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.
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.
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…?