Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Attending someone else's high school reunion = Dante's Inferno

We went to Dan's 30th reunion a few weeks ago, which is not something I recommend you do as a partner who does not know a single person other than your SO. Women kept thinking they recognized me, but just couldn't place me. There would be a moment where I'd catch someone's eye, and she'd go, Hey! her eyebrows flying up, ready to give me a hug, and I'd be say, Hi! I didn't go to your high school. And then she'd swing away, taking a big sip of chardonnay.

Which reminds me that huge social events where you know almost no one would be so much easier if I still drank. I mean, easier in the short term, because I would stop feeling so awkward after about one glass, but it would likely be bad in the long run, because I stopped drinking in part due to the day-after regrets. I am not a person who can have one glass of any alcohol--like, why? Why just the one when you can have ALL of it? The more you drink, the more you erase all of the uncomfortable feelings and the more you start asking strangers how they feel about abortion or growing up in a rural area or if they ever knew anyone who died tragically, etc. This behavior then leads to being distracted while talking to someone as you begin to wonder when you can end the conversation to make your way back to the bar. The next day, you wake up feeling like your head is full of cotton fluff, and you start to remember, in bits and pieces, all of the weirdo questions you asked or dancing with your arms akimbo to Boy George or flirting with a man in a flannel shirt who turns out to be from another party. I do not like to experience that nearly inevitable day-after glow of shame, and so I stopped drinking four years ago (with one lapse at a single event two years ago, but I am allowing myself not to count that). Four plus years of sobriety and how many slightly painful events where everyone else drank? Five dozen? I've learned that I do get a sort of contact high around people who are drinking. As their inhibitions slip, I too can become looser and sillier and perhaps more myself without worrying about how I appear to them, because they probably won't remember later.

Anyway, going to someone else's high school reunion completely sober is not something I recommend unless you are a documentary filmmaker. It wasn't terrible, but I spent most of the night sitting at a table, attempting to make conversation with one or two other interlopers and waiting for the dessert tray to be served.

I think the other thing that's hard about reunions with people you didn't stay in contact with is that it tends to emphasize rather than close that gap. I mean, you can talk for a while about teachers you had, or other classmates who died or disappeared, but then what? I liked high school, but it wasn't the highlight of my life, and I don't have any super vivid memories outside of a handful of funny incidents. And I know I would attend hoping that something significant would be resolved; I'd run into a few people who would tell me illuminating stories about myself that would cause me to question my identity and re-think my entire life. That happens, right? And of course I'd want all of the stories to be positive, like someone saying "Remember that time after PE when you told me I'd didn't smell that bad? I was planning on running away that night, but your comment stopped me." Or, "Remember in Mr. Shaw's drama class when you did that monologue from The Spoon River Anthology? You were so good, I always thought I'd see you on TV one day." And my fear would be that someone might tell me I was really mean to them, or a snob, or that they'd formed a secret club to make fun of me. From going to Dan's reunion, I'm pretty sure that neither thing will happen.

I'm going anyway. And I'll stay sober and I'll try not to expect too much.

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