I went to college during the height of grunge, and as such, I was very fortunate to be a young, long-haired man during rock's last great death rattle. But my teen years were filled with some of the worst music of any generation. To ease the pain, I disappeared into the 70s: Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Jethro Tull, and Elvis Costello -- painfully aware that it was yesterday's music even if it was great. My classmates occasionally enjoyed the old stuff too, provided it was Billy Joel or Billy Joel. It was Long Island. Liking Billy Joel was the law. And while I'm sure Joel's "I've Loved These Days" will be heard at the reunion (it was our prom song after all), I'm guessing the music committee will also be filling the dance list with the likes of Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and Roxette's "The Look." I'm not dancing to that. I'm not listening to that. I might bust a move to Biz Markie's "Just a Friend," but that's it. Not going.
There's only one thing that could get me to go to my high school reunion, and it's an ideal that can never be achieved. My initial thoughts were that before I could go, I would need to reach a level of success that would be absolutely devastating to everyone there I hated. But what would that be? Money? A trophy wife? Fame? It would have to be something objectively awesome. Like Bill Gates awesome. Brad Pitt showing up with Angelina after having just won an Oscar awesome.
But the more I thought about it, I realized that short of being named the All-Powerful Master of Space and Time there was no level of accomplishment that would be enough because the measure of success is a personal one. Everyone wants different things from life. A house, kids, a nice car, a private business, extreme wealth, creativity, peace and quiet, fulfilling charitable acts, hot deviant sex, lots of friends, calm seclusion, deep roots, constant travel.
I suppose someone who deems their own life a failure would not be likely to display it for their enemies, but that does not sum up the existence of those avoiding their reunions. There are content people with no desire to be judged by someone else's standards. People who don't want to explain to the Christopher Vitaglianos that they shouldn't have to explain why they don't have kids or why they have so many. Who don't trust the Vitaglianos' determination of what the right number of kids is. Or the right kind of car to drive. And if you already found yourself one step out of sync with your peers' values and aspirations as a teenager, how much greater will the ensuing years of obligations and taxes deepen that divide?
To put it in comedy writer terms: Life for me has been a journey to a place where the people get my jokes and make me laugh. Each year, I keep getting closer. Going to a reunion wouldn't necessarily take me in the opposite direction, but it's a detour I don't need. I'm trying to make some time here.
Seriously, fuck that guy.
-Author's note. Occasionally, writers do a thing where they write something that is not true. To that end, please be advised that Christopher Vitagliano is not a real person or based on any one person. I also didn't refuse to talk to my daughter and make her cry. Oh, and Vanilla Ice never came to career day, but, yeah, we totally had sex.