There are some things in life that can make one’s blood run cold. It could be the thought of heights, spiders, Nigel Farage, being shut in a confined space, being shut in a confined space with Nigel Farage, or maybe shopping in Primark. One of the many things that make my veins turn a bit chilly, is the thought of a school reunion.
A friend of mine recently sent me a link to a group on Facebook where ex-pupils of the school/gulag I went to in the ’70s are swapping talk about our final year group photo and organising a reunion for the class of ’79. Like watching a horror film through your fingers, I couldn’t help but scroll through the posts. In short, I find the concept of meeting up with people you were pleased to get away from some 40 years ago, bizarre to say the least.
Don’t get me wrong, I do have friends from that era that I have been fortunate enough to retain, like said friend above. However, for me, that’s where it stops. I have no rose-tinted hindsight, unlike those whose comments I read whilst scrolling. “Those were the days!”, “Yeah mate best years of our lives.” Really?!
Why in the name of all that’s holy, would I want to get together with people from that era? At the time, the only thing we had in common was the fact that we had been lumped into the education system at the same time. The idea of meeting up forty years after the event and painfully trying to find some sort of common ground between us is toe-curling. And if a thread of connection were to be somehow found, would we actually give a toss about it?
Certainly, it wasn’t all horror and raging hormones. There was the fantastic music of that period, classic TV shows, and some fragments of pleasant shared experiences. They may be from some sort of school outing, humourous events in everyday life, the discovery of alcohol or snogging someone’s face off at a party and encountering the enigma of bra fastenings for the first time. Those memories I keep with me and revisit when I’m in the company of those friends I keep in touch with by choice or when swapping school stories with an acquaintance I meet in the here and now. The thought of going the whole hog and surrounding myself with faces from the periphery of that time fills me with horror. Given the choice between attending a reunion or covering myself in bacon before walking into an enclosure full of tigers, I would choose the latter every time.
I confess that I do have a very mild curiosity about some people from those days but I would like to observe their paths through life from a distance, preferably via a very powerful telescope. It makes me wonder what the attendees of such an event actually want to find out and I am convinced that the roots are in morbid curiosity rather than being genuinely sociable.
Do I really want to know if that girl with unfortunate teeth managed to get them fixed or does her nose still look like it’s playing a Hammond organ? Not really. That lad from the sticks whose family tree didn’t seem to have many branches – do I want to know if he still licks his shoes? Definitely not. What about the boy from the year below who bit a teacher on the ankle before escaping school and hiding up a tree, do I want to try and swap niceties with him over vol-au-vents? Er, no. Do I need to find out if one of my tormentors, who seemed to have acne designed by Pizza Express, has recovered scar-free from his epidermal horror show or if he has been left with a face that NASA would like to land on? I think I’ll pass, thanks. What possible needy void in my life could be filled and sated by finding out of the gypsy boy from the year above me, still rides a donkey everywhere instead of taking the bus? None that I can find.
The truth is, when we look at those old school group photos, we see ourselves and think we haven’t changed. Somewhere in the dark, smoke-filled staff room in our mind, we believe that somehow the fresh-faced person staring back at us is still who we are. We ignore the expanding girth, the tired ageing skin, the change in hair colour (or lack of it completely), and the sagging parts of our anatomy. We just stare into those eyes in the photograph and see ourselves, as if it were a kind of mirror.
Then we go to a reunion and discover that everyone has changed. There are fat old wrinkly people there who have stolen some facial features from kids we once knew and put them on fat suits. We look on in horror. The problem is that all those people look at you in the same way.
How excruciating it would be to spend an evening repeatedly saying “Yes, I remember you Fred. You’re looking well and Freda – you haven’t changed a bit” when our internal voice is screaming “Christ on biscuits Fred! What the fuck happened to you?!? Freda? Freda with the pert breasts and willowy figure? Jesus, you look like you’ve popped out a shit load of kids in 40 years. Your ‘downstairs’ must be like a wizard’s sleeve!” Painful, utterly painful and you return home at the end of the evening feeling saddened and shocked instead of experiencing the boost you had hoped for. You realise that you too are now old.
Somehow, I guess people want to see everything and everyone as it was but minus the bad skin, teenage angst, and strange odours. Well folks – it ain’t gonna happen. It’s best to leave all those faces and memories in your head where they belong. Don’t force a reunion upon yourself and try to bring those memories back to life for it just becomes more of a weird séance than a reunion.
So, will I be going along to the reunion? Sorry, no. I have an appointment with some tigers.