When that high-school-reunion invitation arrives, it divides people into three groups: "I can't wait to go," "I so do not want to go, but I will," and "I wouldn't go on the Twilight Zone."
The first group would be your basic nerd who has a great job and a smoking hottie on his arm who wants to shove her looks and his success down the throats of the girls he wanted to shove other things into in high school. Following him is the fat girl who has shed the weight and shopped for weeks for a dress that is tighter than the economy and so short that you can see her grandmother's DNA. She is going to hit that reunion like a political coup and rain fabulous on the girls who called her "flabulous" and the guys who never called her. It is payback time for prom night, when they were in a limo and she was in a fudge coma. Then there is the cute party boy who got girls' panties off quicker than a wide receiver out on the cross. Just like in high school, he has a case of something in his car and an agenda. One change, though: He found Jesus. Now he has a case of stuff to save your soul, although his agenda is still to have you screaming "Oh my God! Good Lord!" by the end of the night. The marching band's drum major is gay, black and back twirling an entirely different baton and gunning for the guys who used to shoot paper wads at him in class. By the end of the night, his name and the words "baton" and "wad" in the same sentence will strike terror into them. Lastly, and most annoyingly, are those who had great lives in high school that only got better. They just want to reconnect for a good time; everyone is over them.
The second group would be your obnoxious jock whose future faded faster than his varsity letter. He never left town and, in the best-case scenario, works for his dad or uncle. In a worst-case scenario, he sells used cars for the Rotary Club president, who curiously attends every high-school boys' sporting event but has no kids and a wife who knits and drinks. Of course, there is the former hottie who found the weight the fat girl lost. She married the bad-boy jock with the thick mane of blonde hair who drove the tricked-out black monster truck with the huge wheels and the "No Fat Chicks" mudflaps. He still drives that truck, although as she got thicker, his hair got thinner. He also bought smaller tires and sold the mudflaps at a yard sale when she threatened to buy a bumper sticker online that said, "No Little Dicks." Then there is the guy or girl who went off to a prestigious college and either dropped out, flunked out or, worse yet, got a degree in archeology. Unfortunately, the only things he or she will ever dig up are family secrets and tulip bulbs at their parents' house, where they still live. They might as well show up at the reunion reading a back issue of Cat Fancy magazine and wearing a bloodstained clown suit. Yet as much as this group does not want to face the first group, they will force themselves to attend because the odds were on them not showing up. Their appearance is like giving the person who throws you into quicksand the finger just before sinking out of sight forever.
The third group is the saddest yet. They were in your history class -- or wait, was that English? Who knows? Who cares? They never got into trouble. They were never late. They were just there. They were not a hottie, a fatty, a creep or a geek. If pharmacies dispensed high -school kids, they would be the generic. Four years of being incarnate elevator music is perhaps the cruelest fate of them all. While everybody else was overvalued, undervalued or ridiculed, he or she was just there. What could possibly be worse for a teenager than being benign? Now here they are, working their neither terrific nor terrible job, living in a modest home with a reasonable mortgage, married to somebody they met while standing in line to buy a grape snow cone at the Ice Capades. Why would they go to this reunion? There is no one they want to see; high school is over. Wrong! We may graduate, but high school is never over, because high school is the killing fields of social comparison.
Social comparison results in envy or schadenfreude. Schadenfreude is deriving pleasure from someone else's misfortune. Envy in humans intensifies when we make social comparisons with people who are similar to us but have superior assets (e.g., they went to your high school but were smarter, better-looking, better athletes or more popular). The more superior that target person's possessions are, the more envious we become. Likewise, the more we envy a target person, the more joy we derive from gloating when he or she experiences misfortune. Studies show this makes the brain open the neurochemical cookie jar in its reward system. However, believing some life purposes are greater than others is a fallacy. All human life and purpose is precious. We are a social species living within a biosphere. Identifying your worth and purpose and respecting it enough to place it above comparison is where the greatness lies.
On another note: Call the nerd police on the person who came up with the term "schadenfreude." Seriously, ghetto girls come up with better baby names than this by just looking around the house. "Koolaidria," "Chickeniqua," "Bluntrice," "Chipoltay-tay," "Cellphonetria," or "Sha'Weave" are much better than "schadenfreude." Even "Obamanoprah" is better. #SchadenfreudeWorstTermEver.
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