On Saturday, I had my five-year high school reunion.
I went in with low expectations, and by that I mean that I went in with the highest expectations and fully expected to be disappointed.
I regularly make jokes about the kind of person I was in high school; “I looked like a thumb with eyes” is a common one, given the fact that I had red, horrible skin, didn’t figure out a haircut that worked for me and I plucked my light eyebrows into impossibly high, thin arches that rendered them completely invisible in photos.
Embarrassingly (although everyone is guilty of this) I was obsessed with maintaining a façade even more than I was obsessed with maintaining a severe eyebrow arch. I probably even loved saying the word “façade” in high school. Difficult pronunciation and a squiggly accent mark? Chic! Essentially, I was kind of geeky and not-chic, except that I thought I was the most chic. Animal-print? Yes please. Neon? Why not! I was also perhaps most famous in high school for having a blog, and by that I mean, I was gay and literate and wrote about it.
Going into this reunion, I had one main goal: make everyone want to kill themselves with jealousy.
I assumed that this goal was very much attainable and also very much in the bag. However, things started to unravel very quickly. A tussle with a sheet mask ended up with me having a slight allergic reaction. A haircut ended up looking a little too egghead. My skin, which has been on a journey not dissimilar to Arya Stark trying to find her way back to Winterfell, decided to have a flare-up! Everything was coming up rosacea!
For reasons that I discuss extensively in therapy but will not disclose here, I feel a powerful need to prove myself to everyone, but particularly people who dislike me. Given the fact that I went to an all-boys Catholic prep school and was gay/wore leopard-print, I was not wanting for enemies or bullies!
I showed up to cocktail hour an hour late and dressed fucking cute, and immediately realized that I would not get through this night without alcohol. I was sucked into a conversation with a former classmate about his career track. He does something client-facing, and wears ties, and honestly that’s all I could remember because I was too busy scanning the faces of other classmates and making mental notes of everyone who got hot.
As I mentioned, I went to a prep school, whose main exports are insecurity complexes and people who work in square professions – finance, real estate, anything that has you start as an “analyst.” I was one of maybe four people who was in a creative industry, and reminder, I barely have a job! I was back in an environment that both fostered trust-fund fist bumps and discouraged me making any sort of “anal-yst” jokes! It was tough!
To overcompensate, when people asked me what I did, I formulated a square and safe response. “I’m a writer, and I’m going to grad school in July.”
Over the course of the evening, I got progressively looser and more annoying. “I’m a writer” became “I’m a freelancer writer,” which became “I’m a freelancer writer and I work at Trader Joe’s,” which somehow devolved into “I write about gay stuff!” and then completely deteriorated into just “Gay!”
To be fair, it always ends up that way.
But sometimes I realized, as my answers about “What I’m Doing” became sillier and more honest, is that people responded in kind. I got an accountant to admit that if I don’t pay taxes, there’s a possibility that nothing will happen (don’t do this though, pay your taxes). I asked a civil engineer if he got inspiration from that underground cavern in Marvel’s The Defenders. He did not laugh!
When I was saying hi to somebody, the person next to him saw me and made to do the “How are you doing!” facial shift.
The problem with this was that we never had a conversation in high school. I knew who he was because he’s hot, and he knew who I was because I’m gay, but no words passed betwixt us. So when he said, “How’ve you been?” I responded with “I’m good – I’m excited to have our first conversation ever!” And all he could do was laugh because literally it’s true.
And once we got over the truth, we actually had a conversation. We talked about high school, his work, my work, marijuana dispensaries and being hot.
I detest small talk because it kind of defeats the purpose – it’s meant to facilitate conversation, but it actually becomes a barrier against having real conversation. It becomes “Where did you go to college again?” and “What have you been doing?” instead of “Did you love college?” and “What do you think of Cardi B?”
By the way, people have high praise for Cardi!
I understand the impulse to put your best foot forward – I’m the fucking mayor of Putting Your Best Foot Forward – so I’m not sure exactly what snapped in me, but I’m glad it did. Because instead of exchanging meaningless pleasantries, I actually dug into real conversation with both old friends and people that I had never connected with in high school.
High school was messy in roughly eight thousand ways, and these all made going back into the Vineyard Vines viper’s pit quite stressful, which is probably why I became acutely obsessed with my appearance. A classic redirect to avoid confronting past trauma, sis!
But despite it all, I’m glad I went. I got a chance to look hot in suede boots, call everybody “hon” and “handsome” and snag an alumni baseball cap. And at the end of the day, that’s really all I could ask for.