By Mir
August 18, 2009

I grew up in a pretty small town, and the good thing about small towns is that you pretty much know everyone.

Of course, the bad thing about small towns is that… you pretty much know everyone.

I was not what you might refer to as a well-adjusted child. I mean, it wasn’t anything that ten or twenty years and thousands of dollars of therapy couldn’t fix, but still. Most of my childhood memories are not happy ones. Most of my school day memories are filled with cringe-worthy recollections of not being pretty enough, cool enough, confident enough, ENOUGH enough. I ended up graduating early and heading off to college because I figured a fresh start with people who’d never known me in my no-name jeans and rainbow suspenders was the way to go.

It presents an interesting conundrum when it comes to high school reunions, though, because the class I graduated with is not the class I went all through school with.

See, I became a senior halfway through my junior year. I was getting the heck out of Dodge as fast as I could. Last year marked 20 years since I graduated from high school, and I don’t even know if they had a reunion. I probably wouldn’t have gone even if they did. This year, however, was the 20th reunion for what I consider MY CLASS—the folks whom, in many cases, I went through school with from kindergarten.

I couldn’t go to this reunion because the timing with the kids starting back to school and everything just made it impossible. Though I probably would’ve crashed it, otherwise. I don’t think anyone would’ve cared. But thanks to the modern miracle of Facebook, I’ve been getting vicarious glimpses into the festivities. I’ve not only reconnected with a number of people from my childhood, I immediately arrived at two inescapable conclusions:

1) My classmates are a exceedingly good-looking bunch of people,
2) People are, in general, a lot kinder than I’m inclined to assume.

I went through those reunion pictures expecting to find a passel of fat, bald, old people. Because that’s what you get at a 20th reunion, right? Not here. Some of the women I remember from elementary, middle, and high school actually look BETTER now than they did back then. I mean, the fashion of the 80s certainly wasn’t doing any of us any favors (not that I didn’t wear my beloved acid-washed high-waisted Lee jeans until they fell apart), but still. Quite a few of the women looked SO GOOD I was relieved I hadn’t attended, lest I feel inferior all over again.

As I surfed around I kept encountering more and more of my classmates from years past, and I sent out friend invitations to many of them, and have since had umpteen email exchanges. Some of them were with folks I considered good friends, back in the day. Some were with acquaintances. And others were with folks with whom I’d had uneasy interactions in the past. And so far, everyone has been gracious and funny and entertaining.

No one has said, “Wait, aren’t you that weird girl who wore long john bottoms instead of tights under your wool skirt, who had giant frizzy hair and hung out in the band room?” (And no, I wasn’t even in the band. It was just a convenient safe haven for dorks.) No one has said, “How the heck did you end up being a writer?” In fact, several folks made comments like, “I can totally see you doing that.”

In a few beyond-the-surface conversations I’ve heard some interesting things from my cohorts of yore—comments about their own insecurities from back then, or mention of ways in which they wished they’d behaved differently—and it’s interesting to me to compare the self-absorption and self-deprecation of back then to the reality, which is (of course) that no one ever devoted nearly as much thought to me as I feared they did.

It’s been oddly healing, sort of a gentle reminder that everyone is dealing with their own demons and time passes and things change and memories shift. We share common ground in the past, sure, and now we survey one another as virtual strangers. But for some reason, we all seem to feel fondly towards one another, and that’s kind of cool.

Plus, you know, my hair is a lot more awesome now than it ever was back then. So there’s that.


  1. Leandra

    Also? I’m pretty sure you don’t wear long johns under your wool skirts anymore (you’d die of heatstroke if you did!). I can’t speak for your high school years, BUT, pretty, pretty Mir, you would have totally fit in at your 20th! Look at how pretty you are! You are not fat, bald or old!

    I love the feeling of fondness that my former classmates and I have for each other. It’s sort of what I imagine soldiers must feel (though on a much less intense level). We all survived our teen years together and though we might not have all gotten along, we have a shared past. And that counts for a lot.

  2. Megan

    Well that makes you at least 50 points up on me in the maturity stakes. I don’t have a facebook page totally and entirely because I don’t want Them to find me. Not that They would, you know, what with no one caring or anything, but… They might!

    Reading this though thinks me I might need to get over my teenage self already? Nah…

  3. dad

    Don’t you also find “it’s interesting … to compare the self-absorption and self-deprecation of back then to the…” self-absorption and self-deprecation of now?

    You are more awesome now then you ever were back then.
    You’ve come a long way baby!

  4. Mindy

    Mir, I went to my 20 year reunion this year and thought the same thing. It was a very healing experience for me. You put it beautiful. I also found you quoted in the Boise Idaho newspaper this morning talking about Recession sex. Woo. Way to go!

