June 11th, 2010

I wasn’t the most popular kid in high school. Being overweight, wearing glasses and coming from the poor side of town didn’t do much to put me on the “A” list of cool kids. And I didn’t have a hard enough shell to pretend that being unpopular didn’t matter.

When I graduated from high school I never wanted to see any of those people again. Ever. Ever.

As our 20th year class reunion rolled around (before the advent of MySpace or Facebook) I gave in and provided my contact details to the reunion organizer. I recall a few days into January 2006 an email arrived from one of the classmates: “This is the year we turn 40. Who’s first?”

I stared at that email for a long time. Who is the “we” in this statement?

Then it hit me: the people on this email distribution list, for good or bad were my peers. We had a history together. Suddenly I was curious about them. Even those who made my life a living hell I wondered about. What were they doing now? Had they gotten what they wanted out of life? Were they successful? Bums? Rock stars? Drug dealers? Delivery men for Domino’s pizza?

I wasn’t an early adopter of social networking but in 2008 a high school friend emailed me and recommended I sign up on one of the sites. “We’re all there,” she said.

There is that “we” word again.

Still.

I was curious.

It turned out I love social networking. There is a little thrill about getting a friendship request from long lost friends and acquaintances. One of the nicest things I’ve ever heard is, “I’ve been looking for you for years!”

Last week when I realized I was going to be in my hometown for a family funeral and then staying on for a week, I threw out a post that said I was in town. If anyone wanted to get together to let me know.

Even today, 25 years later, that was still nerve-wracking. What if NO ONE responds? Jeez, it’ll be just like high school all over again. I imagine everyone in a private chat room laughing at me, “Who does she think she is?? No one wants to drop everything and go have drinks with her. She was such a loser!”

But luckily someone responded. A girl I had known since I was eight years old. And then she roped in other chicks for an evening of “catch up.”

How do you “catch up” on 25 years of history in one evening?

It is kind of like speed dating: one person gets 5 minutes to tell their story since high school and then you continue around the colorfully tiled table top in the chi-chi Mexican restaurant where Margaritas start at $9.

$10 for a drink? Where am I? Vegas??

On my drive over to an area of town that didn’t even exist when I lived here I thought: what on earth could you guys possibly have in common?

Uhm….let’s see: We all went to high school together. We all wore blue eye shadow together. We all turned 40 together. Surely there must be some common ground somewhere, right?

There was:
Two of us couldn’t have children for medical reasons. Two of us were on at least our second marriage. Three of us had children. Two of us considered ourselves mildly funny: one having actually done standup comedy.

We laughed about make out sessions in our high school auditorium, about cutting class to go sit in our cars waiting for the next class where we actually liked our teacher. We remembered eating French fries and chocolate ice cream from Braum’s for lunch and how 25 years ago we couldn’t wait to grow up. Now, at 44 and counting we didn’t really feel that much older. But sadly, no one ID’d us as we ordered and then downed top shelf margaritas.

It wasn’t all light hearted banter. One of the chicks brought our senior yearbook and as we looked over our classmates we talked about who from the class we’d already lost to death, who was the first to go barely out of high school and the most recent loss just this year.

As we talked about what it was like to have adult children one of the “girls” was telling us how she’d taken her son to Vegas for his 21st birthday. “I’ve always been the cool mom.” (I’m sure she was. She was the first friend I had to give me alcohol. Strawberry daiquiris! Gotta love her!) “But that was all over when I saw a prostitute proposition my son in a casino. I was done being cool! I almost decked her!”

“Well you can mark ‘seeing son w/prostitute’ off your bucket list,” I quipped back. (Okay. So clearly I wasn’t the one who had done standup comedy.)

The evening wound down and we detailed our various infirmities and decided: yes we must be 40+ year old women because we were sitting around talking about all the things that ailed us. Cancer. Odd female maladies that made us grow hair where we didn’t want it while cruelly losing hair where we did want it. Can anyone say “male pattern baldness”? We waxed eloquently about painful skin conditions, killer migraines, and the hormonal hell known as peri – or just straight up full blown – menopause.

Of course no regaling of life would be complete without sex. Yes, women always talk about sex. Always. Just deal with it. Giggling through another drink we discussed the good, the bad, and the kinky.

BTW: Mom – if you’re reading this: none of this was me. I was there trying to have a prayer meeting and drinking tap water….but these other chicks? They were wild!

Standing up to leave, we all groaned various knee, ankle and back issues uniting us even further. “This was so much fun!” we all said as we hugged and said our good-byes.

And it was fun. Life isn’t for the faint of heart. And after we’d all had a turn sharing our own personal stories, it was good to be united by this thing called “life.”

These women are all so beautiful not in spite of, but because of the curves life has thrown at them. They’ve gotten back up…even if it was on creaking knees. They are strong. Vibrant. Women I’m proud to call my friends.

I can’t wait to come back to town!

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