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.”