquarters, killing 11. Live Aid occurred. Back to the Future opened. Coke released New Coke. And the United Kingdom held its first Glow Worm Day. It was an exciting year. It was also the year I left high school and never looked back. Because I hated high school, and everyone inside it.

I was (actually still am) the kid who got picked on. Mercilessly. Books knocked out of my hands on the way to class? Check. No one would sit with me at lunch? Check. Insulting graffiti on my locker? Check. Laughed at by cheerleaders, football players, stoners, and even the foreign exchange students? You guessed it; check. I was even made fun of by the kids who rode the short bus to school and had to wear protective helmets. It was pretty bad.

I would regale you with individual stories of the nightmare that was high school, but, quite frankly, I can't remember any of them. I did my level best to forget anything and everything about Stroudsburg Area High School. There may or may not have been therapy. The only story I recall is actually one of triumph: I was in a creative writing class, where it was the teacher's policy (Hi, Mr. Steen! You were my favorite teacher!) to read one student's story anonymously. Mr. Steen started reading, and I instantly knew who wrote it. When he finished, Becky Weinstein demanded to know who had written the story. Becky was a cheerleader, and auteur of my never-ending persecution, and apparently she liked what she'd heard. Mr. Steen looked at me, I nodded, and Becky looked like she'd eaten a pickled jalapeno pepper when she heard my name. Victory!

I only really had two friends at the time -- John Higgins and Brian Sullivan. We played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons in John's basement. We'd get together on Friday night and play straight through til Sunday night. Considering that I became an award-winning game designer (Origins Award, 1998, Best Roleplaying Game), I suppose I should thank all the jocks and preppies who systematically destroyed my self-esteem and forced me to retreat into my nerd cave in the first place.

Don't even make me recall my ineffective attempts at dating. No one liked me. I didn't have my first kiss until I got to college. 'Nuff said.

I find it ironic that I'm not attending reunion this year (or any other year, for that matter). I used to dream of actually attending reunion. In my revenge fantasy, I would drive up to the banquet hall in my fire engine red Ferrari, clutching my multiple Academy Awards, a beautiful woman on each arm. We would sweep into the room, where I would regale everyone with tales of my exploits: Climbing Kilamanjaro; hanging out with the Dalai Lama, and winning my aforementioned Academy Awards. Then, Angelina, Giselle and I would be picked up by helicopter, abandoning my Ferrari like so much used tissue. There might have been a speech by the mayor, in which I was presented with the key to the city. It would have been a very small key. Let's just say, I totally get why Lady Gaga showed up at her old high school dressed the way she did. It's because she, like I, hated everyone associated with high school.

When I joined Facebook, a curious thing began to happen. I started getting friend requests from people in my graduating class. Did they not recall that they persecuted me for four years? Didn't they remember that they used to throw pennies at me because I was the only Jew in the class? They didn't remember sticking a dead fetal pig in my locker? Or the time a pretty girl passed me a note, telling me she liked me, and asking me to meet her after school, only to have everyone there to mock me? To be honest, I really didn't remember half the names of the people from whom I was getting requests. Bill Hoffner? Adrianne Burkholder? Curtiss Pepe? I dimly recall those names, but can't put a face to them. If Facebook says we went to high school together, then it must be true.

To be honest, I had a really hard time actually accepting their friend requests. Each one elicited a good twenty minutes of consideration. I don't know, call me old fashioned, but I believe that if you're going to accept a friend request you should actually, you know, be friends. And, recall, I hated each and every one of them just on general principle. I swallowed, hard, and started adding them as friends. Even though I was convinced this was going to end up being some kind of strange, internet bullying incident.

And this is where the curious thing started happening. I discovered that bygones could actually be bygones. That I actually liked these people, and they actually liked me. I get periodic love and support from Jenny Hayes. Adrianne Burkholder has sent me enough virtual drinks that, if they were real, I'd have died of alcohol poisoning long ago. Kip Woods has a beautiful family, and Becky Hannon (upon whom I had a tremendous crush) just graduated a beautiful daughter. These people, my nemesis (nemesi?), follow my triumphs and sorrows as closely as I follow theirs.

It's as though we all came to the same, mutual agreement. We all grew up, matured, and seem to be saying to each other "hey, we went through this formative period in our lives together. Let's be friends." I'm glad I reconnected with these people. And so it is in this spirit that I wish you all a great reunion weekend. I'm genuinely sorry I can't be there this year.

But the Ferrari is in the shop, and Giselle has a headache.

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