High school reunions dredge up so many conflicting emotions.
Excitement at seeing old friends, anxiety about comparing favorably in terms of relationship and professional success, ambivalence toward people who knew the younger version of you, and self-consciousness about how you look now versus then—we all know time hasn’t been on our side.
Because our high school years are so fraught with approval-seeking from peers, voluntarily re-visiting those years seems counter-intuitive and even a bit masochistic. But Glencoe-based clinical psychologist Kathi Marks says attending reunions is a good idea.
“Reunions offer closure,” Marks says. “Especially by the 20th reunion, everyone is older, the competition is eased and people are more comfortable in their own skin. People are genuinely happy to see you and know that you’re doing well.
So RSVP “yes” for your next reunion, and keep these helpful hints in mind:
- Invite your spouse or partner to join you. He or she may pass, but it’s best to include him or her.
- Get on Facebook to connect with former high school pals, find out who is attending the event, and quickly catch up on peoples’ lives.
- Dust off that old yearbook. You’ll be amazed at who you remember—and who you forgot.
- Pull yourself together—get a manicure, color your hair, freshen up your look. You’ll feel more confident walking in the door if you feel polished.
- Dress appropriately. You’re not going out clubbing, you’re re-connecting with friends. Smart-casual—a classic cocktail dress or trousers with a stylish shirt and great accessories are foolproof.
- Be generous with compliments. Congratulate your peers on their successes and achievements.
- Gossip. You’re an adult; sniping about former schoolmates isn’t appropriate.
- Rekindle old romances or flirt with a former flame at the party, especially if his or her significant other is attending. If you’re both single and unattached, contact each other post-reunion.
- Remind people of embarrassing episodes from their past.
My own reunion was last summer, and while I debated the value of going even as I drove the 300 miles to my hometown, I’m glad I didn’t miss it. The passage of years erased the invisible barriers of social cliques and people were sincerely pleased to see each other. I “found” old friends, made a few new ones, marveled at what people had accomplished (jobs, travel, families, etc.) and generally rejoiced at how far we’d all come.