The Reunion Dilemma

High School
At High School in 1999

If you’ve ever watched a teen movie in the last twenty years, you’ll know the drill. There are the popular kids, and there are the geek kids. That’s the way high school works. The geek kids have bad haircuts, worse glasses and shapeless, unattractive clothes. They like books more than people, maths more than snogging, and none of the popular kids would ever dream of wanting to date them. Then, just towards the end of the film there is a turning point. A transformation. A girl who was one of the geek kids takes off her glasses, gets a trendy haircut and appears in a beautifully stylish dress that shows off the amazing body that the shapeless slogan t-shirts have been hiding all along. She turns up at the party and no one recognizes her, and everyone wants to date her. When they find out who it is, the popular kids feel sheepish, get their come-uppance and the geek girl lives happily ever after with some popular guy who turns out not to have been so shallow after all.

Christmas Party
At a Christmas fancy dress party, 2002

Much as I hate to concede weakness in the face of effective marketing, I have to admit that as a shy young geek girl, this fantasy had a bit of a hold over me. I had a string of terrible haircuts, awful NHS glasses and clothing that belonged in another era, and I often dreamt of the day that I’d turn up to the party as a hot, successful young woman who no one would recognise. Well, ten years after I left high school, it appears that my time has finally arrived. I look at old photos and I barely recognise myself, I’ve become confident, outgoing and adventurous, and tomorrow some of my old classmates have organised a high school reunion. There may never be a better chance to live out my classic teen movie fantasy in real life. And yet… I hesitate. Because now I’ve made it here, I’m not that sure that I actually want to go.

Gill
At a wedding in 2009

My actual friends from high school who I might want to see – those who could have been stereotyped as “the other geek kids” – seem to be sensibly steering clear. But in the teen fantasy they wouldn’t be important of course – after the transformational moment they usually appear as an afterthought, if at all. The real irony is, that having completed my “transformation”, I’m not much less a geek than I was before. I may look different, and I may be more sociable and confident than at school, but the upshot of all that is I’ve just reached the point where I really couldn’t care less what the old so-called “popular kids” think of me anymore. The fantasy seems to only work as long as it’s never played out, because once it is, its banal meaninglessness is shamelessly exposed and you start to wonder what on earth you might have in common with the people that you barely spoke to when you were all actually at high school. And after all, who needs real reunions when Facebook exists to tell you every tiny thing everyone you once knew has been doing for the last ten years…?

6 Replies to “The Reunion Dilemma”

  1. Aww look at us on our school trip!!

    The geek to popular girl cliché always bugs me, and there have also been a number of films and tv shows that include the showing everyone up at the ten year reunion fantasy. But that never quite turns out right.

    I suppose if the reunion was organised by the school rather than by a bunch of people wanting to recapture their high school glory days then I may have been slightly keener to go.

    But as it is I’d rather spend this Saturday night at home, partly because I’ve been ill and partly because I’m going out with some of the people from high school I still like on Sunday!

  2. A special “fellow geek” hello Gill

    It works the other way on TV too, geek bloke, unbelievably hot girl who wouldn’t look at him twice, etc etc yadda yadda in the end they end up together…just as much of lie (and just as much of a hoped for dream for me! still is I guess)

    However if anyone wants to prove this unreality is possible, then feel free to prove it for me 😀

  3. Sod it darling, might as well go, I had a lovely time the other week with a girl who bullied me at school. In this particular case I bragged about my lovely geek life and she asked tentatively if she could be allowed to come to the next party as my friends sounded so much more interesting then her ‘cool normal ones’. Go, your fabulous now, have a bit of a gloat while you’re looking gorgeous, have a great career, a rich and successful boyfriend and your about to go traveling, babes, this is ultimate bragging time, use it while the bragging opportunities can be so easily displayed, next time your life my still be great but it might be less easy to casually click important points into neat snappy, casually mentioned remarks! xxx

  4. I too hate that trope of a story, although I will admit it seems to have worked fairly well in your case 🙂 Whilst I don’t know what kind of reunion the one you are talking about is (if, as Amy said, it’s an “attempt by people to recapture their glory days”, then it might be less worth going to), but if you think your former classmates have at least a passing interest in getting reacquainted then I think you should at least think about going. From past reunions I’ve found that the most fun thing about them is seeing how the paths of you and your classmates have diverged in the years since school, who has changed and who hasn’t, and where their lives have gone. Facebook gives you status updates but I’ve found it that it’s not the same as seeing people face-to-face. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised at far from the pettiness of school some people have come. And if not… then you can always gloat about your own superiority (afterwards, back home 🙂 ).

  5. Well this post has obviously struck a chord for a few people!
    My first school reunion was organised by a contemporary when I was 40, by which time I was more curious to find out what had become of everyone than anything else. I was surprised by how much I had in common with at least one person that I had cordially disliked at the age of 18. I enjoyed the evening and had no desire to repeat it, which is lucky as no-one seems to have had any desire to organise another!

    And what’s all this about hideous NHS glasses by the way? I paid a fortune for those b&%$*y glasses!

  6. The thing with school reunions is the people there would either accept us now or start the taunts again. I use to see all the people who did just that nearly everyday for years but now life is quiet and even though we all still live in the same town I’m sure they do not recognise us walking past them in the street. We all did the right thing by not going!!

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