The other day I received a letter that gave me pause. My beautiful daughter watched me open it, and sensed something she'd not seen on her father's face before. Not anger. Or sadness.
"What is that, Daddy?" she asked.
"An invitation to my high school class reunion."
"A party where you hang out with all the people you went to high school with."
My daughter got excited. Parties still meant ice cream and pizza to her.
"Are you going?!"
"Good lord, no."
"Well, baby, I can think of at least six reasons off the top of my head. Are you going to pay me to tell you?"
"Hmm. Well, I know someone who will."
My daughter then went off to play with some toys. Or cry. I'm not sure.
I suppose there are people who thought of high school as their best years ever. Their days were filled with lots of friends they truly enjoyed. People who shared their values and sense of humor. And I guess it's conceivable that after graduation, they decided to never speak to any of these people ever again. Perhaps they lapsed into a temporary coma or moved to an Amish community that forbade modern communication technology. Maybe they were taken hostage or wandered foreign lands with amnesia until a fortuitously dropped coconut bonked back their memory just in time for their high school reunion. For those people, I get it. Go to your high school reunion. See all those wonderful people you loved so well, but, for some reason, have removed completely from your life.
But for me, for the most part, if we went to high school and I have absolutely no contact with you now, I'm like totally OK with that. Especially with Facebook and Internet and all that. If I wanted to, I could find you. But here's a Facebook message I'm not likely to send:
Now in truth, there are plenty of people I went to old high school with that I have nothing against. Even a bunch I liked. If I were to meet them in an elevator or at a business meeting or hanging out on a park bench, I'd be perfectly happy to catch up. But that's just not incentive enough. Especially since one of those people could send me a message saying, "Hey, let's grab a beer and catch up," and then I could totally go do that without seeing douche bags like Christopher Vitagliano at the same time. How am I gonna hear about my old friend's home heating business or precocious triplets when Vitagliano, who's probably still spiking what's left of his hair, is like two seats over making the waitress incredibly uncomfortable.
So really, apologies to all the perfectly lovely people of Syosset High School, but you're not incentive enough to sit through exposure to the people I never want to see again. By the way, if Syosset High School sounds familiar it's because that's the alma mater of both Judd Apatow and Natalie Portman. I'm younger than Judd and older than Natalie. Basically, I was the meat in a sexy Jewish sandwich.
A personal message to my three high school sexual conquests:
High School Girlfriend: Well, actually, part of me really does want to see you again. Y'know, just to assure you that I totally know what I'm doing sexually these days. Like when I have sex now, orgasms are actually involved. But I think it would be more awkward than cathartic. Pretty soon, old resentments would arise, and I'd have to confess that I actually faked my orgasms. (Guys can do that with condoms, unless, I guess, there's a vigilant post-coital prophylactic inspection.) And then you'll feel bad even though you shouldn't because seriously what guy can finish over the sounds of "Ow, stop. No. Are you doing that right?" So yeah, best not to see you.
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.