In anticipation of an upcoming high school reunion, Marilyn D. Davis reflects on critical topics such as aging, primping and bra elastic width. Read more of Marilyn D. Davis in "Chocolate for a Woman's Dreams"
I have a high school reunion coming up this fall. Without giving away my exact age
(*see Web site name. Enough said.)
I will say that it's not the 20th, 30th, 40th or for that matter any-ith.
My childhood friend Anita is organizing a dinner the night before the reunion. She has invited members of our Girl Scout troop and other girls who we associated with, even if they didn't know a pledge from a cookie.
At first Anita thought of holding the dinner at one of Chicago's finest restaurants. My husband was immediately jealous, but I wasn't thrilled. How excited can I get about a seventy-dollar entree consisting of a deck of cards-sized portion of an extinct species of fish, served on a bed of Transylvanian lettuce and garnished with a pair of Venus-dried tomatoes?
I am looking forward to this girls' reunion more than I am to the one with my classmates. I've been to high school reunions in the past and everyone knows that the women look better over time and the men--well, let's just say they aren't the guys I went to school with. They belong to a little-known organization that pays selected males to attend reunions. This is the only plausible explanation for the fact that most of them are plainly unrecognizable.
It's not their fault that more men than women lose hair, grow beards and maintain the extra pounds that were sympathetically gained during the pregnancy experience. Another reason I don't recognize the males is that my teenaged self didn't look at them as closely as I looked at the females. Except, of course, for the six guys who I had crushes on and these men inevitably turn up on the "missing classmates" list. I wonder if my taste in boys was so bad that they felt the need to vanish upon graduation.
Anyway, I'm admitting that I spent the better part of my high school days leering at the girls. Not out of lust, but to compare. I analyzed every aspect of their appearance that differed from mine and tried to relate it to their social status. If the girl was "cooler" than I was, I wondered if it had anything to do with the width of the elastic in the back piece of her bra. Wider elastic meant higher status--and probably bigger boobs, but that's another story. I checked the shine on her nose in the afternoon. Less oil meant she either blotted her face at lunch time using an expensive cosmetic tissue, or she had flawless skin, another sure sign of popularity (or of parents willing to take her for daily visits to a zit-zapping dermatologist). I scrutinized hairstyles, too. These girls never had a strand stray from their "flip," which meant they were either blessed from birth or they blackmailed their mothers into calling them in sick on bad hair days.
To a high school girl, appearances are everything. So when it comes to attending a reunion, one is beamed back to that stage of life where vanity trumps sanity. It would be too embarrassing to mention how many outfits I've tried on in advance of the event. I even wandered into the "Junior" section of the department store--something I haven't done in decades for fear of being swept away by crowds of teens dancing to music videos. The toughest part is deciding if I want my "look" to approximate chic/sophisticated, earth-mother/hippie or Euro-trash.
I am certain I haven't changed a bit over the years, and anyone who tells me this at a reunion is instantly my new best friend. Since I always recognize myself in the mirror, I must look the same. Everyone else, however, looks older. Different. Better. Drunker. Wrinkleder. And I imagine myself as this girl in a roomful of middle-aged people. I feel great. I'm an outcast just like I was in high school; I love it.
My bra may still have elastic too thin in the back, my nose may shine in the p.m., and my hair lives on sub-Standard time, but who cares? I am alive. Different. Sassier. Lumpier. And I still wear my hard-earned Girl Scout badge for wisecracking with pride.