I got an invitation to my 20th (eek!) high school reunion this week. I also got a text from a friend of mine in Saudi Arabia who said she and her family were crossing the Causeway for a weekend visit to Bahrain and did we want to meet for breakfast. On Thursday, I revealed to some of my students that the middle school math teacher had been at my wedding. It got me thinking about catching up and meeting up and what role social media has in all of that.
For instance, my friends from Saudi- we worked together in Kuwait, back when I was single and inviting myself over to dinner so someone would feed me something other than Kraft mac and cheese. These two were married and already had a (completely adorable) kid and they knew how to make cocktails. They were a surrogate family, which I greatly appreciated.
When I saw them this morning, the first thing we talked about was our impending move to Serbia. Only I didn’t have to bring it up. They already knew. Just like I knew when they got their job in Saudi. They know what adorable things my kids say and do, and I refuse to believe that their son is turning thirteen, though I know it to be true. Because we are friends, we still had a lot to talk about, including but not limited to the challenges of directing theatre in a strict Muslim country and/or school setting. We chuckled that ‘our kids’ were playing together. There was talk of the future and the past and it was a wonderful morning. There was no struggle for conversations, despite knowing their day-to-day successes and failures, thanks to Facebook.
But the high school reunion- aside from feeling a little bit old (seriously, 20 years?!), the general feeling of the week was nostalgia. I actually want to go to my reunion, though I can’t tell you why. I haven’t stayed close with many people I graduated with- just a handful, really. But I am ‘friends’ with quite a few classmates, via Facebook. People I wasn’t really friends with in high school. I had a pretty okay time in high school- most of my bad days can be attributed to a rather destructive relationship I was involved in, but outside of that, things were pretty easy for me. I had friends, I wasn’t bullied, I got good grades. Twenty years on (stop saying it out loud!), I don’t remember that there was any bad stuff to try to forget and am mildly curious what it would be like to see people that I knew a lifetime ago. But, in that same sentence I can tell you that the people I’m most interested in seeing probably won’t be there… so why do I want to go? It’s not like ‘back in the day’ when you lost touch after high school and had no idea what your classmates were up to until a reunion. Today, I know how much laundry the head cheerleader did and what the Student Council President ate for lunch.
And the truth is, I am still friends with the people I want to be friends with. I mostly know what’s happening in their lives- who has kids, whose been divorced, who moved away, whose parents are alive. I’m reminded of ‘Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion,’ where they felt the need to reinvent themselves- to lie about their accomplishments- to impress old classmates. I don’t need to lie- I’m happy enough with my life and what I’ve done so far. None of us have to lose weight because our pictures are all over Facebook and Instagram. But what in the world would we all talk about at a reunion? How do you catch up with people when you know everything that’s going on? Does small talk exist anymore when you can follow someone’s life as it unfolds?
‘So, I see you have three kids- they’re cute.’
‘Yep. And you have two. The big one is funny.’
‘Yep. Sorry about your divorce.’
‘Eh, he was a jerk. Sorry about your mom.’
I won’t be able to go. We already have summer plans booked with the in-laws that will take us from Georgia the night before the reunion which makes me happy and sad. I’m happy to have the time with my family, but I am curious about the night. I wonder who will show up. I wonder who I’ve forgotten about. Or who has forgotten about me.
I wonder what everyone will talk about.
The thing about good friends, true friends, is that no matter how much you splash across social media, they either do know the rest of the story, or they want to know it. A shared history makes reunions worth it and there is definitely a shared past in surviving high school. Maybe I’ll make an effort to meet up with those friends I care most about this summer, pre-reunion. I know where they all live, after all. And what they’re having for dinner.