Are they still relevant?
By Greg Merritt
As so often happens when one is taking a shower, my mind started to wander into those far reaches of conciseness that people’s mind tend to travel when enveloped by the solitude of a shower and nothing else to distract them. After contemplating such important matters as whether or not Beethoven would have liked the movie Beethoven (you know, the one about the dog), and just how did that lone hair get so high up on the shower wall? I’m not that tall and I’m the tallest person in my house. Is a giant using my shower when we’re all gone or did my wife put it up there as part of a long, drawn out and carefully crafted plan to slowly drive me insane and make me forget insignificant things such as our anniversary? Regardless, getting back to the subject at hand, after such contemplations it dawned on me that next year is going to be my 25th high school reunion.
I’ll confess that I don’t know if a reunion is typically held for year 25 or not. I do know that they tend to be held on the tens (10, 20, 30… etc.) but I also know that we as a people tend to like anniversaries on years in which 100 is divided into nice quarterly chunks like 25, 50, 75 and 100. What I really wonder is, why do we have reunions anymore at all?
High school reunions seem like a very 20th century thing to do. Prior to the 20th century there weren’t very many people graduating high school and having a high school education was probably held in higher regard than having a college education is today. It wasn’t unusual to meet somebody who had one, but was not the norm. While about 25% of our population today holds at least a bachelor’s degree it is estimated that only 5-10% of the population had a high school education going into the 20th century and given the lack of mobility of the times, the high school graduates probably weren’t going anywhere anyway so they had no need for a reunion. If they wanted one they could just go outside and walk down the street to see their old classmates.
In the 20th century, however, the rails became more ubiquitous than ever and with the eventual proliferation of the automobile and better and farther reaching communication technologies there began to be a mass migration away from the rural parts of society into the urban areas. By the mid-twentieth century more and more people were going to and graduating from high school and then taking their education away from where they had grown up to all the various cities throughout the country. These were the people who felt a need for a reunion with their former classmates. They had moved away from their small town into some suburban pseudo-utopia and were wondering whatever happened to Frank or Betty and what pseudo-utopia suburbia did they move to?
Now days we live in a world of social media. No longer do we have to wonder whatever happened to Frank or Betty. Nope, now we just have to look at their Facebook profile to keep up with their lives. If not Facebook then there is a plethora of other social media platforms for people to choose from. No longer do we have to wonder what Frank and Betty are doing when we can see what they had for dinner, what their kids dressed up as for Halloween, where they went last Saturday night and whatever their latest time wasting obsession is. Yes, now we can see why we really weren’t all that heartbroken to leave and why we really didn’t try harder to keep in touch. Their lives are even more boring than our own!
Now that there really is no need for high school reunions in our brave new century I got to wondering, just who still feels the need to go to their reunion? I believe we can break these people down into six categories: the Luddite, the Boredom, the Re-liver, the Bragger, the Beauty Pageant Contestant, and the Missed Opportunity.
The Luddite: If you’ve ever heard of the term ‘luddite’ before you already know something about these people. These are the people who either are unaware of the latest technology or are aware but actively choose not to participate. Think of your little old grandmamma sitting by an old, clunky landline phone from 1963 just waiting for you to call her (go on – give her a call – you know you should) and you will have an idea of who tends to fit this profile. That’s not to say that every elderly person eschews the social media of the day or that there are no younger people who steadfastly refuse to join in on the social media herd, but I think we all can agree that it would be safe to say that a vast majority of those born in the generations after the baby-boomers are willing participants of social media while a significant portion of those abstaining are from the boomer generation or before (Hi Dad!). These are the people who actually have a reason for a reunion! After all, they don’t use social media, so how could they possibly know that their old classmate just had the best imitation crab cake while watching the game at the local watering hole? Yep, they need a reunion to get that kind of juicy details about their classmates. Huzzah!
The Boredom: These are the people who happen to live in the town the reunion is being held and have nothing else to do with their weekend. It gives them a reason to put on something nicer than that natty old pair of sweatpants and the t-shirt they got for participating in that hot dog eating competition years ago that is now so full of holes but somehow keeps finding its way in the laundry rather than the trash. They might actually even shave if they think about it soon enough. Yep, this might be the most exciting thing to happen to The Boredom in years and they better not miss it this time around because it will be 10 years before the next one.
The Re-liver: Do you remember how back in high school some people would tell you that your high school years would be the best years of your life and you would think to yourself “Oh Lord I hope not!”? You got older and moved on with life and discovered that your high school years were just another time in your life. Not the best, maybe not the worst bust just another time. Well, for the Re-liver, high school was the best time of their life and now they are just itching for a chance to catch even a glimpse of the brightness of the light that was their high school life. They peaked early and are looking to relive those days and feel like a shining star again.
The Bragger: This is the person who comes rolling up in a rented limousine trying to play it off like it was their own. They want nothing more than for you to believe they have found fame and fortune and are no longer the geeky kid who just couldn’t get into the popular crowd no matter how hard they tried. Whether or not they’ve actually found that fame and fortune (probably not) is beside the point. What matters to them is that you believe they had. That and they are really hoping you don’t order the drink from the top shelf to test their budget when they offer to pay for your drink.
The Beauty Pageant Contestant: Despite claims to the contrary by the folks who put them on, beauty pageants are about one thing and one thing only: beauty! Intelligence, mirth, personality and some meaningless talent like the ability to twirl a baton are all nice additions and give you something else to point to, but, in the end, it’s all about how good you look in skimpy swimwear and whether or not you can speak without drooling into a cup. In the context of reunions, the Beauty Pageant Contestant couldn’t care less about what you’ve done for the past 20 years or what you are doing now. All they care about is looking better than everybody else they went to school with. Nothing would make them feel better than to see a gaggle of balding men with thick lines of suicidal hair on the floor trailing behind them and a herd of corpulent women with links of sausages coming out of their mouths.
The Missed Opportunity: We all have things in our past that we reflect back upon from time to time and wish we could have maybe done things better. However, for The Missed Opportunity, they have been dwelling on some sort of missed opportunity in high school and have thought of little since and this reunion is going to be their chance to make up for it. It may have been some bully who picked on them one afternoon and instead of fighting back they just stood there and took it. That was their opportunity to show the world that they weren’t a pushover. That they could stand up and defend themselves. Well, now they’re going to show Ethan who’s the real man! If Ethan even tries to start anything the Missed Opportunity is going to give ‘ol Ethan a sock in the eye! Heck, the Missed Opportunity is even hoping for Ethan to just look cross at them. Poor Ethan doesn’t know what’s coming! Especially since Ethan hasn’t thought of Missed Opportunity since high school and won’t even talk to Missed Opportunity during the reunion. Missed Opportunity is also going to hook up with that hot number they could have hooked up with but for some reason never did. Oh but didn’t Hot Number want Missed Opportunity so bad in high school and would stare blissfully at Missed Opportunity with lost puppy dog eyes? Well, tonight Missed Opportunity is going to fulfill Hot Number’s dreams and wipe away years of what could have been. The fact that Hot Number is married with three kids is not going to stop anybody nor is the fact that Hot Number is not now, nor has ever been, interested in Missed Opportunity in the slightest. Those puppy dog eyes back in high school? Hot Number was actually staring at the person behind Missed Opportunity.
These are the six types of people who are clamoring for a high school reunion these days and I, for one, am proud not to be counted among them. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to check Facebook and see how chunky ‘ol Hot Number has gotten.