Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Twenty

Though I sometimes like to pretend high school was miserable for me, it wasn't. It was, in almost every area, a good time. I had close friends. I liked my teachers and they liked me. I went to a small school where I was involved in everything from drill team to drama to student government. I got good grades. I went to a nice college. I had a date for the prom. But high school memories live in the portion of my brain that still is in high school. It's the portion that can recite all the lyrics to "Right Here Waiting for You" by Richard Marx, and that is embarrassed that my best friends were always the ones with the boyfriends and I was always sitting in the back seat by myself on the way to the dance, and that flips the personality switch into Tracy Flick mode when I'm not looking. It's the part that spent too much time feeling awkward and a little ugly even when I probably wasn't.

So I can understand why people balk at attending their high school class reunions. When the invitation came for mine, I had a second of doubt. Did I really want to see people on whom the last impression I made was a yawn-inducing graduation speech about Following Your Own Personal Star? Or, worse yet, they might remember me as the girl who didn't even know where the senior kegger was held, probably because there was a suspicion that she might call the cops. It's hard not to focus on regretful behavior, but someone wise reminded me that it's a very self-centered thing to do; most of my classmates probably don't remember the idiotic things I did, or if they do, they've got their own litany of idiocy to worry about.

I didn't let my thoughts linger for too long at the failed pep rally in my head, although it wasn't because I made a difficult personal decision to overcome my fears and grow stronger in this difficult time. No, mostly I went to 20-year class reunion because I wanted to know the rest of the story. I wanted to see where people were living and how many kids they had and if they had become even more handsome than they were in the eighties (odds were good, considering the perms and Cosby Show sweaters everyone was sporting in our graduation photos). And maybe I wanted the opportunity to shock them all by drinking a beer in public.

Damn, I'm glad I went.

I saw my child racing gleefully through a sprinkler with the kids of one of my dearest friends. She and I were just a year or two older than they are now when we met. It made me a little tearful, until Theo threw a matchbox car at her son's head.

I hung out with the wives of my junior high school crushes and it reminded me that small town boys have good taste (and so did I).

I heard a story about wrestling a mountain lion, masterfully told by a guy I could never persuade to be the prince in my four-year-old princess pretend games.

I recognized people by their voices and their walks which hadn't changed in two decades, and I could tell whose kids belonged to whom because they looked exactly like their parents at age ten.

I was reminded once again that I married well as I watched my normally shy husband spend day after day conversing with strangers and politely laughing at reminiscences that made no sense to him.

I saw a lot less bad hair than when we were in high school, but that might just be because there was less hair in general.

I heard stories about children and partners and how great it was to be back in Montana, if only for just a little while. I heard no bragging about jobs or houses or status symbols.

I ate too many cheeseburgers. I drank a beer in public, but no one seemed too shocked.

If you have a reunion coming up, you should go. Ignore the part of your brain that's embarrassed because you made out with that guy who never talked to you again, or worse because you dated that guy for ages and he might actually be there. Ignore the reminder that you never made varsity. Forget the suspicion that everyone might be skinnier/taller/richer than you. Instead, remember laughing together at your ridiculous World History teacher. Think about the time your car ran out of gas and the intriguing girl you'd never even talked to from homeroom offered you a ride. Expect to hear about the good stuff, the families and friends, because those are the stories that will get told. Don't skip it because you "don't want to re-live high school." There's no way it's going to be the same as high school because twenty years have passed and everyone likes a happy ending.

Just go.

Full set of photos here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Theo-isms

Daddy, are you my friend?

To his dinner: Hello, food. I am going to eat you.

To me, when I tell him it's time to leave Nana's house: I need a second.

Let's watch Jeopardy! Or the dancing show! (The dancing show = So You Think You Can Dance)

Blame it on the juice! Blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-a! (Nice one, no? Taught to him by his father.)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

All I Ever Wanted

I'm leaving tomorrow on a trip to Montana, where I will eat some steak and Theo will run amok due to grandparental spoilage, and then we will hang out with a bunch of my high school classmates who I haven't seen in twenty years. I'm pretty sure none of us has changed a bit.

While I'm away, you should watch this trailer for the new Ricky Gervais film. He is a genius.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Olden Days

I'm not much for nostalgia. You'd never guess it, based on my musical taste and my pop culture knowledge, which are both firmly planted in the late 1980's, but it's true. I rarely sit around wishing things were like they used to be, or wondering why we can't just slow down a little bit. I like to think about the future. I'm an early adopter. I like to see what's next. Yeah, it was great when we could ride our bikes around the neighborhood until dusk and our parents didn't have to worry about us, but I kind of like the idea of a helmet on my speeding child's head. Yeah, it was great when traveling by air was a big deal and people used to get dressed up to do it, but I kind of like that it's become part of everyday life and that we're all more mobile and aware of the world. Yeah, I used to enjoy writing letters, but I love e-mail. Yeah, Twitter is weird, but it's fun and really useful.

I've been a blog reader longer than I've been a blog writer. I've seen blogs morph from ugly journal pages that I swore weren't really meant to be read by the public (but I'm not above a bit of voyeurism and I was reading them anyway) to somewhat more organized and entertaining collections of daily musings, to well-designed and well-written collections of personal essays. I cheered their progress. I saw ads pop up on many sites and that didn't bother me at all, as long as they weren't singing or screwing up my browser. Eventually I even added some to my own blog (See Exhibit A ----> ). And when the corporate sponsorships and giveaways appeared I thought, hell yeah, finally companies are marketing to me and not just to my grandmother. And then some of my favorite bloggers started writing columns at magazine sites and actually earning a living with their talent and I thought, this is how it's supposed to be. Great writers earning a living with their writing.

These great writers have, of course, gained large enough readership that they've started to guard their privacy. I certainly can't blame them. Those who began writing about their screaming babies now have older kids who aren't as keen on having their poop stories broadcast to the world. More regular people, not just geeks, are reading blogs, which means that the risk of having one's blog discovered by the next door neighbor is increasing. And that means fewer stories about the crazy neighbor who yells at his lawn mower, or the cute daughter who innocently likes to dance to "Pass the Dutchie," or the book they absolutely hated because now the author is likely to find the blog and leave a cranky comment. And, well, I miss that stuff.

These successful bloggers are making an effort, I know. They try to make time to update their personal blogs, but it's hard when paid deadlines loom. They honor the readers who love them by weaving personal anecdotes into their magazine columns, or giving away treats and prizes that relate to the stories they've told. They're trying to balance the transition from hobbyist personal bloggers to career freelance writers. I get it and I applaud it and I understand that's what the future holds. And I read way too many blogs so I realize that there are still zillions of fantastic personal stories being posted each day. I'm grateful for that.

I'm not naming names here because, really, this isn't about individual writers. It's about a trend. It's an exciting trend that, at its core, financially supports art and quality. But like most changes, it means we're going to lose something to gain something. So before I get excited about what's ahead, please indulge my nostalgia for a moment. Do you feel it too?