This past weekend was my 20-year college reunion.
I know what you want to say to that:
1) “But you seem so young! You must have graduated when you were in diapers for that to be true.”
Shucks. Thank you, you’re sweet. As a matter of fact, I did graduate in diapers, but I was 21.
2) “What did you do all weekend? And don’t leave anything out.”
Oh wow, are you sure? It’s going to be long.
If you just want to know the event basics, go to wesleyan.edu and find our class reunion schedule.
If you want to know what it was like from minute to minute, here’s a ridiculously detailed schedule, revised retroactively to reflect every tiny moment of my weekend.
THURSDAY, ALL DAY: PACK AND PANIC
I have trouble packing for every trip I take. But when it’s to meet up with people I haven’t seen in 20 years it’s a whole other level of freakout.
Goal: to look young and hot without looking like I tried to look young and hot.
I try on the outfit I picked to wear to the big Saturday dinner: a skirt and top, with mismatching prints that looked fashionable the first time I tried them on, a week before, but now just look frumpy. And crazy. Loony-bin-escapee crazy. That won’t fly in Middletown, CT, where there really is a loony bin and people really do escape.
I pull out a different dress. Decide it makes my waist look small. (Yay.) But it makes my legs look blue and old. (Boo.) Even though I’ve been spraying them for weeks with some awful-smelling self-tanner.
Do I wear black tights with it? No, too wintery. Boots? I try them on. They look good and hide veins.
In case it’s too warm for boots, I throw in my high platform wedges. Screw classmates if they judge my legs. Right?
LATE AFTERNOON/ EARLY EVENING: BREAK FROM PACKING TO CHECK WEATHER
Forecast is for scattered thundershowers. Great. What shoes work in sun and on sopping wet grass? I add both flip flops and clogs to the growing pile. Neither is quite right.
Having second thoughts about the dress. Maybe just jeans and a cute top. Would that be appropriate?
How dressy do people get for this thing? I don’t remember what returning classes were wearing. Just that they looked old.
INTERMITTENT: REGRET SIGNING UP
The packing ordeal makes me half-wish someone would cancel the whole reunion, so I could skip it without missing any fun.
LATE EVENING: SEEK REASSURANCE ONLINE
I post on Facebook: Anyone know what to wear?
I get no definitive answer, but find out that other people are also freaking out and have just as many “options” as I do. And, that the head of the reunion committee plans to wear jeans and a cute top.
I feel better, go to bed.
THROUGHOUT NIGHT: TOSS AND TURN
3 am: I lie wide awake, thinking: Should I pack gym clothes and sneakers in case we go for a run? Who am I kidding? I’m so not going for a run. A pizza run, maybe. Still, sneakers would be good for the rain. They could look cute with jeans. Which jeans for day: skinny or wide-leg?
4 am: Still awake. Get up, read Gawker and Dlisted. Worry that I’ll have bags under my eyes and look old.
FRIDAY, 2:30 PM: SCHLEP TO CAR RENTAL
In pouring rain, I struggle toward the 60th Street Hertz with umbrella and giant weekend bag, which bulges in odd spots with the shape of various shoes. I feel the bag thumping against my body with every step. There will be bruises.
Risa and Chris, great friends and former college housemates, are waiting for me in the rental office. Chris immediately relieves me of my giant bag, proving he is still a great friend.
2:30-6:30 RIDE TO WESLEYAN
Risa drives. I don’t, because we all want to live. I’m even worse behind the wheel now than I was during college — and I was famously bad.
It’s been decades since we were all together, but we fall right back into our groove. The four hours in Friday traffic zip by.
Getting basics out of the way, we brief each other on: marriages, careers, Risa’s 3 kids, and what to call Chris. He’s gone back to his family name, Kiff.
Risa and I try to make the switch, but find we can’t. At one point in the weekend, trying to choose between Chris and Kiff, I will introduce him to someone as “Kiss”.
DURING DRIVE: REFRESH MEMORY
I access the class reunion page on my iphone and read off names from the “hoping to attend” list so we can review who’s who. Want to avoid those awkward “Heyyyyyyy, you!” pretending-to-know-who-this-person-is hugs.
6:30 ARRIVE AT HOTEL
We pull up to the prison-like Crowne Plaza, really a motel, about 10 minute’s drive from campus.
Staying in dorms is a more popular option, but the “Essentials” section on the website advises: “If you’re staying in the dorms, bring an extra blanket or two.”
Freezing dorm rooms and shared bathrooms? Too old for that. We’re all happy we chose the Crowne Plaza.
