I'm scared. My 40th high school reunion is coming up and I need to lose half my body weight, darken my hair and reinvent my life. At the 30th get-together I told my classmates that Spielberg asked me to put on a few pounds for an upcoming role; I would be playing Grover Cleveland in a blockbuster thriller set in 18th century Buffalo. I also claimed I worked for the CIA and was a roadie for Springsteen in my free time.
Now, with the Internet, people from my past can Google me and discover that my life has been duller than dishwater. I need to go with "enhancements" that can't be verified:
"I've become a painter of some renown." Translation: I am a regular at Sherwin Williams.
"I am an international traveler." Translation: I go to Fort Erie once a month for Chinese.
"I've spent some time at Harvard." Translation: I drove through on the way to Cape Cod.
"My doctor says I am in unbelievable shape." Translation: She can't believe I am still alive.
I went to an all-boys high school, so we hold our reunions at a bar on Abbott Road. We stand around drinking draft beer, eating wings and telling lies.
It amazes me that the same guys who hung around together back in the seventies still gravitate toward one another. It is like the high school cafeteria with alcohol, better food and gout. When we reunited in our 20s we all bragged about what great jobs we had and we compared salaries. I imagine at our 40th we'll be comparing surgery scars.
Of course, high school reunions are also a time for schoolyard shadenfreude. Leave it to the Germans to combine the words damage and joy to describe the guilty pleasure we all get from another's misfortune. Oh what a feeling when you hear that the class brain has been out of work since 1987 or the guy who tormented you in gym class is now serving twenty to life in Attica. And how about the star athlete who shows up with a beer belly wearing a t-shirt that says "Kiss My Irish ***"? Then there is the class Romeo who now has a receding hairline and a pronounced humpback. Oh, joy!
Unfortunately, some guys will show up looking trim and fit and 15 years younger. The rest of us will smile while fantasizing about pouring Frank's Hot Sauce in their shorts. It is remarkable how we all age differently. Having lost the genetic lottery, I say silent prayers that these guys will wake up one morning looking like Mel Gibson after a night on the town. Or maybe they'll fall asleep in their tanning bed and roast themselves.
My memories of high school are like most people: a little fun, a little pain, and persistent feelings of inadequacy.
War isn't hell; science projects, proms, and football tryouts are hell.
When I hear about the so-called epidemic of bullying going on today, I think back to my high school days when a sadistic gym teacher had me do something called the "duck walk" for an hour because I forgot my gym uniform. Or the English teacher who head-slapped me every time I made a wisecrack. I once had a six foot five Franciscan priest punch me in the jaw. He was standing under the emergency shower in lab and I pulled down on the cord and turned it on.
Between the smacks, the alcohol use, the angst and the occasional flare-ups of acne, it is remarkable I made it through. So I guess I'll go to another reunion. Call it survivor's guilt.