June 2008

School's out ... forever

By Suzanne Strazza

I just skipped my 25th high-school reunion.

I know you are saying to yourself, “Gosh, Suzanne, you can’t possibly be that old!” But, yes, I am.

I have to admit, it has taken me a while to digest this fact. When I was still in high school, only ancient people had reunions in the double digits. So facing the fact that I am now, officially, ancient is brutal.

But that’s beside the point. The point is, I didn’t go.

I went to an all-girls prep school (Kent Place School) in New Jersey and hightailed it out of there as soon as I had my diploma in hand. My experience at KPS, as it was affectionately known, provided some good times, yet there is many a thing I would like to forget too: my obsession with Mick Jagger, pastel, alligator-sporting, widewale wardrobe, and the over-the-top boy obsession that comes with a complete lack of contact with the opposite sex. I also actually liked Lynyrd Skynyrd.

When I entered my freshman year, I did so filled with hopes and naiveté. I wore a white bow in my ponytail and penny loafers; a mistake that haunted me not only throughout high school, but thanks to one classmate attending the same college as I, it trailed me through my years of higher education. I was slammed down pretty quickly. No longer was I the smartest or the prettiest and I certainly was not the most athletic. This was an environment where lacrosse-prowess ranked higher than great boobs. Given my complete lack of eye-hand coordination, I slid down the totem pole faster than I could button up my field-hockey kilt.

So, you can imagine my mixed feelings about this reunion. Besides the pain of having to admit that I am old enough to be having a 25th, I always thought that folks that went to their HS reunions hadn’t moved on – were still listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd. But, consider it I did. Briefly.

I realized that there were only two valid reasons for my traveling all the way back to NJ for a weekend of “Oh my God’s”: to see an old flame (but since I went to an all-girls school, that wasn’t happening) or to gloat. I am only saying here what the rest of you are thinking. The reality is, no one goes all the way across the country to see people after 25 years of not keeping in touch if they think that everyone there is going to say, “Wow, she looks like shit.”

So, believing myself to be above that, I didn’t go.

The reunion was last week and painfully, I am finding that I am very far from being above all of that petty cattiness.

The pictures of the reunion have now entered my home via the World Wide Web. There were only 45 of us that graduated together and only about two-thirds showed up for the blessed event, which actually makes for a manageable amount of photos to pore over hour after hour.

First of all, each and every set of pics is accompanied by, “Everyone looks just the same!!”

That’s a crock. There are folks that I can’t even identify and in a class that small, it’s not like there were folks I didn’t know.

Some of my old classmates, admittedly, look fantastic. Some look better than they did 25 years ago and some, well…

You may think that I am mean, nasty even, but tell me that you wouldn’t be thinking the same thing in my shoes.

I pore over the photos, feeling immensely superior, telling myself that my fantastic, active, Western lifestyle has slowed down my aging process compared to “their” corporate lives, and that if I had gone, they would all have been insanely jealous of what a great existence I lead.

Never mind the fact that one of them runs the nation’s largest publishing house and another is the world’s premier manatee specialist. They would all have been in awe about my garageexistence, my complete lack of substantial income and the fact that my children haven’t bathed in two weeks and given a lacrosse stick, would use it as a sword to stab each other.

As I look at the photos, I try to locate every gray hair, every wrinkle and every extra pound. I check hands to see if they are married and study foreheads searching for signs of a relationship with botox . Deeming myself better than all (except for one, although she does wear too much makeup for my liking), I call my husband in to look at the photos and concur with me.

“She’s really cute. She reminds me of you.”

My response…

“She’s wearing bad shoes.”

How’s that for self-confident?

Bottom line, I have not matured even one tiny bit since I was 14. I am still the same girl who picked apart the popular girls behind their backs, yet hoped that the phone would ring with a cool-girl party invitation. Still the insecure dork that, in the privacy of my own home, pretends to be the pretty, athletic and smart one that everyone wants to be around.

And, once again, I missed a really good party.

Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos, Colo.