Friday, July 05, 2013

Class Reunion Rules

Last weekend I attended my 20 year class reunion (apparently I am older than I thought). Throughout the weekend I wrestled with the decision whether to enter into conversations with long lost, or as was often the case, never found friendships from the teenage years. Each decision was really a judgment of the potential value the small talk will ultimately have in my life.  (There is nothing like a class reunion to illuminate one's latent egocentrism).  

I am certainly not opposed to reigniting old friendships or even in discovering new ones, but in my profession words are important so I am less apt to waste them on equally uninterested ears.

Even with my ongoing internal debate, I was able to observe some unspoken norms for reunion weekends and come up with some official rules to help guide you as you navigate your future celebrations.

#1- Be polite and say, "hello" to everyone but set a time limit on small talk. I was tempted to avoid all conversations with people I never connected with twenty years ago but I am a firm believer in the idea that says, "I have not met all my friends yet" so I was open to finding new connections as if I met each person for the first time.

The key to this is to know when to end the conversation. This is nothing personal but if after thirty seconds you realize you will not speak with this person until the next ten year reunion, you need to begin looking for a way out of the conversation. Try not to say, "Let's be honest, we are wasting each other's time because I really don't want to see a picture of your kids and I'm not even going to pull my phone out to show you pictures of mine so let's just move on". Try something more tactful like, "Excuse me for a minute, I need to check on something... anything".

I can honestly say I was encouraged to re-connect with some lost friendships and even establish some new ones and I only had to enact rule #1 a handful of times.

#2- Don't hold classmates to yearbook promises. As tempting as it might be, don't bring up your bitterness that the popular girl wrote, "Keep in touch" or "We should hang out this summer" but never followed through. People say many things when intoxicated with graduation nostalgia so you have to forgive and forget.

#3- Remember that high school was 20 years ago. At these spectacles it is inevitable that each person will reform the old cliques and even revert to high school behavior. When you are pushing forty years old it is a little more difficult to get wasted, say stupid things, and wake up the next day regret free. For those likely to revert, put $10 cash in your pocket and keep the credit cards at home so you limit your alcohol intake. If eighteen year olds who are wasted looked stupid in high school you should see what it looks like when you are wasted at age thirty eight.

#4- Tell the real story. Let's be honest, most of the people attending reunions feel pretty good about where they are in life but the truth is, twenty years after high school it turns out the popular kids, nerds, athletes, and over-achievers all end up... normal. Most of us have normal lives with spouses, kids, jobs, and bills. Some have traveled more, made more money, or had more spouses but we are mostly on a level playing field. Feel free to say, "my life is pretty normal", "I am pretty happy", or even "I am hoping for some better things ahead". There is no sense in impressing people you haven't seen in ten years and that you will likely not see for ten more.

Most people debate whether to attend reunions at all and with the invention of social media perhaps the need for these gatherings is waning but I say, "Go and have fun". Just as we should have learned in high school be yourself, be open to new friendships, and realize we are all basically in the same place we were twenty years ago when we wondered what the next twenty years will bring.

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