The invitation to one's 30th high school reunion brings about a plethora of emotions, the first one being how is it possible that I graduated from high school 30 years ago? The litany of other emotions includes the inexplicable onset of a feeling of failure, both in life and in weight management, as well as wardrobe panic and the fear that nobody will recognize us.
Oddly enough, we read the invitation with equal parts horror and curiosity, and almost instantly convince ourselves to attend. We urgently need to know who else is going, not only because we hope to be surrounded by comforting and familiar faces, but also because we need to make a mental list of those we hope won't show.
As the day draws closer, we get excited about the prospect of seeing the "old gang" even if we never really had one, and we dig through boxes to uncover our yearbooks so that we can study up and hopefully identify fellow classmates with ease. Unfortunately, the dredging up of the yearbooks serves mostly to remind us of those people we do not wish to see, then to cement in our already-insecure minds how skinny and cute we were 30 years ago, and finally to refresh the memories of teacher's names and shared experiences we want to be prepared to laugh about out loud.
When the moment arrives, we spend the day preparing ourselves to inspire squeals of "you haven't changed a bit" and other sweet little lies that flow freely at 30-year reunions. We toy with the idea of inflating our accomplishments in life in case we are confronted with tales of grand accomplishments from those we never imagined would get a job outside the local burger joint. We brace ourselves for the moment when we look around the room and quietly ask ourselves who all of these old fat people are who are so happy to see us and seem to know us so well.
We slap on our name tags that often carry a photo from our high school yearbook, and boldly venture into the crowd, desperately searching for a friendly face. When we find it, suddenly we are 17 years old all over again, and all the things that we were so worried about vanish from our minds. We recognize everyone, even the guys whose name tag photos betray their bellies and bald heads, and we are so happy we came.
Who we are inside doesn't really ever change. The packaging goes through some re-designs over the years, but the person inside is always that kid we knew in sixth-period English that knew everything one could possibly know about grammar, or the kid who always had a note from home that got him out of gym class. Welcome back, Class of 1982, enjoy your reunion! And here's a tip for you: Write down the names of the people you snap photographs of, because trust me, when you go to share the memories with friends and family later, you will have no idea who those old fat people in the pictures are.