we parked and scooted out to the edge of our seats to lower ourselves out from the truck. it is very complicated, it seems, to wear a skirt with high heels and get in and out of an suv. especially when your skirt was hemmed just a wee bit higher than you are now comfortable with, considering that when you hemmed it you were thinking “oh, i’ll be wearing tights, and i will want it higher, like retro 60s looking.” and then when you put the tights on with the dress about 30 minutes before the event began, you realized, “oh, crap, i look like a smurf. or a leprechaun. this isn’t going to work.”
as we walked toward the building, i saw girls up ahead. as we drew closer, i recognized them as the girls who had encouraged me to attend this thing in the first place. they are the ones who said, “come! we would love to see you!”
we caught up and exchanged hugs, which helped ease the nerves that had been churning in the pit of my stomach ever since i had realized the skirt was hemmed too high. it was dark at least, so not everyone would be able to see every single baby vein, as i affectionately named them during the weekend. after all, i had earned every one of them during three different pregnancies.
suddenly a guy i did not recognize said, “hey! i think we went to a dance together!” and i thought, “really? am i that old that i cannot even remember the dates i had in high school?” (there were only 2 dates, and they were to dances. i did not have any other dates whatsoever, so i should have been able to remember…)
he backed up and said, “i mean we rode in the same car—to ringdance our junior year. right?”
at this point, i could have said just about anything, and preferably something like, “oh yeah, i remember that. good times!” you know, something benign, something that wouldn’t draw attention to myself. instead, what i said was, “oh! ringdance. ugh. i try to forget that night ever happened. my date ditched me once we got to the actual dance.” everyone’s face seemed to fall and suddenly fill with pity. i would like to tell you everyone laughed, and i think they did, but all i could hear was myself talking, and my other self trying to get my first self to shut the hell up and just be cute in my hemmed-too-high skirt.
then someone said, “oh! that’s horrible. who did you go with?” as soon as i heard this question i realized his ex-wife was standing to my left. i mean, i knew she was there the whole time, but you know in these situations how cloudy your mind can get. or is that just me? please tell me no.
after blurting out his name and some awkward laughs all around, we said, “ok, let’s think happy thoughts and head straight to the bar!” and off we teetered and tottered to the door (or maybe that was just me, who also thought it would be a great idea to buy shoes with 4-inch heels because i am short, after all, and did i want people to think i had grown over the past 20 years?).
the rest of the night really doesn’t warrant much discussion. there was a mean girl group, if you can believe it. i had been told that the 20-year reunion really doesn’t have much of that anymore—people are grown up, beyond that, with families of their own and finally mature enough not to play the stupid “i’m-better-than-you” games. on the dance floor, at one point i was dancing and happened to catch a girl pointing at me (there was no one else around, so unless she was pointing at the decorations i was clearly her topic of discussion). when i saw it and saw the not-so-nice look on her face, i flashed her a big, confident smile (i have the gin and juice to thank for that), and she looked away in horror at having been caught.
i like to imagine that she was raving over my dress, which by the way i got for $39.50 at our local vintage store, and it’s from the 1960s. or that she loved my hair and heels (which i danced in all night—i wasn’t about to take them off and look as short as i really am…did i mention my skirt was too short?). but she and some other girls had shown ugly colors earlier when we had been hanging out on the patio outside, so i really should assume whatever it was she was telling the other girl was nasty.
the food was lame. the cost was $50 per person, and the menu consisted of meatballs, chicken fingers, vegetable egg rolls, barbecue on grocery store style buns. dessert, you ask? cookies, lined in a neat row, like they had been taken straight out of plastic containers and laid on a plate. seriously? for $50 a person? we should have had dinner. however, in the moment i didn’t complain because i had been worried i’d be tempted to blow my diet. whew.
the music was lame too until i started requesting that the dj play rap. keep in mind that my graduating class had only one black student. and i think one or two hispanic students. the town is beyond racist (or at least was when i moved there). so the minute the dj broke out with fergie and jay-z he got complaints. but i was happy so i didn’t care. i can’t imagine going to a reunion and wanting to hear only the songs that were popular when you were a teenager.
i reconnected with several people, but the conversation never got beyond “where do you live now?” and mostly i was doing the asking. a couple of people reciprocating and asked where i lived. that was it. not “what do you do now? why do you live there? are you married?” nothing. it was weird.
granted, i don’t think i was being the best conversationalist. so i started giving myself a complex, suddenly doubting my social skills in a serious way.
i think it was a bit awkward because i attended the school for only 2 years, so some people just had a hard time remembering me. and i definitely had a hard time remembering them. these people grew up together for the most part, in a small town in the south where folks just tend to be tight-knit (and not always in a good way). so there wasn’t really much room for me then, and that was confirmed 20 years later.
i left that night feeling glad that i am where i am and that i know the people i know (near and far). there are lots of people who love me, and who appreciate me, and who love the quirky things about me, and who ask what’s new and different in my life. so it was fun to see a few people, but i wouldn’t want to go and do it again in 5 or 10 years.
i am grateful for my all-grown-up self and everything it embodies.