If you’re a baby boomer, then your high school reunion is coming up. If you’re a leading edge boomer, in just a year or two it’s the 40th. Yikes! But even if you’re on the youngest side of our generation, you’re looking at 30 years. The question is, if someone plans a reunion, should you go? Lorie Eber just went to hers and she says, absolutely. Not just because you’ll learn something about your old classmates, but because you’ll learn something about yourself.
My high school reunion was held under rather inauspicious circumstances. New York City had just suffered the double whammy of being sucker-punched by Hurricane Sandy, then was jabbed again by a cold, snowy, angry Nor’easter. The school had been without power for a week.
Nonetheless, this was a command performance that warranted traveling across the country. The hallowed occasion was not only my graduating class’s 40th anniversary, but also a celebration of the founding of this all-girls Catholic high school by a small order of sisters a hundred years ago. In the early 1970s, the facility consisted of two brownstones on the Upper West Side. A “no congregation” rule was in effect to prevent us from becoming prey to the unsavory neighborhood denizens, lurking close by, taking swigs from paper bags.
Since I’d failed to keep in touch with my forty-five compatriots, curiosity was a major drawing card. Given the locale, I expected a Seinfeld moment and Jerry delivered. As I approached the school building, I was accosted by a frail-looking woman in her 80s, parading near the entrance, brandishing a “Shame on You” placard. A labor dispute? No. Something much more bizarre— a former student who claimed she’d been “forcibly kissed on the lips” by the nun who was principal in the 1940s. She was soliciting alumnae to champion her stale cause. I later learned that the school had retained an attorney to deal with this grievance. You can’t make this stuff up.
Then it was down to the serious business of catching up on 40 years’ worth of life stories. I was immediately struck by two conspicuous differences between the New Yorkers I grew up with and the Southern Californians among whom I now live. New Yorkers don’t sugarcoat. They speak the unvarnished truth. They say, “My teenager hates me,” rather than “Sarah is still trying to find herself.” What joy to be delivered from political correctness if only for a day!
The other coastal variation was physical. Try as I might, I was unable to identify even a single pair of saline implants in the group. Quite a contrast to my SoCal gym locker room, where I’m an endangered species because I don’t sport a Victoria’s Secret 38DDD bra. Perhaps the absence of surgical enhancements parallels the New York speech pattern.
While I can’t promise that you’ll feel the kinship I did among your long-ago classmates, there is good reason to reunite with fallen away friends: you’ll learn a lot about yourself.
As I reminisced with my high school peers, a Polaroid image of Lorie as a young adult started to develop. I was an intelligent but very shy girl, yet even at that tender age, my rebellious, non-conformist streak was evident to my classmates.
I’d almost forgotten that the nuns threatened to ban me from the graduation ceremony because my shoes were deemed to be the wrong color and I’d refused to wear a bra under the hideous graduation dress. We compromised. I borrowed appropriate shoes and the sisters relented on the undergarment.
I was reminded that our small class had been arbitrarily divided into two sections: one designated “smart” and the other “not so smart.” Seems rather unchristian, doesn’t it? While this dichotomy had faded from my memory, my stigmatized colleagues remembered it as if it happened yesterday. Ironically, the perk for being ordained a “smart” girl was mandatory enrollment in physics class at the expense of acquiring what we all knew was far more employable typing talent. Even as an unworldly teenager, I realized that secretarial skills would trump understanding E=mc2 in the real world. Clearly the sisters did not foresee the tech revolution on the horizon. Smart or not so smart?
As the festivities wore on, it became obvious that my only trait that has notably changed over the years is that I now run my mouth a lot more. But, maybe that’s more a manifestation of advancing age.
Is your high school or college reunion on the horizon? Are you on the fence about going? Show up. You just might learn something about yourself.
Lorie Eber, JD is a nationally-known keynote speaker on Healthy Living, Healthy Aging and Elder Care issues. Author of “Boomers: Aging Beats the Alternative and a Sense of Humor Helps,” she is also a prolific boomer blogger, a Gerontologist and a Certified Personal Trainer and Senior Fitness Specialist. Visit Lorie’s websites at www.AgingBeatsTheAlternative.com and www.LorieEberKeynoteSpeaker.com.