  5. mamabird

    The idea of going to a reunion terrifies me for many of the same reasons! It was great to read this in case I ever have the opportunity – maybe it won’t be so bad.

  6. hollygee

    I haven’t attended any of my high school reunions. I though it was because we didn’t have any; turns out, they just didn’t tell me. OK, I moved so many times that no one could find me, but that doesn’t let me feel properly aggrieved.
    But my 45th reunion is coming up next year and I’m in the heat of it: I’m designing [soon, really soon] the website. I’m in contact with schoolmates on FB. I’m losing weight — well, not just because of the reunion — I think health might be a consideration, too. But it fits in nicely with the timetable.

  7. Otto

    For the record, I kind of wanted to go with you to that reunion …


  8. Jamie

    Those are great words. My 20th reunion is this October and I’m really looking forward to it after connecting with so many people on Facebook. My husband’s not very thrilled about it, but I told him he had to go (we graduated together). I’ve got one girlfriend from high school who was so popular, so spoiled (only child), so pretty, etc. and to see where she is now (divorced mom of 2 without custody, prior drug issues, bipolar, etc.), I remind myself that not everyone has had things go as well as I have and also, as you said, that I worried more about what others thought back then than they really did. And those people like my friend who have struggled and are battling demons still need our support now, probably more than they did back then.

  9. el-e-e

    I’ve been thinking a lot about teh connections between classmates, since my oldest started Kindergarten last week. I love how you put it, that “for some reason, we all seem to feel fondly towards one another.”

    It’s strange and comforting, isn’t it? We go through our growing up together, so we just can’t help feeling forever connected. And “fond.” It’s the perfect word for it.

  10. annette

    My 20th for COLLEGE is coming up this fall. I am not sure I want to go because I am fat and feel ugly (although I am not bald…there’s that). I have also chosen to stay home the last 10 yrs to raise my 6 kids, and although I am very fortunate to have done this, I still feel someone from the outside will see me as unsuccessful (TOTAL RUN ON SENTENCE!)

    It doesn’t help that my baby started kindergarten today and I am entering a new stage of life I hadn’t had time to think about much before.

  11. Melissa D

    I used to wear long john bottoms under my skirts, too! (BFF, girlfriend!)

  12. Tracy

    Ok, so today I’m feeling old. I, too, wore the rainbow suspenders. I loved them (still do, so there’s that.) I’m so glad that you are reconnecting with some old friends. It’s always amazing to me how time changes everything. Glad you are better today than you were yesterday. How’s Chickie?

  13. The Other Leanne

    “It’s been oddly healing, sort of a gentle reminder that everyone is dealing with their own demons and time passes and things change and memories shift.”
    That’s been exactly my experience. I was sort of surprised a) that people remember me, and b) that they remember me fondly/have selectively “forgotten” the mortifying behaviors. I love Facebook for giving that to me. To go obsessively deeper: it’s like the grace of forgiveness.

  14. radioactivetori

    I didn’t know you graduated a year early. I did too! I have the same problem with class reunions being the wrong class for me.

    And hey, when I lived in Arizona, long john bottoms under skirts and shorts was the big trend in “winter”. No joke. You were just living in the wrong state for your coolness.

  15. Katie in MA

    I’ve long thought high school was some crazy hazing ritual meant to prove to us that if we could get through *that*, we could get through anything!

  16. Valerie

    We just had our 25th and it was the first one I attended. I tried to go to the 20th, but my son was in his very last baseball state tournament, and I wasn’t going to miss that.

    So, I volunteered to help out with planning the 25th and I am so glad I did. I know exactly what you mean about people being kinder than you think. So many times, I’ve overheard “I don’t know why we didn’t hang out in high school” or even apologies for “being so wrapped up in myself back then.” You are absolutely right that we don’t realize that EVERYONE has their issues. A few years back, I reconnected with someone I went to junior high with. She was terribly mean to me back then. We talked about those years and it was eye-opening, how we basically all thought of ourselves as freaks. It truly helped me with my own kids when they were navigating through those years.

    Great post, Mir! :)

  17. Jenn

    One of the things I like to tell myself is that we are all bit players in other people’s lives. It’s a quote from someone and it helps me get over myself when I’m wincing over my latest supposed faux pas. Nobody ruminates over my mistakes as much as I do. And you know what, I agonize over my mistakes so much that I find other people’s mistakes charming and human.

    I missed my 20th HS reunion by living in KY. I’ll miss my 20th College reunion because I now live in NH. I’ve started to get friend invitations from HS people on Facebook and I do feel a fondness for them and the time we all spent together.

    Happy Birthday!

