1. Men really do age.
Flip through any family photo album in our house, and I’m willing to bet money you’d find my husband, Dustin, looking exactly the same: khaki pants, striped shirt, same haircut and unintentional 5 o’clock shadow. He does not change.
Flip through the same photo album, and you’ll see me with a handful of hairstyles and colors, endless clothing trends and, unfortunately, a variety of weights. Lines have appeared on my face in fast motion, like those flip books that make sketches seem animated.
All of the above is what I feared most about my 20-year high school reunion last month. Would anyone even recognize me? Would there be uncomfortable moments of silence and awkwardness when old friends’ faces showed their surprise at seeing my nearly 40-year-old face and body?
Well, yes, there would be many uncomfortable moments, but not necessarily for this reason. More on that later.
When I walked in the door at the bar in Virginia Beach, Virginia, however, I didn’t recognize one single male from my high school class. Not one. Suddenly, even my husband looked old.
We women might age incrementally in each family photo. But men, it seems, age overnight and all at once. I can’t decide which is more depressing.
2. Facebook has made reunions very awkward.
Our modern-day connectivity has taken much of the shock and awe out of high school reunions. Despite my nerves — and aside from the surprise of seeing men who have aged and clearly haven’t changed their Facebook profile picture since the 10-year reunion — I pretty much knew what to expect from the women. I see my friends on Facebook every day. Going in, this meant I already knew that my childhood best friend, Leslie, now has long hair and still doesn’t weigh much.
But I also see my friends’ children, pets, breakfast, pets’ breakfast, soccer games, Elf on the Shelf and selfies everyday, too. And if there’s one thing high school reunions depend on, it’s the idea that all these people need to update one another on their lives from the past 20 years. Thanks to Facebook, however, many reunion conversations now go like this:
“I went to grad school.“
“Yeah, I saw your pictures.”
“And then we went to France.”
“Yep, saw that, too.”
“And I eat pancakes every Saturday.”
3. It’s hard to be the spouse.
When you are the spouse of the reunion attendee, you have one very important role: You are the space filler. Your job is to stand there and help people not look awkward while they scan the room and look for another classmate they’d like to talk to. You are not expected to know anyone, so you are allowed to circle the buffet table and stuff mints into your pocket. There are very few expectations for you beyond this. You might need to hold a phone or a jacket. But for the most part, you smile and nod, even when you meet your spouse’s old boyfriends.
4. What you write in school yearbooks doesn’t go away.
It’s funny the things people remember — especially when they are written in fluorescent pink highlighter. Apparently I signed one boy’s fifth-grade yearbook with these memorable words: “Sarah — the girl whose lunch you always smoosh.”
School-age kids, you can do better than this. Don’t be that person. Even “see you next summer” is better. For a really good laugh, add “call me,” with your family’s phone number, er, your cellphone number.
5. Coolness doesn’t come with a lifetime membership.
This is important for today’s high school students to hear: Everything that matters to you right now will likely seem trivial in 20 years.
Feel left out by the cool crowd you’ve envied since kindergarten? Imagine how regular those people will seem when they are sagging and graying alongside everyone else.
Still pining for the boy in homeroom who never notices you? In 20 years, you’ll be surprised at how accomplished, smart and interesting the other boy, the shy one in the corner — the one you barely remembered — has become.
This is along the same lines as my husband’s theory that folding the clothes properly only means he will be asked to do it again next time. You see, the cool people are under tremendous pressure when they return for the reunion. Did they maintain their status?
But all the shy people of the world have their “Can’t Buy Me Love” lunchroom-scene moment when they walk into the room, announce their success, and everyone says, “wait, who is that?” Then, if you’re lucky, everyone slow claps and theme music plays in the background.
Okay, it’s not going to be like that. But you can always believe it was.
Maine author and columnist Sarah Smiley’s writing is syndicated weekly to publications across the country. She and her husband, Dustin, live with their three sons in Bangor. She may be reached at Facebook.com/Sarah.is.Smiley.