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Class distinctions



My high school reunion is this weekend, and I'm debating whether to attend. It's not that I don't see the value in such an event. After all, I went to Winter Park High School, which was stuffed with rich kids. Writers are notoriously good at affixing themselves to money sources like barnacles on the hull of a ship, and I can always see the value in making nice with those who, unlike me, are presumed affluent.

But still, I have some hesitation. It's not because I don't look as good or haven't accomplished anything since I was 17. Freed of the awkwardness and apprehension of youth, I look better and have accomplished much. Nor is my jet-setting schedule making me too busy to attend, although I do have deadlines to consider. This sense of responsibility was something I learned long after high school.

The problem is that I'm not the biggest fan of dwelling on the past. The last time I looked backward instead of ahead, I tripped over something on the sidewalk and got a bruise on my leg the size of a dinner plate. Going back brings to mind those people who reunite with their exes and end up -- big freaking surprise -- having the same resentments, the same fights and the same tired bitch sessions with their friends as they did the first time around, all to the second power because They Should Have Known Better. This is the kind of thing you get for drinking away your short-term memory, which I haven't done yet.

The parent trap

The observations of friends and colleagues to my quandary definitely color the field, some in favor, some opposed. One commented that, no matter what situation it is one is reuniting with, one tends to revert back to the behavior and mind-set one was in at the time one is returning to. [See "getting back with the ex."] Consider how often you've heard, or said, "Every time I get around my family I'm 12 years old all over again."

For all the wonderful things people associate with teen years, for all the glowing gorgeousness they represent and for all the fun I had, I have no desire to revert to a teenage mind-set. Not that I ever fully grew out of it. Maybe subconsciously I know I have enough trouble clinging to the adult mind-set that, if allowed to revert entirely, I would never pay a bill, maintain a house or make my own dentist appointments ever, ever again.

Having said this, high school didn't seem so bad, at least not on a social level. But outside of a serious smoking habit and a few friends, I can't say I retained much from those years. Taking my "World Literature" class seriously did give me the ability to make Dennis Milleresque references with extreme grace, and I can still ask where the bathroom is in Spanish, but the rest of it is all as blurred now as erased words on a blackboard. If I had one going-backwards wish, it would be that I had learned more in those three years that would have been useful to me in the last 20. I don't know what high school is like now, but there are some things I think should replace the dissection of the fetal pig, something which, remarkably, I have never had to do since:

Money talks

  • Personal Finance: I really wish that every day someone had tried to tell me -- and illustrated with examples of poor, carless, homeless people -- the value of a good credit rating. I'd rather have a home loan than the ability to diagram this sentence.
  • Networking: While it was fun and romantic to learn about writers who lolled around hundreds of years ago becoming consumptive in garrets, it would have been good to know how to really work people in order to get, and further work, a job. I'm still not sure what a garret is.
  • Charm: It opens more doors than credit cards, slim jims and even actual talent. If someone had spent a semester teaching me how to say, "And what about you? What do you think?" while looking interested, I'd have gotten a lot farther a lot faster.
  • Individualism: Because, in the long run, the only ones whose opinions really count are the police.
  • Everything I Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Thought I Already Knew and So Remained Too Dumb to Ask: Really, more attention to the basics would have saved me a lot of trouble and guesswork down the road. It turns out there's more useful information in "Our Bodies, Ourselves" than there was in "Beowulf." Imagine.

And so, while one part of me is curious to see how grown up, accomplished and different everyone turned out to be -- or didn't -- part of me doesn't like the idea of returning to a time when I was too dumb to know any of this stuff. I can understand those who want to see old friends. But those who don't, I understand as well. Without even going, this reunion has pleased me immensely. When you're offered a chance to realize how happy you are right here, right now, how much luckier can you get?


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