  18. frank

    Am I really the only person who looks back on High School with some fondness? And I was about as uncool as they come…

    My 20th, if they decide to do it, will be next year. I recently got a Facebook page just to see what all the hubbub (sp?) was about. I have to say that I agree that one would think that getting older would make appearances go downhill… it sure did for me… but that definitely is not the case in my class either. I handed out more, “holy $h1T, you look GREAT!”s in the past week then I would have believed. Makes one want to hit the gym HARD.. but only for as long as it takes to decide I want another brownie….

  19. Lacey

    I have a similar problem so I can relate…I had to move to a different state my junior year (thanks to divorce and remarriage) so I identify more with the kids I grew up with in my original school system, but technically, I didn’t graduate with them so I don’t get to go to the reunions. The new school hasn’t even had a reunion because no one has bothered to organize it but I don’t really know any of them anyway. Like you, I use Facebook to catch up with some of my old friends too.

  20. JennyM

    I think the only thing that saved high school for me was having a small group of pretty close, fairly down-to-earth friends — we weren’t the Cool Kids, nor were the The Dorks — I realize now that we somehow managed to fly under the radar in the middle, albeit wrapped up in our own insecurities and miseries. Jenn’s comment about all being bit players in everyone else’s lives is something I’ve heard too — and the older I get the more I’m finding it to be true. I can remember an incident or situation with absolute mortification because of something lame or dorky I said or did, but will find out that someone else remembers the same incident entirely differently and with absolutely no recollection of my having mortified myself.

    But, I also think that it’s one of those things people have to learn to understand for themselves — it’s hard to watch younger relatives and friends trudging miserably through that period of life and not want to try to explain all this; but to them you just end up sounding like the dried up fogey who’s too old to really GET IT. Maybe at best it helps us make peace with our own histories and helps us be patient with those who are still stuck there.

  21. Scottsdale Girl

    Oh hell I need to email you a pic from my 20 year reunion, that was FOUR YEARS AGO ffs. Everyone there was DELIGHTED to see everyone else, none of the crazy from hs had leaked into the evening. I even had a boy come up to me and APOLOGIZE for treating me so poorly back in the day. Which sort of made me wince, because I had completely forgotten about him. But apparently his assholeyness kept HIM awake at nights – for 20 years.

  22. Mary

    We recently had our 25th high school reunion but I didn’t go. I went to a vocational high school so it wasn’t like I’d hung with the same kids all the way through elementary and middle school. Sixteen years after graduating, though, I ran into a girl I did graduate with (we both work at the same University now) and its been fun catching up with her.

    I had a Facebook account, only because a friend talked me into it. It was fun to look back at people I’d gone to school with but I’ve always been concerned about some of the creeps that I’ve had to deal with in my past finding me. All it took was one stranger “friending” me and that account was closed immediately. (and I’ve heard all about how you can “hide” and I was and that stranger still found me!!!)

  23. Burgh Baby

    Dood, I totally did that. The Junior for a semester and Senior for a semester thing, that is. Get the Hell Out of Dodge was my middle name. It definitely makes the whole business of reunions and such a little weird. There is “my” class, and then there is “my other” class. Fortunately, I think, most everybody did grow up to be fat and funny-looking (heh), and nearly all of my high school peeps are still back there in the land of snow and ice and uff-das. 1500 miles away is just about the right distance for me.

  24. Lady M

    I think we were all extremely self absorbed and unaware of much outside ourselves. I remember you as very smart.

  25. Lucinda

    I didn’t make my 20th this summer because my daughter had just had her tonsils removed but over the past 6 months, many of my classmates found me on FB. It is exactly as you described and I think made the reunion much less daunting for many. I figure I’ll make the 30th although they are talking a 25 because 20 was so much fun.

  26. Colleen

    Funny, I have the same issue. Small (really small) town. I was always “Class of 90” until I decided to graduate with the class of ’89 to get the hell out. I haven’t talked to most of these people since I moved 17 years ago, but I remember them all well and I’m friends with many on Facebook. They just had the 20 year reunion for the class I graduated with and I keep looking at the pictures. It’s funny to see people that never really talked in high school hanging out and hugging like long lost friends. I’m pretty sure I’ll find a way to make it to the Class of ’90 reunion next year.

  27. Debbi

    I went to my 20th reunion and it taught me a lot. I went to reconnect with old friends that I hadn’t seen in almost the 20 years. Funny…just didn’t connect with most of them. BUT I was able to become friends with another whole group that while I talked to them, they weren’t my best friends in high school. Guess what, boy are they super nice and mature. Too bad I wasn’t best friends with them instead ;-) I chat with them all of the time on facebook, haven’t even heard from the BF’s from high school. I’m looking forward to our 25th, 30th, etc to hang out with the ones I am now chatting with :)

  28. Traci

    Also had my 20 year this year…which I skipped. I have reconnected with classmates on facebook though, and find everything you say true. The women are even more gorgeous now…and everyone is much nicer than I remember. The strangest thing for me that I have found though ? That while there are many of us raising young kids (my youngest just turned 2), there are several Class of ’89 folks having GRANDCHILDREN. That just makes me feel old by association…

  29. Brigid

    Heading to my 20th this weekend. Have been shopping for the first time in forever, got the pedicure, and tomorrow is the hair appmt. Let’s hope I can fool a few people into believing I leave the house on a regular basis!

