It’s one of those emails that fills you with dread… are you ready for your ten year college reunion? Am I heck.
I was a joiner in college. I was the best gosh darn joiner you ever met. I was on the students’ union, joined about 40 clubs and societies, and generally made a nuisance of myself where all right-thinking people are concerned. Ten years later, perhaps I have grown old and cynical before my time, but I’m the anti-joiner. I’ve finally adopted the student philosophy of joining things only for the free food or drink. It’s been a positive step, and I’m not going to risk this important personal growth now.
Aside from the general misanthropy a decade of working as a journalist has taught me, well, it’s kind of an antiquated concept for my generation, the reunion. As a friend pointed out when I raised this on (where else?) Facebook, every morning that you wake up and scroll through your phone is a reunion. There’s that guy I knew from debating, posting pictures of the Oxford college he’s now teaching in… the girl I sat beside in French lectures, swimming in a Bali sunset… the equality campaigner who worked in the students’ union bar whose mother I’ve been friends with on Facebook since his tragic death a couple of years ago.
If I want to know what people are up to, they’re only a quick Google away, and there’s precious little I can do to stop them finding out what I’m up to, even if I wanted to. In Ireland, you don’t even really need Google. If anyone’s done anything particularly interesting, they’ll pop up somewhere.
We have mini college reunions almost every year in the form of weddings, and so far, just one funeral. The circle of friends I share with my best college buddies is a Venn diagram, and at each of these occasions, there has always been someone, usually just one person, that I wanted to avoid. One is fine. Imagine volunteering to be stuck with all of the people you wanted to avoid – having done so successfully for a decade – for a whole evening, with drink involved? No thank you.
One of my favourite movies of all time is Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion, which perfectly illustrates the horror of the reunion set up. They say the people who organise reunions are the ones with the most to show off about, and in the movie it’s your typical prom queen, beloved of US pop culture, who is organising it. The question I have about people who organise these things, though, is, if they’re so successful and busy… how do they have time for this? If you’re looking back nostalgically at school or college as the best days of your life… what’s wrong with the life you are living now?
These days, you don’t need a reunion to show off how well you’re doing – hence the pictures of swimming in Bali and Oxford colleges! But perhaps there is a grain of truth in the reasons people don’t want to go to reunions. Perhaps there is something in your life – career, relationship, living circumstances, appearance – that you don’t want to give people a chance to pick over.
Romy and Michelle, both single and in dead-end jobs, realise that the prom queen’s fate – a miserable marriage to a meathead quarterback who was the school stud – is worse than their own. Perhaps there is something to a reunion if you need reassurance that someone is worse off than you. But then, if that’s what you go looking for, you’re probably approaching it with the wrong philosophy entirely.
Published in The Herald 18.08.16