Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Reunion Story

OK, OK, I'm still plugging away at the novel and getting little else accomplished, but if don't get this story down soon, I never will. And since Wendy thought the story was so entertaining when I shared it at Knit Night that she wanted to blog it herself, and I told her I had dibs, she would have every right to poke me with knitting needles if I never got around to it.

I'll be using initials here for fear of further escalating the situation by naming names. Even first names alone sounds too risky to me, since, as you will see, certain people really brought the crazy. And for a refreshing change, it wasn't me.

I once observed in college, that the great thing about moving on to high school and then college and then the real world is that you have a larger and larger pool of potential friends, vastly improving your chances of finding people that you actually have something in common with. 

So we can extrapolate from the above: Grade school/junior high? Not a great time for me. Or anyone else who was a tween before the invention of the tween. I was the chubby one with the big glasses, braces and an unfortunate perm, wearing a lavender Smurf t-shirt. 

I kept in touch with a few friends from grade school until some point during or after college. People get busy, drift apart, etc, but even then, there were only 2 or 3 out of 60 that I kept track of after 8th grade. There are a small handful of people from back then that I'd like to catch up with a bit, but that's all.

But thanks to the miracle of Facebook and the fact that I graduated 8th grade 25 years ago this year, there's a gonna be a reunion. As people were getting tacked down online, my reactions went from, "Cool. Should be interesting to meet all these people now that no one is bringing the awkward (especially me)." to "Who is this person? I don't remember anyone by that name at all.".  But I figured I'd go, make the rounds, brag at least as much as everyone else and and call it a night.

D and T put themselves in charge of organizing the event. They asked for suggestions and I suggested doing it at the actual school in Brooklyn and mentioned I knew a good local caterer. (The school is closed, but the gym is still available for events.) A suggested we use a party boat owned by her family. Since she threw a graduation party for everyone on such a boat, I thought that was a brilliant idea and backed off because of course, recreating our graduation party was the perfect reunion idea.

A month or so later, we get a message from D saying that it'll be in the party room of a diner in Staten Island, exact details to follow. I sent a message to D jokingly asking if we really go to Staten Island now. (As Wendy's boyfriend Marty put it--that's the Southern California equivalent of holding it in Arizona.) I also offered to make a couple of calls to see if we could do it in or near to the actual school. I also asked if the venue could do buffet instead of sit down as she'd planned, since that's more conducive to mingling and we're really going there to see each other.

No response.

The next day we get a message with the final details--Diner on Staten Island, $60 a head, sit down meal. There was a follow up message in ALL CAPS saying that anyone with gripes should shut up because D and T spent "hours and days" putting this together.

Well, then. 

Now, I used to put together dinner dances and such for the volunteer fire department (in the same neighborhood where the school is) and could've booked a place in a hour. And so could they, if they had booked it at the school or at A's family's party boat. And since D had mentioned that she was related to the manager of a place in Staten Island (presumably the diner they booked), the hours and days were spent on the phone gabbing to each other like it's 1984 and not carrying out the not-so-herculean task of booking a venue).

Knowing that my suggestions had been solicited and ignored, and then called "gripes", I suspected that I was not alone. So I sent a FB message to the rest of the group, quoting my message to D, and saying that if anyone wanted me to, I could see if it were possible to have it in Brooklyn (at the school or a nearby restaurant) or see about renting a bus so that people didn't have to drive 45 minutes to an hour each way. I also mentioned that if anyone gave me the go ahead, I could get an answer in an hour.

Oh, and I also included a comment about how I have no intention of doing something just because the cool kids say so.

Now, D and T were in the cool crowd in 8th grade, but I say "cool kids" all the time as an adult. As in "all the cool kids know what lolcats are," or "all the cool kids know not to write e-mails with the CAPS LOCK on." And that's how I meant it.

Ah, where to begin describing the reactions?

Let's start with the FB status performance art, shall we?

D's FB status was, over the next day or so:
Is she kidding me?
Then don't come!
Cool kids in the house!

