I got an invitation to my 20-year high school reunion this week. The first thought that crossed my mind was voiced by a woman who sounded suspiciously like Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances.
“Oh, how delightful! Oh how rather charming. Twenty years ago! How vintage,” the voice inside me said. The accompanying feeling was not dissimilar from the vibe one gets looking at a posy of flowers next to a tray of scones. Visions briefly flickered through my mind of clinking champagne glasses and being engaged in wondrous conversation while feeling cosy and loved, and wearing a fab outfit.
And then I realised – I can’t go to my high school reunion. Why not? Because I was a f***ing loser at school. And the minute I walk into a venue and see everyone in their groups again – the popular girls, the hot girls, the geek girls, the sporting girls – I will instantly sink back into the person I was in 1998. And no-one wants that. Really, no-one. Even me. Especially not me.
When I describe myself as a “f***ing loser” at high school, I don’t mean it lightly. And I’m not being mean. It’s just an apt description. I had a combination of the worst elements: a painful shyness, an overprotective mother who would call my friends’ parents to check on me, a strange face and body that was all misshapen and growing at the wrong times in offensive directions, a shocking clumsiness that meant I could never catch, throw or run – anything, ever – and the kind of social awkwardness that would make Boo Radley seem like a really laidback guy in comparison. I also listened to heavy metal, fainted regularly and at inappropriate moments, and made terrible jokes. The only thing I had going for me was I had a knack for winning spelling bees. Honestly, I can’t believe no-one ever beat me up, I was that uncool.
Not attending my high school reunion is not about being afraid to do so. I have undergone countless painful and awkward scenarios in my life. Countless. I’ve lost count, really. And neither is this some opportunity to prove to the cool girls – or life, the universe and everything – about what a great person I am, or how nice my shoes are, that my hair isn’t so frizzy now, or that I finally own a handbag that I didn’t buy at Kmart. That’s just simply not going to happen, because that’s not how social dynamics work. Once a dynamic is established between individuals and groups, it won’t change until fresh and regular injections of energy are introduced to change that dynamic. And that simply can’t happen over a two-hour dinner party at a posh art gallery café.
The reason I’m not going is because I’m finally done with torturing myself. I can’t see how re-entering my teenagehood can possibly be of any benefit to me. I wasn’t cool, or sporty, or hot, or even particularly likable. But that’s okay. The truth is I am so bloody grateful that my life was like that in my youth, because it forced me to grow a personality – and a pair of balls. My life has turned out – well – pretty damn fantastic. I’ve finally run out of f***s to give about things that don’t matter anymore, and the last thing I need in my life is to remember in explicit, bodily detail, a time when all that stuff really did seem to matter.
I’m sure high school reunions are great fun for people who actually enjoyed high school. And that’s fair enough; I’m not here to piss on anyone’s parade. But for the rest of us, quite frankly, it’s time to move on. It’s time for us to grow up and leave those shadows behind – those shadows dressed in polar fleece and Reeboks, those shadows that listened to David Lee Roth, those shadows that binged on Mint Slices after being fat-shamed by the prettiest girl at school. RIP to that kid, and RIP to those days. And thank God for that.
Amber Wilson hails from Hobart but spends her days haunting Melbourne’s CBD as a court and crime journalist. She loves whisky and rum and her WomanCat, Doris. She writes fiction in secret and at night.