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I did not think the girl could be so cruel - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
I did not think the girl could be so cruel
On Saturday I went to my High School's 10-year reunion. Ten years! Sometimes I can't believe that it was quite that long ago. Other times I look at the amount of water that's passed under that particular bridge and I can't believe we're all still not yet 30.

I'm not sure what I expected, really: recrimination or reconciliation, revisionism or revelation? Slipping back into old roles, or forging new friendships? I bore no grudges and couldn't call to mind any unfinished business; I didn't feel I had anything to prove except the fact that I had nothing to prove. And yet I wondered if old wounds might be reopened, old insecurities raised up or finally put down; I wondered if it would be one last act of closure.

Nothing really prepared me for what I did feel on seeing my old classmates again, which was, roughly, nothing at all.

And so there were some pleasant people, some of whom I had known a long time ago. I recognised some of them immediately, while others had changed so much that recalling their names was a struggle. Most of them were thinner and blonder, and many (how our teachers would have approved!) were doctors, lawyers, teachers. Some were married, and several (like me) had brought their partners. I talked my way through round after round of so how are you doing and it's so weird being back here, with the occasional side order of you haven't changed a bit. I learned a little about people's lives, isolated events, countries and children, the hours giving evidence / or birth; but this was a dead zone, an out-of-time zone, a place where everybody had been transplanted out of the context in which they made sense. The more conversations I had, the stronger was the sensation that I wasn't actually meeting anybody, that we were all having one of those dreams where you're at some kind of party but it's actually a theatre on a boat and your schoolfriends and work colleagues and university friends are all in the same place and then your French teacher comes in but she isn't really your French teacher, she's actually your sister, and, and. The sort of dream where you probably end up running and running and unable to move an inch. Possibly naked, too, but this wasn't that sort of dream.

"I read your blog," said one girl, "so I know everything about you, but you know nothing about me!" She grinned. That was about all the conversation I exchanged with her all evening. She was one of the few people there I was actively keen to talk to, someone I had liked and secretly (as if I could keep secrets!) admired in our schooldays; but as the ebb and flow of conversation kept carrying us away from each other (whether by chance or her design) I realised it didn't matter any more. We didn't exchange email addresses. She knows where I am, though. Perhaps she's even reading this now.

Awkward dinner-table conversation gave way to a slightly less awkward disco, where Double Disc (Loughborough's finest, veteran of decades of school discos) played the cheesiest hits of the 1990s. In those days, I couldn't dance, didn't know how, didn't realise that nobody else knew how either and the only difference between us was that they didn't care; this time I genuinely didn't care, and just enjoyed the dancing. I remembered all the moves to "Saturday Night" and "The Macarena", but for me, this wasn't the real soundtrack of the 1990s. Back then I was listening to Suede, Kingmaker, the Cure, Morrissey, a vast limited edition gatefold twelve-inch smorgasbord of all the standard misfit anthems. Such a tired old cliché, and I knew it then almost as keenly and as wearily as I knew it now, layer upon layer of knowledge.

They played "Disco 2000", and I remembered dancing to it at the Upper VI May Ball, and knowing then that it'd be played to death in the years to come. The girl I was dancing for then didn't come to the reunion. Her name, funnily enough, was Deborah. And it suited her just fine.

It's strange to realise that the ghosts you came to lay to rest, half unbelieving and half afraid, are only tricks of the light after all. Just smoke and mirrors. I left half an hour after midnight, having turned into neither a pumpkin nor a princess.
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Comments
keirf From: keirf Date: June 26th, 2006 02:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I didn't dare go to my school reunion. The college reunion wasn't too bad though, mainly because I didn't get bullied in college.
filecoreinuse From: filecoreinuse Date: June 26th, 2006 02:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Some were married, and several (like me) had brought their partners.