And the e-mails:

G kindly emailed, explaining the phone calls that had gone on before D & T had put themselves in charge, offering me a ride and taking offense at my saying that driving and open bars don't mix. (She thought I meant we'd all be drinking and driving, when I really meant that we'd be paying for an open bar we couldn't use.)

J (the only guy in this story) emailed, attacking me for not caring about all the people who live in New Jersey now (Staten Island is between Brooklyn and New Jersey) and accusing me with much hostility that I clearly still have baggage after 25 years. (Yeah, that whole being a geek thing that led to the fun and high paying dot com jobs really has me crying into my video game controller. And I'm way to busy agonizing over my awkward 20s and 30s to think about my awkward tween years. Though I wont give up my love of Menudo. You can't make me.)

I sent a reply to the whole group, explaining what I'd meant about the open bar, that cool kids is just an expression and reiterating my offer to check prices on renting a bus.

D and T both responded in messages to the entire group, using large blocks of all caps, which I barely skimmed because, like many people, I can't force my eyes to focus on large blocks of all caps. I was able to gather that they were really, really mad at me and apparently "cool kids" is an insult now. Who knew?

Oh and then there was a message to the group from B (another guy) essentially testifying about his own personal experience with coolness. Not cool in school, popular around the neighborhood as an adult (in the bars), stepping back from that now (staying in more often, I guess).

I had His Awesomeness read over these message for a sanity check. Had I said anything rude or confrontational? His reaction was, "defensive, much?" and he refused to keep reading into the large blocks of all caps and asked, "are you sure you WANT to see these people?"

The answer, of course, is no. But it always was. Most of the people I want to see haven't been tracked down yet (and may not be).

There were also some catty comments on the FB group page by other people, but most of the others (including A, who has suggested the boat) remained silent. There was quite a bit of repeated messages reminding people to send in deposits, so I'm guessing some people have decided not to go for whatever reason.

I got some nice messages a few days later. One "wow, people sure got worked up" by someone who can't make it away from work, etc. to go and one "it's a free country and it's about time someone stood up to them" by someone who is likely to go.

So, yeah, Ima not going. I'm not afraid that people will jump all over me (since the Principle of Internet Escalation was in full force), but I'm afraid that people would keep talking my ear off about how they made peace with their own lack of coolness, or some shit. But mostly, I just don't know how to talk to people who type in all caps. I just don't. 1998 just called with some netiquette lessons. Give him a call back and then we'll talk.

I've caught up with a few people online and that's been fine. At reunions, people just give the same high points update to everyone they talk to and mingle on. So emails are a perfectly adequate substitute.

I was very upset about all this when it went down a couple of months ago, to the point that it distracted me from writing for a day or two, probably because it gave me flashbacks to getting picked on when I switched to that school at the beginning of 5th grade. Back then, of course, I was ill equipped to deal with being jumped all over by people I had done nothing to. But whatevs, all the cool kids got picked on in grade school.

Now? I have a book to write and no time for the dramaz.


  1. Yes!!! You wrote this so much better than I would have. :) If our show was still up I'd want to podcast this. Hmm....project?

    And I'll say it again - I am sincerely and emphatically embarrassed for these people and their complete lack of grace and more importantly for their total overreaction. Let's look at the big picture people! Big picture!

    SERIOUSLY. (I too know how to use the capslock, heh.)

  2. Just came back from my 20yr HS reunion, and you make a cogent point - most people hit the same 3-minute highlight reel of their life and then move to the next person.

    Granted, last night I spoke with people whom I spent 4 years sitting next to and said nary a word, but it wasn't more than how are you, are you married with children, where do you live and what do you do, and hey, see you in 5 years. My friends - I'm already hooked up with them on Fb. That works.

    For the record, our event was run by the HS, so no 'cool kids' drama. But when you're used to being the big fish, I guess it's hard to have someone tell you your ideas are wrong, since it had never happened previously. Good for you, Jen.

  3. Argh. I'm sorry Jen. FB + High School = toxic.

  4. Wow, quite a story. Hope it all works out.
    Thanks for joining the "letter revival":) Feel free to pass on the info!
    Cheers, Shelagh


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