Reunion #1: high school

Oh, man, the high school reunion.  I had built this thing up in my mind, thinking people were going to judge me for not having a husband or babies or a high-powered career.  I had insisted to everyone, even to Doug, as late in the game as yesterday afternoon while we were getting ready, that “all I have is the fact that I’m still skinny.”

“Wow.  Thanks,” he said.  But he had been the one who’d asked whether the whole night was going to be a game of my classmates trying to one-up each other.  And if that was going to be the case, my body was the only card I had to play!

As it turns out, though, it wasn’t.  Lots of people were still skinny, so no one cared that I was.  And similarly, no one cared that I wasn’t married or had no babies or worked in a grocery store.  Facebook has ruined the game of one-ups.  It has also ruined our ability to have interesting conversations with our one-time classmates.  We already know what each other is up to; who’s married, who’s having kids, who’s a doctor, who’s traveling the world.

In fact, the only thing I really learned last night was that my friend’s mom had passed away two days before.  And I came across this information because my friend was there at the reunion, looking beautiful and only occasionally teary-eyed, resolving to go on with her life.

Which is really all any of us can do, in any situation.

For my part, I got a lot of compliments on my dress.  I got a lot of compliments on my writing.  I stood back and marveled at how most of the women looked the same – only better put-together, with shorter skirts and more makeup – and it was the men who’d changed.  I caught up with an old choir friend, who made the drunken observation that, “It’s like being in a bar, and looking up and saying, ‘Hey, I think I went to high school with that person,’ over and over again.”  I found that, when people asked what I was doing with my life, I could give them the answer I’d given my therapist a few weeks ago:

I’m doing exactly what I want to do.  I’m writing.  It’s affecting people, eliciting a response in them; I’m making connections.  I don’t need to get money for it, when I can get money for my work at the grocery store, and keep writing as something I enjoy.

And it felt totally honest, and right, and true.  As though I had never worried about whether I should be trying to make it as a writer, whether working in a grocery store to pay my bills was selling out.  As though I had never been anything but proud of myself and my life.

And I am.

Of course, despite having a fabulous dress and a completely unreserved public voice through this blog, I am still as shy as ever in large group settings.  And I couldn’t help but wish that the event was quieter, or smaller, or somehow more personal, to give me the chance to have real conversations with some of the people I hadn’t seen in ten years.

But that sort of reunion was waiting for me the following morning.

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5 Responses to Reunion #1: high school

  1. Elizabeth says:

    RE: “All I have is the fact that I’m still skinny” and “my body was the only card I had to play.” Your body weight is relevant only to a) your health and b) the Earth’s gravitational pull. To think otherwise is to give that self-congratulatory voice the power to abuse you when your body does less than you think it should.

    • Marie says:

      I know. The hope is that later, when age and health and gravity start working against me, I’ll have something else to be proud of.

      It’s not so much that I go around thinking I’m better than everyone (or anyone) based on my weight; it’s that, if nothing else, I can feel good about the way I look right now. It comes on a joke that a friend of mine made months ago, when, talking about the impending reunion, I’d said, “I got married and then divorced, pregnant and then miscarried, and I bag groceries for a living.” Her response was, “Hey, but at least you’re skinny!”

      • Elizabeth says:

        Yeah yeah yeah. Actually, I do get it. Really. I will admit to enjoying feeling “skinny” when I’m wearing the right pair of pants, even though I am not and will never be described as anything more svelte than “curvy” in this lifetime. How about this: I give you permission to take joy in how you look and are perceived, but not *because* you’re skinny–only only because you’re naturally, you know, gorgeous. And your body shape can be a component of that. I’m not merciless, I’ll give you some wiggle room. (And I’m the master of everything and I get to dole out these kinds of orders.)

  2. Ava says:

    Thanks for your big hug on Friday. After all was said and done I decided that I did not want to break the plans I made for the weekend and continued on steadfast. It’s been a tough week, but I think it will get better from here. Oh, and I didn’t get to tell you but I did read the letter to my mom and she smiled. Thank you for giving her a bright moment among the dark few months we had.

  3. Ava says:

    Oh and one more thing, Beth makes a lot of sense Marie. Not to chastize in any way, but the important thing is to feel healthy. I have a young girl who works for me who can’t be much more than 24. She’s had 2 leave of absences for medical problems and sent me another note over the weekend. She doesn’t look sick, and so my first thought is that she’s inconveniencing me yet AGAIN. But today I sat at my desk and thought, boy, if this girl really does have all the ailments she claims, her future is looking quite dim. I felt sorry for her. Then I thought about my mom and what a surprise her cancer was. Finally I though about one of the women who shared her room in the last hospice and who passed at 34 from breast cancer, leaving behind 3 young children. We must all be thankful that we are healthy and that our bodies are young and allow us to do anything we want them to. That is something to celebrate, you’ll never know how long it will remain that way.

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