6:30-7: FRESHEN UP, MOURN LOST EYEBROWS
I reapply the essentials: under-eye concealer to look less old, mascara to look more awake, eyebrow pencil to look less ’90s. That’s when I started plucking my eyebrows. I’ve been trying to grow mine back for two years, and they’re proving to be permanently patchy.
We’ve all mocked the college pictures showing our bushy, unplucked caterpillar brows. But I’d give anything to have those furry things back.
Curse you, Tweezerman!
7 pm CHECK OUT MIDDLETOWN
Before class reception, we drive to Main Street and choose a noodle house. The strip has turned into a proper college town. We marvel at how many restaurants there are now, wonder how everything changed so fast.
Then, we realize 20 years isn’t all that fast.
9-ish: BRAVE THE RECEPTION
Standing outside the class-welcome party, we look through the window and don’t recognize anyone. We huddle together, scared, and agree to rescue each other if we blank on names.
This turns out not to be an issue, because inside, everyone but us is wearing name tags. We’re the only ones who haven’t registered.
To make things easy, I identify myself to people before they have to ask or fake it. “Andy? Laura Belgray!”
AT INTERVALS: OVERTHINK
Each time, I wonder: Will the person be insulted by the suggestion that they don’t remember me? Does it reflect poorly on my self-esteem that I think they won’t remember me? Is it arrogant to skip it and presume they will remember me?
MID-PARTY: SPOT LONG-LOST FRIEND
Since we arrived, I’ve been on a quest to find one of my best friends and favorite people, Johannah, whom I haven’t seen since my 30th birthday party. It takes a moment to realize that’s Johannah looking right at me, because she’s colored her honey-toned hair dark brown.
Turns out she didn’t mean to do that, and is upset by the dark shade. She decided to dye it for the first time just that week. Bold move.
I assure her the hair looks great, which it does, and she moves on to point out her “wide butt”. This used to be her ritual at every party. She’s as self-deprecating, and inaccurate, as ever. I’ve missed her.
MID-PARTY: REALITY CHECK
There’s a lot of “You look EXACTLY the same” going around the room. We all believe it. But on the couch sit two dewy-skinned college kids. If that’s what we used to look like, we definitely do not look exactly the same.
Not sure what the youngsters are doing at this party; maybe they were hired just to lounge there and provide sobering contrast.
10 pm PARTY AT X HOUSE
That’s the place where all the good dance parties used to be. We knew it as Malcolm X House, but apparently no one calls it that any more. It’s like calling 6th Avenue “Avenue of the Americas.”
This party is in honor of our class, so we’re looking forward to “our” music: late 80s/ early 90s hip hop.
But instead of Rob Base, they’re playing Ace of Base. Then Katy Perry. Then, Dexie’s Midnight Runners. “My Angel Was a Centerfold” — a song we danced to at Bar Mitzvahs.
Clearly, that’s the music they think middle-aged alums want to hear.
We’re now “those” people.
10-1am-ish: DANCE, GIVE DJS SHIT
The DJs play snippets of songs we love, then abruptly switch each one to something un-danceable.
They are fucking with us.
I make many song requests and give them a motherly lecture (since they already see me as old) about how their job is to watch the dance floor and play whatever gets people on it.
They ignore all input, so I pantomime crying to let them know they suck. When they don’t get the message, I give them the double finger.
They blast screeching feedback that makes all of us 40-somethings cover our sensitive ears like we’re on the subway platform.
We boo them.
Still, we manage to rock the dance floor. One friend, now a school principal, can still groove like a mofo. I wonder if his students have ever seen him getting dance-freaked in a girl sandwich.
MIDNIGHT: AWKWARD ENCOUNTER
We leave the party and linger as a group outside. A familiar-looking guy and I meet eyes and give each other the “is that you?” look.
We both say “HEYYYY!” and hug.
After a beat, he says: “We don’t really know each other, do we?”
“No,” I admit. “I don’t think so. You class of ’91?”
We both have an “oh, shit” moment and part ways.
12:30 AM: RETURN TO CROWNE PLAZA, STUFF FACE
In the lobby, a bunch of us buy terrible packaged snacks — which at that hour, taste delicious — and head for bed.
SATURDAY, 12pm: HANG AT CAMPUS CENTER
We register, socialize at the shiny, new campus center; wish it had been there when we were students. We gather a group at a center table, catch up, and eat sandwiches with comically large buns.
We remark on the huge tech section of the campus store, and marvel that we were probably the last class to type papers on actual typewriters.
How the eff did we make it through term papers without the internet?
