When the invitation arrived in my inbox, I was expecting it. I say, “expecting it,” when I really mean that I was deeply, deeply freaked. Had I really been out of high school ten years, and if so, how come I’d accomplished not much at all? But, doctorate or no, I had no desire to attend a reunion.
When the invitation arrived in my inbox, I was expecting it.
I say, “expecting it,” when I really mean that I was deeply, deeply freaked. Had I really been out of high school ten years, and if so, how come I’d accomplished not much at all? But, doctorate or no, I had no desire to attend a reunion.
That was something I’d known as a senior at J.R. Tucker. I knew then I’d never want to come back or see any of the people ever again. I was so devoted to avoiding my high school classmates, I didn’t even join Facebook until 2009.
Background: I’ve never had a lot of friends. Never been part of a clique or belonged to a sorority or been part of a big, happy, screaming, bothering-and-attracting-the-envy-of-the-other-patrons group in a bar. Call it being an old soul or an introvert or whatever; I am a little bit of a loner. Which might surprise you, because I’m not goth. I look totally normal. Boring, typical, as though I just walked out of Old Navy. These days — meaning the weekends and my real life — my husband and I have dinner, drink beers, take walks, and turn down most all of the invitations we receive. Yes, this loner thing is something I choose.
Early last year, when I finally broke down and joined Facebook, it was just because I had to for work.
Right away, of course, I started receiving friend requests from people I’d gone to high school with, just as I’d dreaded doing. There was the mouth-breathing guy who had that year-round cold and the pharmacy in his backpack; there was the girl who kept upgrading her promise ring. Meanwhile I was the girl who read The Catcher in the Rye and accused my whole lunch table of being phonies. For our senior superlatives, I was voted “most mysterious,” which I found bizarre, considering I’d gone to school with the same group of kids since the second grade.
Hell, if I was mysterious, they were too. I knew way more about Bill Clinton in 1998 than I did about that girl who sat next to me in AP English and who once asked the teacher, “Existentialism… is that like transcendentalism?” Did her boyfriend at a neighboring high school really exist, or had she made him up? Was that bulimia rumor true? No clue.
Ironically, it’s only been through Facebook that I’ve ever gotten to know my old classmates. For eighteen months now, I have watched the postings of ultrasounds, wedding announcements, Mother’s Day shout-outs and Weight Watcher’s updates. And I think I understand now how/that these people are people. There they all are: having Memorial Day cookouts and posting the photos, going on vacations to St. Thomas (always St. Thomas—what is that?).
Maybe it was the times, maybe it was just all the high school fakery and my own limitations, but in person, these people never seemed like people. Whereas, on Facebook, they are worried about shit, happy about shit, just like me. Imagine my huge relief. To paraphrase the poet James Harms, if ten years later you can think of your high school classmates without bitterness or even mystification, your sense of alienation and the gentle loneliness will vanish like variables in a long solved equation.
None of this means I want to go and see them at the reunion, though. I am happy connecting with them at this Facebook-type distance; they seem really nice. The only sense of union I have ever known (and will likely ever need) is already taking place online, and thank god for that. The great difficulty in life is recognizing other people as people, counting their concerns as real, understanding them as sincere, taking them seriously, and all this supposedly ill-advised posting of personal information has already given me more insight into my old classmates’ lives than I ever had when I saw them every day at school. Maybe to spend hours in some downtown restaurant in their presence would destroy these new-found illusions.
And that’s why I’m clicking “not attending.”