The year was 1998. I was partway through my first semester of graduate school and ready to celebrate ten years of post-high school excitement. It was a nice event even though I was on my own. I saw some old friends and one nemesis who actually apologized to me. It was also a little sad because the class disparities were sort of trumping the old bonds – I felt bad for the folks I suspected were lying about their awesome lives, but I could empathize with their desire to do so. I also got pretty drunk with my friend Missy and ended up passed out in my other friends car on the way home. Good times.
The year was 2008. It was the twentieth anniversary of my high school graduation. Rather than a traditional setup, the organizers selected a bar with booth seating. I was already not in a good place healthwise and it took about 20 minutes for me to have a panic attack. So I left. Just left. I regretted that I left my friend Amy there but she was interacting just fine so I went home and laid down on my bed waiting for the anxiety to cease. It really sucked. Talk about an environment recreating the experience of high school – restrict seating to groups of 4 or 5, set up narrow walkways and add alcohol. Add the guy who repeatedly explains being single with guffawing “she has to be hot and have the brains” and then stir in a few very unhappy spouses. Did I mention no one else was there who was openly gay?
The year is 2013. Anniversary date – 25 years. And I am absolutely not going. It is being held at another cocktail bar and that appeals to me absolutely not. I rarely drink thanks to the medication that keeps the anxiety under control (see how that worked itself out over 15 years?) And frankly, I am in touch with most everyone I’d like to be via Facebook.
There are two women (sisters, actually) whom it would be nice to touch base with, but I doubt they will attend. Otherwise, I’ve been unfriended by half of my class for being “too political/opinionated” aka too gay and I unfriended the other half after I was lesbian bashed on someone’s page. Well, that’s an exaggeration – about 1/3 of my class. After that experience, I systematically went through each name on my list and kept the folks with whom I would like to have lunch. That was sort of my rule of thumb – a metaphorical lunch. I deleted the people who were abusive, nasty, jerks that raped girls and assaulted boys and never took ownership for that. I deleted the folks who used fake names (??) and those who drunk posted. I deleted a bunch of avowed haters. I deleted the people that I had absolutely no reason to maintain contact with at this point. In doing so, I realize I had been unfriended by a lot more people than I thought. Huh.
You know who is left? Mostly the kids I grew up with in my neighborhood. And that’s cool because I do want to maintain contact with them. I like seeing pictures of their kids because it reminds me of happy memories.
My thought is that whomever among us survives to our 50th reunion – that’s whom I want to see. The survivors at nearly 70.
Facebook is a nice way to reconnect with classmates, friends and family. But it also pretty quickly shows why we lost touch in the first place. I’m definitely one for using tools to minimize contact without unfriending someone (my restricted list is rather lengthy), but there’s something about the jungle mentality of high school that simply seeps into social media relationships.
There are people who think we should let it go, that those of us who were abused are hanging on to old pain. And to some extent that is true – most of us are still figuring out how to let go, but that doesn’t mean we want to spend time who were abusive to us and have never tried to make amends. Part of letting it go does *not* require socializing with perpetrators. And part of moving on involves setting boundaries – there comes a time when the fact that you went to high school together simply is not enough to maintain a bond. (And I’m sure there will come a time when it means everything.)
Would I go to my reunion if it were in a different venue, a more traditional or comfortable -to me- venue? Maybe because that would probably mean the people organizing it had values more in line with mine. But I don’t think I’m interested in making Ledcat the token “domestic partner” who doesn’t know anyone or making her wonder why I’m being polite to people she knows have never sought to make amends for the damage that they did to me and others.
Rest assured – the same thing occurs in everyday life – someone invites you to a party where the guy who tried to sexually assualt you in 8th grade will be there or the girl who who a brutal vicious jerk is bringing dessert. Not interested.
I’d probably end up on my phone most of the night. Checking Facebook.