What do people now do with all those books in Olin Library?
How did anyone find each other at parties without cellphones?
I eviscerate the bread on my tuna sandwich, trying to whittle it down to something manageable, and wonder if people think I’m afraid of carbs. In college, I had weird eating habits.
THROUGHOUT DAY: WIG OUT ABOUT AGE
None of us can get our minds around the idea that to the graduating seniors walking by, we are “those” people: pitiably middle-aged. We know it must be true, even though we think we look pretty good.
I recall my college boyfriend’s mom, who was exactly the age we are now, creating a stir because she was so hot “for a mom”. She was the original MILF. We knew she was young compared to the other parents, but she still seemed plenty old to us.
1:30: CHRIS’ TALK
A group of us go to see Chris give a thoroughly impressive seminar in the auditorium where we used to take Econ classes. He talks about the cool, prosocial stuff he’s doing now and all the cool, extracurricular stuff he did at Wesleyan.
Afterwards, I think about the many opportunities I blew off during college — as I decide to blow off the rest of the afternoon seminars I’d thought of attending.
It’s way too pretty out for learning.
2:30-4 PM: BUY PARAPHERNALIA
Risa and I shop for Wesleyan hoodies. I buy one in grey waffle knit and wonder how I’ll cram it into my overstuffed bag going back.
The college-store setting triggers the familiar old urge to buy a cherry Blowpop. Actually, the urge is to steal it, but I pay full price like a grownup.
4-5 PM: DEPARTURE DELAYS
We want a little down time back at the hotel before dinner. But on the way out, we keep running into people we have to chat with.
Most of them have kids in tow. They all prod their young ones to say hi, but just about every kid hides behind Mommy or Daddy, refusing. They’re sick of saying hi to their old parents’ old friends. I get it.
6 PM: PRE-DINNER WORRYING
Earlier, we’ve made a pact to sit with certain friends at dinner. Now, we envision a seating disaster, in which there aren’t enough free spaces at any one table and people feel left out and cry. Or, worse, we get stuck sitting with boring people. We want to be the cool table.
We are not too old for high-school insecurities.
6:30-9 PM: RAGE AT DINNER
The raging seems more nostalgia-fueled than alcohol-fueled, except in the case of one train wreck of a classmate, who’s been piss-drunk all weekend and, I’m guessing, is never not piss-drunk. He’s incoherent and his shirt is damp with sweat.
There are people I’m surprised and thrilled to see, and, happily, none that I was praying not to see.
During the speeches, we’re having too much fun talking to quiet down respectfully. I make a mental note never to give a speech to a room full of people who haven’t seen each other in 20 years.
Turns out I needn’t have worried about the seating. Everyone plays musical chairs.
The dinner goes by in a blur. Somehow, I find time in the middle of it to wolf down overcooked roast beef and mashed potatoes.
AFTER DINNER, ALL CLASSES: PARTY IN TENT
This is not my favorite. I liked it when it was just our class, and there were chairs. I’m tired, hoarse, and feel more like sitting than standing around on damp grass, dodging younger people sloshing their beer.
We’re all milling listlessly, but no one wants to say goodbye yet.
When we eventually do, I’m grateful it’s more of a “see you on Facebook.”
2 AM: RETURN TO HOTEL STARVING
Back at the room, I wish I still had the disgusting Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate chip muffin I’d half-eaten and then thrown in the trash the night before. It stuck to my teeth and wasn’t worth the calories, but I’d be happy to see it now. I check the trash can. Empty.
I later find out that a falafel truck pulled up right after Risa and I left the tent party. Just as well: it was especially leaky falafel, and Johannah would later spend 60 dollars to clean dried tahini sauce out of her car.
SUNDAY, 10 AM: POST-MORTEM BRUNCH WITH BFFS
The Crowne Plaza breakfast buffet isn’t half bad. Omelet bar!
We females insist on sitting next to each other for easier girl talk. Or, out of respect for our politically correct alma mater, “woman talk”. No, make that “womyn talk” (because we don’t need no “man”) .
We review: who was a mess, who looked hot, who needs a hairdo intervention, who made obscenely inappropriate remarks to their old fuck-buddy, right in front of fuck-buddy’s spouse, and a bunch of other stuff I can’t repeat here.
I wish I could.
11:30 AM: DRIVE BACK TO CITY. END OF REUNION.
FOLLOWING WEEK: ATTEMPT TO SUM UP WEEKEND IN SUCCINCT BLOG POST
Hey, if you’ve made it this far, you’ve obviously got time on your hands. Might as well stick around to leave a comment.