lifestyle

Would you go to your high school reunion?

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I didn’t really enjoy high school. For a start, there was the uniform: a brown and white check dress, nattily set off by a fawn brown jumper and chocolate brown blazer. If that wasn’t bad enough, in Year 12 we graduated to the “compulsory privilege” of brown casual clothes, though of course no jeans or anything funky or revealing… brown below-the-knee skirts, brown cardigans, brown dresses. At 17, we looked like a convention of librarians. Then there was the fact that it was a single-sex school: wall to wall females for six long years. At the time I was into rock climbing and caving and felt hopelessly out of place; spent my lunchtimes reading Wild while everyone else pored over Dolly. And, really, that was the problem with school- that I never felt that I fitted in. I was a swot and a dag. I wanted to get into medicine, so I spent the year working my tiny brown-clad backside off. While my classmates were meeting boys at the station or hanging out at the local shops I was furiously pedalling home in my fawn court shoes and stack hat so I could fit in six hours study before bed. The only boys I knew were the ones from church, and they wore brown by choice.

After all that, I’m pleased to say that I did make it into medicine- and then promptly dropped out a week into first term because it was just too hard. Instead, I transferred to arts, threw out all my brown clothes, made friends, met boys, travelled, slept in and gradually forgot about school. I didn’t keep up with a single person from my year 12 class. I avoided the ten year reunion, the fifteen, the twenty… and then you know what happened? Facebook.

There’s no escaping your past on the internet. One day, out of the blue, one of my few Year 12 allies sent me a  friend request and an invite to dinner. It turned out that in the quarter century since we had ridden, stack-hatted, to school together Ardyn had become a food writer and critic… she had to review one of Melbourne’s best restaurants, she told me. Could I help her out by coming along and trying as much as I could from the menu? Her newspaper would foot the bill of course, including drinks. The urge to leave my past safely buried was strong, but the urge to totally stuff myself at someone else’s expense was stronger.

And I’m glad I went, because we had a great night; didn’t stop talking for the entire three hours we were together, even though I got through about six courses. As a result, my defences were down when a few months later Ardyn forwarded me an invitation to our 26th year school reunion- it had been planned to be our 25th, but our class was always a bit disorganised like that. “Will you go?” she asked nervously, this gorgeous, successful, funny, internationally published and travelled woman. “I will if you will. We can meet first so we can go in together.”

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My immediate reaction was no, as in no thanks, no WAY, and not in a eleventy million years. I had been awkward and geeky at school, but I’d hit my stride since and was happy and proud of the life I’d made. Nonetheless, just say I got there and turned into that girl again, the one with the drop perm and a date who wore desert boots to the formal? As you do (as I do, anyway), I took my dilemma to Twitter. Should I go my school reunion? I tweeted… and then got about 500 responses in the next two hours.

The majority were negative. “Noooooooo!” shrieked one, “Put it behind you!” “You couldn’t pay me to go to mine. I hope they’re all dead,” said another, who clearly had even unhappier memories than I did.

In the end I am ashamed to admit that another Facebook message talked me into it- this one from one of the trendy girls who had so intimidated me at high school. She was about to buy my new novel, she wrote, and she’d love me to sign it. Could I do that if she brought it along? Scared of missing a sale (and, yes, FLATTERED TO MY VERY CORE) I agreed to attend, then spent the next three weeks exchanging almost daily emails with Ardyn stressing over the whole thing.

But on the night it was surprisingly easy. There was lots of squealing and lots of chatter. I was awkward at first, but so was everyone… and as the evening wore on and we all had a few drinks and reminisced about the class of ’85 I was stunned to realise that many people had felt the same way at school that I had.  It’s a cliché, isn’t it? I wasn’t alone in my aloneness, but I couldn’t see that then.  By midnight, when scary trendy girl brought me her book to sign I had had enough closure (and champagne) to write in it “Dear X, I’m not afraid of you anymore! Love Kylie”, which made her laugh that I ever had been.

Maybe I got lucky, but I’m glad I went to my school reunion. I’ve made peace with how I was back then; I may have made some new old friends. And who knows? I might even start wearing brown again.

Would you go or have you been to your school reunion? How did it go?

Kylie is a novelist, freelance writer and neuropsychologist. Her first novel, After The Fall, was recently released in the US, and her second novel, Last Summer, has just been published.

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