Saturday, November 26, 2005

They shouldn't spring an ex-boyfriend on you like that

When I walked in the door of the mini-reunion, I felt almost exactly the way I did in high school, uneasy, unconfident, but expectant. Did I look okay? Who would be there? Would they think I looked okay? Would they accept me for who I am? Right away I was greeted by my oldest friend, a girl I've seen every year or so since I graduated. That put me a little at ease. And she also knew and remembered Mr. Geeky, and asked briefly after the kids. Then the hostess greeted us and gave us the lowdown on where we could find drinks and food. Then the two of them scurried off and Mr. Geeky and I were standing there in the entryway. I scanned the room and didn't recognize a soul. There were people there who weren't from our high school, so this was not terribly unusual.

Finally, we did the only thing that seemed natural and went to the kitchen for beer. There we were greeted by more people from high school, some of whom I recognized and some of whom I didn't. We chatted with them about their jobs, about kids, about where they lived, who they kept up with. We shared stories about dealing with kids, about ill parents and grandparents, about our own health issues. A guy came up to me and said hello and I said (as I'd been saying almost all night), "Please tell me who you are." It was my first high school boyfriend. I had not seen him since 1984 when he was 18. I almost passed out on the floor. (Mr. Geeky told me later that I really did look quite shocked. I feel bad because it wasn't that he looked bad, just so different.) Mr. Geeky left shortly after that and I spent the next few hours talking to various people.

All of these encounters with old friends--the college reunion and now this--have really caused me to do some thinking. Both in high school and college, I felt seriously inadequate (I know Phantom, that's your schtick, sorry). The people at the Friday night affair were fairly popular people. Some were cheerleaders and football players. Others were student council presidents. Some were soccer or tennis players. All of them were in the "beautiful people" class. Even though I was friends with many of them (and dated one of them), I never felt like I measured up. Of course I was measuring against a very narrow scale. I looked at their clothes, how many friends they had, how good-looking their dates were. I didn't think about whether they were smart or not, what their plans were for the future.

When I think back to those days, I think about the stupid things I did to try to run with the popular crowd. And I think about how much time I pissed away doing those things instead of studying or participating in an extracurricular activity that might have been a ticket to a better school (or a bigger scholarship). I also think about how stupid it was for me to feel inferior to these people. It wasn't like they were treating me badly. Then, as now, they were perfectly nice. No, the boys in that crowd didn't always ask me out and I wasn't on the phone with a lot of the girls. But it wasn't like they were purposely leaving me out of parties or anything. I just had blinders on the whole time. I had a certain perception of myself and I let that color all of my relationships and all of the decisions I made.

And now, talking to them again, I realize that I had nothing to worry about. I may not have a spectacularly better life than they do, but I have achieved a measure of success that I'm perfectly happy with. And I'm continually seeking out new challenges for myself while many of them seemed to have gotten as far as they're going to go and are perfectly content. Most of them went off to nearby colleges that weren't particularly challenging. They got really ordinary jobs, settled down, got married, and had kids. And I think that's exactly what they wanted to do, no more, no less.

I had a really pleasant time, though, sharing stories about high school (some of which I didn't remember) and laughing and trying to find common ground.