Oh dear… Dosed up on cold medicine as I am I originally parsed that without a vital 'r' making me wonder if you had a mail-order husband :).
cartesiandaemon From: cartesiandaemon Date: June 26th, 2006 02:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Bringing one's partner" can be sufficiently dodgy all by itself if you quote it right :)

It's always odd meeting up with people. I generally find that I've moved on, and when I was there I naturally compared myself to people, but since I don't really, so it's curious but not important to see how they do. And it reminds you of how you used to be: who you used to be friends with, who/what used to be important to you, etc.
camellia_uk From: camellia_uk Date: June 26th, 2006 02:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm still refusing point-blank to go to any school reunions there. I hated the place, and pretty much all the people I liked I'm still in touch with anyway.
One day though, maybe... they always told me firmly that a) I was totally unsuited to higher education, and b) 'Girls Don't Do Computing'... so maybe when I have my PhD in Computing I'll go back just to give them the finger (in a metaphorical sense... maybe). Though they'd probably just try to take credit for it anyway, so maybe I'll just carry on avoiding them like the plague.
Well done for facing them though. I hope you wore your stripey tights and some totally unsuitable shoes. :-)
j4 From: j4 Date: June 26th, 2006 02:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I wore TROUSERS, and borrowed mummy's slightly-more-sensible shoes when I realised I wouldn't be able to dance in the shoes I'd brought... :-)

The people who organised the reunion were the people who wouldn't have even spoken to me (for fear of catching, I dunno, spots, or weird habits like thinking) when I was at school. I only went out of curiosity and a residual sense of bloody-mindedness, but it was all quite funny, really. I expected more skirt-suited 'cellists and braying Tories, but they're all just normal people, very much the London crowd. People I'd nod and smile and say yes, absolutely to at cocktail parties.

I can hardly remember anything the school told me now. Mostly "Socks," and "Shut up," I think. And the importance of being a Woman In Business (which sounded rather dubious when you thought about it). It was all a bit strange, but hey, I learned how to do quadratics, and had a go at playing lacrosse, and I wrote a lot of poetry, and I worked out some things that I might have worked out anyway (but probably not so quickly). And I got into Oxford, which I probably wouldn't have thought to try to do on my own, so I guess I owe them that.

Anyway, I think I'd have been a lot unhappier at OLCS, with punishments from Sister Whatever and compulsory RE three times a day. Let alone at Humphreys. *shudder*

keirf From: keirf Date: June 26th, 2006 02:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
It doesn't work. My maths teacher told me at the end of the lower sixth that I was "totally unsuited to being a mathematicis", but I went on to get a Ph.D. in the subject. When I went back I told him this. He asked, "And what are you doing now?"
"Working in I.T."
"Not in maths? See, I was right."
d_floorlandmine From: d_floorlandmine Date: June 26th, 2006 04:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not in maths? See, I was right.
[snork]
Some people ...
jvvw From: jvvw Date: June 26th, 2006 05:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
They're just jealous that they didn't make it as a mathematician :-)

From: kjaneway Date: June 26th, 2006 03:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I couldn't make it to my year's 10 year reunion, a couple of years back, for various reasons.

I suspect I'd have found much the same thing that you did, though.

Maybe I'll go back for 20 years...
imc From: imc Date: June 26th, 2006 04:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Golly. This has made me realise that it is now 20 years since I left school.
nja From: nja Date: June 26th, 2006 06:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I went to my 20th a few years ago, and another one last year. I found the 20th one quite disturbing, it was like simultaneously being 16 and 36, and there was a sort of feeling as if I was being given the chance to go back and start the last two decades again. There hadn't been any earlier reunions, so more than half the year of 200 people were there (no partners). A few of them were people I'd been at primary school with - 13 years of close association, friends or otherwise (and often both, over the years), and then in most cases I hadn't seen them since. I've only kept up contact with a couple of schoolfriends over the years, despite it being a fairly small town and most people either still living there or having parents who do, and I think that's why it was so disturbing - I hadn't seen most of those people growing old, so to me they were still 16.

The second reunion was just blah.

From: solipsister Date: June 26th, 2006 07:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah I'm reading it. Double grin :))
j4 From: j4 Date: June 28th, 2006 02:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Stalker! :-P

You should write more on LJ. Just sayin', like.
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