I have no need for anger with intimate strangers
June 15, 2006
I really can't write the entry y'all want me to write about the reunion.
There are a million reasons: I have no anonymity among my classmates. My amalah.com email address is listed in the alumni directory. I have to assume everything I write will get back to pretty much everybody.
But more than any of that, who the fuck do I think I am to judge anybody there?
That's not to say that I didn't judge the hell out of everybody. I glanced through the directory and snickered at how so few of us ventured beyond the Bucks County cornfields. I was shocked at how many babies people have, and at how very close together they've been having those babies. I was taken aback at how many pastor's wives and how few career women my class produced. I was furious when people wouldn't let me finish my sentence about quitting my job to pursue a writing career before jumping in to tell me how wonderful staying home is.
Ugh. It's a wonder anybody spoke to me at all.
As I was getting dressed, about 30 minutes before we needed to leave for the reunion, I realized I'd left all the underwear and jewelry for the trip at home, in a different suitcase. I borrowed a necklace from my mom because I realized the one I was wearing (an heirloom chain from my grandmother) was the very same one I wore every single day in high school.
(As for the underwear situation, I went commando. Top and bottom. Yes.)
The area around my school (about 25 miles away from where my parents live, 45 minutes straight on into bumblefuck) hasn't changed. At all. The farms and tiny houses are completely untouched by sprawl and new townhomes and Super Targets. It's like time has stood still.
While negotiating the directions to the reunion with Jason, I suddenly remembered a left turn we were supposed to make because it's where my friend's mom ran over a chicken one time.
I had a mini-anxiety attack as we passed the driveway where I crashed my car and started hyperventilating as we passed my school. We sat in the parking lot of the restaurant for a few minutes while I tried to chill the fuck out. Jason offered to drive me home but I said no.
A couple people didn't speak to me. A couple others said gracious hellos and introductions but then seemed to actively ignore me all night. After I left I realized there were a few people that I'd made absolutely no effort to talk to.
I loaded a plate up with food and could barely eat a single bite. I ended up at a table with a bunch of people I'd never really been friends with.
I made a joke to a girl (someone I'd had a rocky on-again-off-again friendship with) about being drunk, and she laughed dismissively and remined me that I was the girl who gave her a hard time about watching Dirty Dancing at a sleepover.
There was something about her delivery -- or maybe something about the fact that it was HER -- that threw me back 10 years, when I was the girl who JUST WANTED THESE PEOPLE TO LIKE ME, and instead of telling her to fuck off, people GROW UP SOMETIMES, IMAGINE THAT, I just smiled and laughed and although she'd clearly turned her back on our conversation, I kept following her around.
Once again, I was just a pathetic baby chick flapping its wings, chirping "LIKE ME! LIKE ME!"
I drank too much. I swore a lot. I went into the bathroom and yelled FUUUUCK at no one in particular. I huddled in corners with a few friends as we cast nasty, bitter eyes across the room at who had gained weight, who was still a bitch, who was lecturing people about smoking cigarettes at the bar.
I didn't especially like myself by the end of the night.
When someone asked how long Jason and I have been together, I realized I'd completely forgotten that I got married when I was only 20 years old.
The only teacher who attended was our old chemistry teacher, Mr. Bauer. I thanked him for being the only teacher to realize that I had a learning disorder. I struggled with math and science my entire life, but it was okay because I was good at English and math was hard and I was a girl. Mr. Bauer figured out that I wrote numbers backwards and upside-down. He had me take my chemistry tests using graph paper, writing each number in its own box. I took this habit with me to college, where I got straight As in my Algebra classes. I told him I'd even been a financial editor, and that now I was a writer. He hugged me and told me how happy that made him. All night it seemed like everybody was swapping stories about how Mr. Bauer changed their lives.
He was fired the year we graduated, incidentally. They said his teaching style was too "unstructured" for our school's rigorous educational criteria.
A bunch of us bonded over just how fucked up our high school really was. We joked about taking four years of Spanish instruction only to get placed in Spanish I in college. I admitted to changing my degree to a Bachelor of Science just to get out of dealing with the foreign language requirement. I made a joke about not knowing anything about evolution either, but that didn't really go over quite so well.
When I told someone else that I'm a writer now, they responded, "Of COURSE you are!"
My classmates look great. Some look better than ever. Most of them seem very happy.
I don't belong there anymore, and that makes me happy.