October 1997
s m u g
by Joe Procopio


"Have a Great Summer, See You in Ten Years"

This one befuddled even me. Me! Posedown Boy. I mean, I scored this column based upon my ability to nod and smile and charm my way through any function, any event, any occasion. But this one had me stuck. I found myself pondering unfamiliar questions like "What do I say to these people?", "How should I prepare for this?", "Is this something I even want to go to?"

This had me all stressed out (well, not really stressed out, more like debating the way you would over the wedding of a distant and useless relative) over my 10th year high school reunion, Class of '87. Cazenovia High School, Cazenovia, New York.

"Am I really that old?"

Well, thankfully, no. Not really, anyway. I'm the baby of the class. Younger, by about six months, than the next youngest graduate. So I took some comfort in that.

Let me set up the situation. High school was, by all accounts, OK. Fortunately, I have only a handful of those horror stories which most of my friends have by the bucket load. A handful is good. I've learned that if you don't have at least one horror story from high school, chances are you're probably still somewhere near there, reliving your glory days at Friday-night football games and the local bar that your parents used to haunt.

I did all right in Cazenovia and, although I have some problems with the societal aura and down-the-nose class structure of the money-heavy resort town (my dad taught music there), I was friends with nearly everyone, played a lot of sports, made about a B+ average, and played in a garage band.

I never dated anyone at my high school. But I never missed a function, opting instead to run with the nearby Syracuse girls. This, I think, was the determining factor in my happiness during those days. Staying away from "Caz Girls" meant less public, more diverse, and overall healthier relationships.

It also meant that there would be no one at the reunion who wanted to stab me.

The first thing that jumped out at me was the invitation. On it there was a list of people whom the reunion committee couldn't find. And that list was, well, strange, to say the least. There were a bunch of kids on the list that nobody really talked to. So that made sense. I mean, why should the pecking order change now? Then there were a couple of eccentrics who I imagined were sailing around the world or doing missionary work overseas. I would think that nobody expected to find them.

But, here's the kicker, some of the most sought-after hipster-kids in the class were on the "missing" list. These kids were the busy-every-weekend, highly-thought-of, invited to every "my-parents-are-on-the-island-for-the-weekend-party" kids. The absolute best friends of dozens, according to their yearbooks.

Didn't anyone keep in touch with them?

Apparently, how popular and well liked you are in high school really does mean squat after graduation.

My first attempt at research was a call to Greg Knicley. Greg was my best friend in high school and, in a lot of respects, still is. He and another guy named Paul Cunney and I were musketeerish, for lack of a better term. Greg was also the class president, which was funny because he wasn't really the class president type.

Just one of the things I loved about him.

Me: So, who's going?
Greg: I don't know.
Me: So, you going?
Greg: Gotta. Class president.
Me: Oh yeah.
Greg: You going?
Me: Uhhhhh. I don't know.

It's not that I didn't want to go. I mean, I didn't, but that wasn't really the problem. The truth of it is, it would be a big pain in the ass. I would have to do some serious travel juggling, the kind that involved those toy prop planes, and August had been a busy month. The reunion was Labor Day, and I was thinking a rest would be more fun that facing down these people, especially after going to great lengths to do so.

Cazenovia is not a large place. It is also not a cheap place. The only lodging is a couple of bed-and-breakfasts noted for their historic importance. Minimum: $100 a night. Rental car, plane tickets, reunion cost for me and my girlfriend, Allison.

A grand.

Thus, we come to the dilemma. I can do a thousand large. I mean, I wouldn't just piss it away, but I'm doing well. Far better than I expected anyway. The question now becomes:

Do I love these people $1000 worth?

Absolutely not. When I left high school, I left high school. Next question.

Would I regret it if I missed it? You know, $1000 worth of regret or something. Far be it from me to put a price on regret, and even farther be it that I actually ask myself this question and answer it. So I did what I always do with decisions like this. I ignored it until the last possible moment. Then I did what I almost always do after that. If the choice is between doing and not doing, life has always taught me to do.

At least, I thought to myself, I'd get a SMUG article out of the damn thing. So I went. Was it worth it?

If we're talking about the actual reunion, I gotta go with a great big NO. Seeing people you haven't seen in ten years is kind of an anti-climax. Mostly, I forgot everyone's name. I know (I know) a lot of my former classmates caught my eyes dropping down to their nametag when we bumped into each other. I swear, it was like taking a quiz on the state capitals, which, by the way, was my most traumatic moment in academia.

That wasn't what killed it for me. What really got to me was a certain clique of people whom I came to refer to as the "Chat Whores."

Aside # 1: If you're actually going to one of these things sooner or later, be it high school or college, ten years or twenty-five, here's something to keep in mind: Don't worry about your life status and how it matches up to your peers.

Near the beginning of the night, I offhandedly mentioned to Greg that I'd be writing an article on the reunion. This was overheard. I'm sure of it. That's the only explanation I can offer for the number of people who sought me out that night and began their conversations with a laundry list of their accomplishments and high points.

The Chat Whores.

Without even so much as a "How have you been?" or a "Who's the really pretty girl standing next to you?", these creeps would start in on me with some kind of coolness resume. I heard about rapid promotions and spacious houses and vacations in the islands and who they knew and why they had gotten so far so quickly.

Aside # 2: Before you measure yourself against others, you might want to take a look at the ruler and see what you're being measured by. Ten years is a lot of time. Most folks have done quite a lot more than you think.

After way too much of this, I began walking away. And I realized that I didn't care an ounce what the Chat Whores thought of me at this point, or if they even knew what I'm doing or what I had done.

Allison and I left early, disappointed with the way the night had gone, and decided we needed to sort of wash the taste out. So we went to a local bar. The kind that my parents used to haunt. This, of course, sunk the mood even lower. Then, about a half-hour later, the bottom fell out. A hush fell across the bar and everyone's attention turned to the lone big-screen TV, set on CNN, as the words came up across the bottom: "Princess Diana Dead."

What does this have to do with my high-school reunion? Nothing. Except maybe put a little perspective on the whole farce.

Back to the hotel room that night, I'm unlocking our door and I hear Allison gasp. I turn around to see what's the matter and she's standing there, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, pointing at the door. I realize she's pointing at a sign on the door. Then I realize which room we're in.

The Princess Diana Suite.

I'm not kidding.

The picnic on Sunday was beyond lame.

As it turned out, Greg and his wife Jen had bought a few cases of Canadian beer. As the picnic was wrapping up, he mentioned to me that he was staying at his folks' house and, just like when we were in high school, they happened to be out of town. We drove over with Paul and his wife Carol, and the six of us sat in his parents' living room and drank until we couldn't see. Finally, something really cool happened.

Ten years just disappeared. We didn't talk about what we had been doing, we began talking about what we were going to do. We compared aspirations instead of accomplishments. We didn't compete, we complimented.

We all decided we'd like to open a bar together someday.

So what did I take away from my high-school reunion?

Greg and Paul were my best friends in high school. Greg and Paul turned out to be really great guys.

Was it worth it?

You know, I think it was.




in the junk drawer:

September 1997
August 1997
July 1997
June 1997
May 1997
April 1997
March 1997
February 1997

and such
and such

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