Still others go to the reunion with the goal of proving, once and for all, that all that high school awkwardness and insecurity was just a phase. The larval phase, if you will. And in the ten years since we walked across the stage in our ugly green robes, we have been metamorphosing -- growing and maturing and working out the kinks -- in our own little cocoon that I will dub "the early 2000's."
Well, my friends, I was one of those larvas. Larvae. Whatever, it doesn't matter how you spell it, because I am not a larva anymore. I am a freakin' butterfly. I went to my reunion with the sole purpose of proving to myself that I didn't need to surround myself with familiar faces and close friends to have a good time. I cared about proving to myself that even though I score a 95% "Introvert" on the Myers-Briggs scale -- think Milton from Office Space -- I do indeed have a wellspring of charm buried somewhere inside me that I can turn on when I need to. I wanted to shed the shy, socially-awkward Matt of years past, and just let loose and have fun with all the people I didn't get to know well enough ten years ago.
Well, as the banner on GWB's aircraft carrier put it four years ago, "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!" The difference now, of course, is that I actually did accomplish the mission. The Osama bin Ladens of my past have officially been captured or killed, and I'm claiming the $25 million bounty, baby.
As it turns out, it really isn't very hard to be a Fun Guy at parties. Put together a fine outfit (as you can see from the picture at right, I chose to go as a Jewish Gangster, complete with a golden chai hanging from my neck), smile at everyone you meet, and don't take anything too seriously. (A few drinks and a recent refresher course in the Mystery Method don't hurt either.)
Most importantly, take lots of photos with beautiful women, and post the photos on your Web site along with video showing what a stud you are. ;-) (It helps if you fail to mention that almost every attractive woman was married or engaged.)
Seriously though, I don't know if I have gotten more social in the last ten years, or if everyone has just gotten a lot friendlier -- it's probably a bit of both. All I do know is that all the old cliques and barriers of yesteryear seem to have melted away. As I mentioned to a few people on Saturday night, "This is so much better than high school!"
From an organizational standpoint, it wasn't a very elaborate affair; the reunion committee had taken our $25 entry fee and used it to rent out an atrium and patio, and provide us with some fairly tasty hor dourves. Apparently there was a projector set up showing pictures from high school, but most people ignored it. The highlight of the evening was the cash bar that served very very strong and tasty drinks, and pretty much everyone was tipsy or drunk by the end of the night. Of course, this was the first time everyone had gotten drunk together, because my peers didn't have any parties back in high school.*
The turnout was surprisingly low. There were 252 people in my graduating class, but only around 75 showed up. But from what I could tell, the 25% who were there had done fairly well for themselves. Some financial analysts, a nurse, a dentist, and some bearded legal types whom I quickly gravitated toward. But I'd say the most impressive of all was Jeff K., whose business card says he is a Vice President of Production at a major movie studio out in L.A. I am at once proud, in awe, jealous, and pissed off. It's okay though, because ten years ago I was chosen over him to give the high school graduation speech. So there! Cry about THAT, Jeff! Cry all the way to the bank! To your private vault where you no doubt wile away the hours diving naked into stacks of gold coins! (That is what rich people do, isn't it? All I have to go on is the popular perception of Scrooge McDuck, but I think I've got the picture.)
In the end, though, no one really seemed to care what we "do" for a living. Law, medicine, business, or movie producing, that's just a job. Frankly, I didn't even remember what most peoples' day job turned out to be. You know what stood out? How happy they seemed to be. And, on the whole, the class of 1997 seemed to be fairly content.
A recurring theme in my life is the desire to go back and do things differently, knowing then what I know now. Were I to go back and do high school over again, I'm sure I would have a much better time, and gotten a lot more out of it. But you know what? I could say that about most periods of my life. And I think that's a good thing: It means I'm getting better at This Thing Called Life. And it makes me excited for the future.
A lot of people don't plan to go to their high school reunion, because (as one friend put it in an e-mail recently), "My philosophy is that I already keep in touch with all of the people from high school that I have any desire in seeing." I used to think that too, but it turns out there are a lot of friends from high school who I simply lost track of over the last ten years, and it was great to see them again. Plus, in addition to reconnecting with people, it is great to get to know others who I never really got to know the first time around.
A few choice quotes (Click here for a brief audio snippet!)
Random girl to me: "You look a lot different -- you look great!"
Guy: "How many companies do you own?"
Matt: "I've got partial stakes in seven, I've got --"
Jeff: "NOT counting the adult entertainment companies."
Matt: "Zero then."
Drunk Girl: "What's your name?"
Matt: "Matt [redacted], nice to meet you."
Girl: "Maaaatt? For reeeeal?"
Matt: "Were you at Groves?"
Girl: "Holy God dammit -- you look sooooooo different!"
Molly (to the girl, matter-of-factly): "Facial hair and smaller glasses."
Matt to a girl he doesn't know: "I did so many drugs over the last ten years, I don't remember anybody."
Guy: "That's bullshit."
Matt: "Okay, I've never done any drugs."
Guy: "You didn't fool me for a second."
Matt: "I wanted to do drugs. I almost did marijuana once. I think I got a contact high."
Jeff: "I think I almost didn't do marijuana once."
Almost five hours after I arrived, I got into my car and drove home with the biggest smile on my face. My 10-year reunion had been a rousing success. I'm already looking forward to the 20th -- not just because the current committee asked if I want to be involved in planning the 20th, but also because some of the married hotties might be divorced by then. ;-)
*Yes, I know of the rumor that if one THINKS there were no big parties back in high school, it actually means one was not invited to the big parties back in high school. I firmly believe in the falsehood of this rumor. Nothing to see here. Carry on.