There have been books written about it, movies made about it but somehow, I never thought it would happen to me: The Big High School Reunion. Yikes. Has 20 years really gone by already??
I have to admit – for all my social media scepticism, this is one area where Facebook has been great: giving you the chance to find and get back in touch with old school friends again. People who were such an important part of your life growing up – and who will always share a part of you that your college & “adult” friends can never relate to.
Especially for someone like me who has moved around so much that my ties to childhood friends have worn down to barely a thread…So it was wonderful for me to be welcomed back into my “Choueifat family” – the boys & girls I had gone to school with in the U.A.E….all those years hurrying down those endless corridors, chased by the bell for class; passing notes to friends and making fun of the teachers; agonising over multiple choice questions in our weekly exams and sweating our way through P.E. class under the hot, desert sun…
Sometimes, it still only seems like yesterday and yet here are those same kids, now with families of their own, important jobs & impressive titles…
…except that there, still, in the sparkle of her eyes or the curve of his grin is that bubbly girl I used to laugh with, the cheeky boy I used to know.
It’s hard to believe that so much time could have gone by…
…and yet this past weekend was the reunion, organised by my school mates, through Facebook, to mark 20 years since we all hung up our school uniforms and said goodbye.
Sadly, the reunion party was back in Dubai so I couldn’t go – but I would have really loved to. This wasn’t just your usual high school reunion – you see, unlike schools in most Western countries – my “international” school simply started in Kindergarten and went up through Grade 1, 2, 3….all the way up to Grade 12, when you graduated from “high school” and went onto university in the U.S. or other countries following the International Baccalaureate system. Unless you were like me and stayed on for Grade 13, to complete the A’Levels needed for university in the U.K.
So all this means that – whereas kids normally change schools and thus friends, as they move up through the different primary, intermediate and high school intitutions, we stayed in the same place and grew up with the same kids. There were guys at that reunion last weekend that I had known since I was 10yrs old, when I first moved to the U.A.E. – and many of them had known each other for even longer, maybe even since kindergarten. The thought is slightly freaky.
It also means that the potential changes we might see would be a LOT bigger. This isn’t like a college reunion where you already knew each other as young adults and you don’t change that much afterwards…a lot can change between your tweens/teens and your late thirties!
Of course, not being able to go meant that I wasn’t subjected to the the usual, classic Pre-Reunion Angst: Oh my God – do I look old? Should I lose weight? What do I wear? What will I say? Who will be going? What if those bitchy girls still ignore me? Will that cute boy I had a crush on be there? Should I go???
If any of you have been to school reunions, you must tell me what it’s like! Is it really that awkward? Did you have a panicky pre-reunion make-over? Was it great to see everybody again? How much had everyone changed?
As it was, I’m really lucky that one of my best friends from school still lives in Dubai and she attended the reunion – so I spent a blissful hour yesterday on a long distance phone-call with her, getting a blow-by-blow account of the whole event. In a way, that itself was just like the “good old days”, with the two of us gossiping and giggling on the phone (just without irate parents in the background, shouting at us to get off the phone! )
And one of the funniest things she told me was that she sat next to one of the “popular” girls as they were all looking through a slideshow of old school photos and she was shocked when Popular Girl cringed at her “terrible hair” and eyebrows and other supposed fashion faux pas, desperately wishing that she could have been different…
Now, my best friend is a late-blooming “nerd” like me and back in school, we spent more time worrying about the answer to No. 7 in our Physics exam than whether our eyebrows were properly plucked…but we still always envied the pretty, “popular” girls for their easy grace and flirty confidence, their perfect hair, perfect figures and the attention they got from the boys. Even if you’ve managed to turn into a swan, you still wish you didn’t have to go through your “ugly duckling” years…And yet here was one of those girls confessing that she had agonised over the same insecurities we did and never even realised how admired and envied she was! In her memory, she wasn’t one of the “popular girls” at all!
And I’ve realised that she’s not the only one with a dodgy memory. I always thought of myself as relatively unliked in school. My nickname was ‘The Dictionary’ – because I was good at English, enjoyed the writing assignments that everybody else hated and knew big words to put in my essays. I had a small circle of close friends but to everyone else, I was the goody-goody “teacher’s pet” who sat up at the front of the class, knew the answers to all the questions, never missed a homework assignment and got top grades in every exam. I took everything very seriously and never broke the rules. I mean, I made Hermione look fun. Girls found me annoying and boys found me intimidating – and most people only talked to me when they wanted to copy my homework. Well, that’s what I thought, anyway.
But then I was pleasantly surprised by how friendly many of my old classmates were when they found me on Facebook, how keen they were to get back in touch – and when we got talking, how different their impressions were of me. Sure, they did think I was a “nerd” and a “teacher’s pet” and they did groan at me always knowing everything…but it was more in exasperated affection than anything else. People liked me more than I realised and remembered me nicer than I thought. Probably nicer than I deserved.
So maybe we’re all guilty of getting things wrong. Maybe this is one time things actually were rosier in reality than in memory. Maybe it’s all part of hormonal teenagehood: to always think that everyone is against you and that no-one else suffers the way you do…when actually, things were never as bad you thought.
I certainly had more ‘friends’ in school than I realised – and I’m so glad now that I’m getting a second chance to appreciate them!
P.S. A couple of things, following all your comments on my previous posts: first – wow, I never ralised there were so many fellow ex-nose-pickers out there! And I really loved hearing all your stories of the times you were “naughty” when you were little…
And secondly – following all those comments from people promising not to hug me if we ever met – don’t worry, I don’t mind being hugged! I’m not that “Chinese” – hee! hee! It’s just that I tend not to think of initiating it myself. So if I ever get the chance to meet any of my long-time blog friends, I would be honoured/delighted to be hugged by you and I will happily hug you back…but just don’t be offended/hurt if I don’t initiate the hugging myself!