Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Reunion Churn

I graduated 41st in a class of 82 girls. "How mediocre can you get?" I used to wonder way back when. Pretty soon after graduation, I realized that number, especially taken out of the crazy context of my brainiac class, said very little about me as a person. Until my twentieth high school reunion this past week, I hadn't even thought about that statistic for about 19 years. Reunion churned up a lot of stuff for me - and a surprising amount of it was in the form of statistics - old and new. Here are a few:

Of my class of 82 girls, 22 of them qualified as National Merit Semi-Finalists. (I was one of them. That's an unprecedented - even for my school - (more than) quarter of the class!)

I went to an all girl's school where 30% of the student body was diagnosed bulimic/anorexic. I was not part of that 30%. My stat fell in the bulimic, yet un-reported category. The school staff tried to address the eating disorder problem, bless their hearts. Sadly, their well intentioned assemblies only served to make us aware of purging methods we hadn't figured out on our own and alerted us to which 'warning signs' we needed to hide. Seventeen years of recovery later and I still don't know what more they could have done with a population seemingly handpicked to be at risk: teenage girls (age and gender), upper middle to upper class (socio-economics), caucasian and Southern (ethnic and cultural), competitive school/families with (sometimes unreasonably) high expectations (environment), in the 80's (the skinny jean, skeletal, super model era). When I think about it that way, I am grateful that at least half of our class was healthy!

Fifteen of us now have at least 3 children (with only 3 sets of twins and only one set of those in a 3+ kid family) - and that's with updates on only 60 classmates. I don't know how that compares to the general population - but it strikes me that I was in a very fertile class.

One hundred percent of my class went to college (eventually). More than half my graduating class has multiple college degrees. (I'm the only girl who didn't go immediately after high school and it took me 13 years to finally get ONE degree.)

Surprisingly, our class falls well below norms in terms of gay girls with only two of my classmates being out and only one other (that I know of) still somewhat closeted. Perhaps statistics from the quarter that didn't report back would bring us closer to national averages. I'm sad to think that perhaps some of my classmates felt unwelcome at reunion.

1/82 of us are pierced in places other than ears. (Guess which one of us that is?) ****UPDATE: TWO of us are pierced. And at least three of us have tatoos. We are a little further ranged as a class than I first gave us credit for being. Woo hoo.****

Ninety percent of us have traveled/studied overseas at one point in the past 20 years. Five of my classmates still live in other countries.

Two of my class were in the military. (Both of us were Navy - different times, different places - but GoNav!)

Although I don't know exact numbers, I know enough to say that our class is right in line with the national averages for rape, abortion, divorce, and remarriage.

All these numbers float around in my head. Why do we even keep track? What other numbers are there and how do we track things that aren't sound-biteable? Then it was grades and college acceptances. Now it's degrees and babies. In between it was elation and work and sometimes trauma - but it's all reduced to statistics except between you and your closest friends: the ones who were with you the whole way through and don't need the 1,000-word synopsis.

This weekend I experienced an expected amount of chafing. I found myself - with girls I hadn't seen in 20 years - back in the same high school constellations because we hadn't charted anything in between. It was great to discover that it was possible (even at this late date) to change those fixed positions. I came out of reunion weekend with plans for this week with two different women I'd not spoken to in any meaningful way since May of 1986. One was a close friend when we were sophomores and the other was in almost all of my classes and yet we never once had a one-on-one conversation until Friday. She and I are going to go dig up irises tomorrow.

I was unpleasantly surprised to find myself thrown back into old patterns with old, still-close friends with whom I already had charted new paths. Specifically, I was amazed at how much it hurt for four friends to all name each other and exclude me in post-college, life-in-DC-together anecdotes. I lived in the same building with three of my friends and the fourth lived two metro stops away. They all named each other and each one of them forgot I was even there. One of the four is my good friend and also my first cousin. She and another one of the four were close enough to me (in my heart) to have been invited into the delivery room with me in DC when I gave birth to my first child. Being excluded by them, even in the most casual way possible, hurt my feelings in a way I had completely forgotten existed. Being left out, being included, feeling out of place or like an alien, wanting to know and be known, issuing/receiving pre-emptive/retaliatory rejections - ahhhh the good old days!

I was guarded in high school. Even in a small school with all girls - I think it's the only way most of us survive the high school turbulence. I don't think I had a (larger than normal) chip on my shoulder in high school - but I certainly had my conscious rebellions and intentional filtering devices. When I dyed my hair purple, it wasn't even against the rules at my school. It hadn't occured to the administration that one of their girls would consider (much less actually do) such a thing. The uniform code was immediately amended (although I had amnesty.) I loved my purple hair. It kept away people who were easily freaked out and it was fun. My real friends knew I was more than the color of my hair and they also knew I looked at things from a different angle. Going to reunion, I thought I had my shields up again. And I did. Except it didn't occur to me to have them guarding me from the friends I've stayed close to all these years. Don't get me wrong. It's not a death wound to our friendship. It's more like a really nasty (sharp and unexpected) papercut that bleeds all over everything for about two days and then disappears. And you, my lovely blogniks are like my bandaid. I don't know why, but blogging helps. (Well, blogging and the three Long Island Teas, half a pack of cigarettes, kissing on my love, and dancing until 3 am at the Lipstick Lounge after the reunion stuff was done - all of that helped. Yeah, yeah. I know. Mature, healthy, centered that wasn't. And yet...I had fun, blew off steam, got re-anchored and re-perspectified, and most importantly remembered why I don't drink and smoke like that anymore. Blech!)

There you have it, reunion in a nutshell: statistics, churn, new friends from old acquaintances, papercuts from old friends, and blognik bandaids. I'm glad I went. I'm glad we don't have another one for a while.

1 comment:

Deb R said...

I'd have gotten my feelings hurt over that too.

I'm surprised at the lack of body peircings. Maybe some people are peirced in places they aren't admitting?

I have never been to a HS or college reunion and probably never will. I'm ok with running into old friends one on one or perhaps in very small groups, but I'm not interested in tackling them en masse. :-)