  30. wilma ham

    Hm, a walk back in time can have its good moments like realizing that eveybody has their demons, not just you and that can put things in perspective AND complete some funny left overs from the past.
    My childhood gave me an idea that I was soooo tall, having always been the tallest in the class. Now I realize that I am not that tall, just I happen to be with class mates that were shorter. The things we carry around until we wizen up.
    Great reflection.

  31. mama speak

    Mir, they were so intimidated by your coolness they were afraid to talk to you! DUH! I was a cough, cough, a cheerleader, but I wanted you to know that I wore long john bottoms under my cheerleading skirt, so there! I was cold & we didn’t have sweats as part of our uniform, so I wore long johns (they were in school colors & it was in the time of grunge, so they were in, right?) The next year they got us sweats. ;-) Go figure. I suspect Chickie will be pulling similar stunts in future years, and I’m giddy to read the posts about them.

    My 20th was 2 years ago & we (my hubby, who is not from the area) had so much fun. It was before FB had really taken off, so I was VERY nervous. But everyone was so much more laid back & over it. Now, becuz of FB, we’re all reconnected & have been having lots of mini reunions (aka 40th b-day parties) all over the state.
    What I can’t get over; how many people from high school married each other.

  32. Ladybug Crossing

    A wise person once told me:
    You can’t compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides…

    I tell my kids that all the time.
    Especially since they are both in high school and I remember when…

  33. Brigitte

    I’m more with commenter Megan! With all the daily hazing, I was like Carrie, except without the powers (dang it). And I’ve since roughly DOUBLED in weight, so . . NO.

  34. My Kids Mom

    I’m unsure how to deal with facebook. A grade school friend requested a “friendship”. I’m not sure I want to have her back in my life, in any form. She was my best friend from grade 2-8, then decided I was holding her back from The Popular Crowd and in dissing me, went so far as to organize the Other Girls to all quit talking to me. Forever. And they did. I had many days when I came home from school having not spoken to anyone. So, fast forward 30 years. Do I move on? Do I hold a grudge? Do I acknowledge that for better or worse she shaped who I am now? Do I ignore her? I hadn’t spent any time thinking of her until Facebook, and now I’m dwelling on it.

  35. Andrea

    Funny, I liked my rainbow suspenders (worn with some cool, no name painter’s pants–maybe they were Dickies so is that a “name”?) and fondly recall feeling great when I wore them. I might have been a geek at the time but obviously oblivious that I did not know better!

    And to “My Kids Mom”–ignore her if you like and don’t think of it as a grudge but rather, not speaking with someone you have not known for 30 years. No laws mandate that anyone that contacts you has to be let into your life.

  36. Kim

    I loved this one because I thought I was the only one who felt this way. I’ve only been out of school for 5 years but reading some of this was just like hearing my own thoughts. Like how recently I too have come to realize that people weren’t critiquing me nearly as much as I thought they were. Big WHEW.

  37. Lori B

    Am I the only one who’s doesn’t recognize half the people from H.S. who have friended me on FB? I was a “talk to everybody kind of girl” back then, but I don’t recognize half of them. I just friend them all if they went to DBHS.

    To My Kids Mom, I am FB friends with with my elementary school nemesis. We were frienemies from 1st – 8th grade. In high school I moved on and didn’t even try to be her friend. We exchanged the “hey how are you” e-mails on FB and basically that was it. She has found the Lord (and I am glad to hear it, I really am) but it makes me feel guilty of course for that little bit of animosity I still carry for her. I am currently writing some fiction that is partially based on the awfullness she put me through in middle school. If it should happen to get published, it might be awkward for her. Oh well, for better or worse she did help shape who I am.

  38. mom, again

    My graduating class is so lame that when the class after us started planning a 25th, using Facebook, one of us asked to come along, then more of us did, then they just included us on the invite list.

    One of my main goals as a parent was to get across the point that ‘they’ were spending far less time critiqueing others than they were spending worrying what others we thinking about them. Sure, bullying and snide remarks exist, but they are mostly a strategy of deflection from people who are afraid their own flaws will be noticed. SO, if you own your own oddity and go with it, others will too.

    It kinda worked. My grown up geeky kid and her geeky spouse used Star Wars music at their wedding ceremony, and spent their honeymoon at ComicCon.

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