Didn't get an invite to my high school reunion
August 21, 2010 7:24 AM   Subscribe

Why do I care about not being invited to a high school reunion I wouldn't have wanted to go in the first place? Do I have too much time on my hands this morning?

Feeling weird to accidentally stumble across a reunion website for all past students of my high school that took place this year and, uhm, I never even heard about it (and I'm back living in the same city). To be fair, I'm not on Facebook or Classmates.com and the school wouldn't have my current address although I'm easy enough to track down on Google.

Just to clarify, I graduated almost 20 years ago, I'm not in touch with anyone from that time, and have never had interest to rekindle teen friendships as they were mostly of the superficial "let's get drunk this weekend" type. But I nonetheless feel this dejavu of teen angst browsing through the list of attendees on the website even though most of these names bring up memories of classic high school stereotypes -- "the jock", "the beauty queen", "the headbanger", "the traitor", etc -- and petty teenage drama such as who stole who's boyfriend, etc. (Strangely, the only names that brought a smile to my face were my old teachers, most of whom were just great and to whom I'm very grateful for their excellent work.) To make it worse some little part of me even has the nerve to think, "So and so was in town? And she didn't even bother to look me up? To hell with her!"

As ridiculous as it seems, I kinda feel like a 15 year old who's been left out. ("I guess the other kids never really liked me, did they?") I am 99.9% certain I wouldn't have gone if I had known, but I somehow would have liked to have received an invite or notification. So there.

Did I miss out on something? Did you go to yours and if so, what were your impressions? Am I losing it for even asking the question? Is this nothing more than general end-of-summer melancholy or an overly stressed week at the office???
posted by braemar to Human Relations (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
To be fair, I'm not on Facebook or Classmates.com and the school wouldn't have my current address although I'm easy enough to track down on Google.

This strikes me as the little voice in your head to which you ought to be paying the most attention. I find the possibility that this would be intentional and malicious instead of an oversight to be a possibility that strains credibility.

I recently attended a poorly-attended 15th yr reunion, one that was poorly attended in part because the organizers relied exclusively on Facebook to put it together. That cut out almost 1/2 the class. Add to that the seeming-fact that people treat FB invites as less "real" than other invites,and it was a small crew of folks to whom I was never close (and I don't know how close they were to each other). It was pleasant enough, and I'm glad to hear that they're all doing well, but it was surely no big deal.
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:33 AM on August 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

It sounds like the kind of thing that would have been posted all over facebook, in the alumni newsletter, and passed around by word of mouth. It seems like more of an if you hear about it and want to come you come type of thing, and if you're not running in the circles where you're going to hear about it or participating in things online where you'd read about it, then it's probably not something you'd know about. I highly doubt there were invitations sent out, so I'm sure you weren't directly snubbed.

Have you done anything to keep in touch with your old classmates yourself? It's kind of presumptuous to think that so and so would think to include you if they haven't heard a thing from you in years.

I'd file this under "oh, well, maybe next year." If you really want to be more active with this group of people, leave a comment on their reunion website saying, "hey, this looks like it was a lot of fun! Too bad I missed out! Please let me know the next time you all get together!"
posted by phunniemee at 7:33 AM on August 21, 2010

I understand the feeling. I, too, have missed several high school reunions, even though I'm pretty easy to find (my mom still lives at the same address, has the same phone number, etc. as we did when I was in hs) And, even though I probably would not have gone, it does sting a bit to not be included.

I once stumbled across a website for the most recent reunion and, looking through the posted photos, I noticed that the majority of attendees were from the same couple of cliques from high school, which I only peripherally interacted with. So, basically, the reunion appeared to be more of a clique reunion, rather than a class reunion.

So, yeah, it kind of feels bad to not be included. But, that's the way it goes, sometimes.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:36 AM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Often, people who are on Facebook assumes that everyone else is, and that if you're not on it, you're basically unreachable. Also, planning an event is a pain in the ass and the organizers may have just not had the energy to track down people not connected through social media. In any event, I certainly wouldn't take it personally...all the more so because every high school reunion I've been to was a disappointment and not worth the travel time!

Enjoy the people around you that ARE in touch and the rest can stay in the past as they should.
posted by Pomo at 7:36 AM on August 21, 2010

Best answer: I'm sure the people organizing didn't go beyond the level of word-of-mouth or posting on Facebook. I know that my ten-year reunion was organized through Myspace (heh) and because I hadn't logged in to the site in years, I didn't know about it. I wouldn't have gone anyway, but no one tracked me down -- no one tracks anyone down for this kind of thing.

It's really easy to get down on yourself because of stuff like this. "How dare they forget me?" is kind of the vibe I'm getting here, and I recognize it because I've felt it, too. But people DO forget you, and you forget other people, and in the past it would have been no big deal because that's just how human relationships work, sometimes. Facebook and other social networking sites extend the best-by date for friendships and acquaintances that often would have just kind of faded away and I don't necessarily know if we're better off for it.

You don't want to do the work of tracking them down, and it's not personal. So don't take it personally when someone doesn't do the same for you. Go outside, get some sunshine, do something creative. I have these impulses the most when I have too much time on my hands.
posted by sugarfish at 7:44 AM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: ...the organizers may have just not had the energy to track down people not connected through social media.

This. And for me, the not being invited situation just replays the worst possible memory loop of high school (the Saturday night party that everyone but me seemed to be talking about Monday morning, the group of kids going to a movie without me, all of a sudden my friends were wearing the same type of jackets, etc.).

Even back in those days, it probably wasn't personal as much as underdeveloped social skills, but I completely get why a person could hear about a high school reunion after the fact and get those "It's high school all over again" feelings.

It wasn't personal.
posted by dzaz at 7:56 AM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Your not being invited is almost certainly not intentional. No, forget the almost. Really, it was just an oversight, and nothing personal. I say this because I went to what would probably be, if such things could be measured, one of the top 5 nastiest and snottiest high schools in the country. AMost people didn't know I was even there, of those who did almost no one liked me (students and teachers and administrators alike) and I liked almost no one. And still, that school pesters me with postcards asking me to confirm my current address for their directory. Still, I received emails and invites and Facebook-related things (I don't know what, I avoid Facebook like the black death) relating to high school and alumni group stuff for years after I graduated. I was aware of my 10-year reunion, though I don't remember how. (Not that I'd go - I'd rather carve out my own eyes with a broken needle.) Anyway, my point is that if my high school or anyone associated with it still contacts me, it's purely a function of the system set up to contact people. They're not doing it because they like me, any more than your people are ignoring you because they don't like you. They just aren't set up to contact everyone as well, that's all.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 8:01 AM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

HS reunions, IMO, tend to dredge up those feelings of "where do I fit, or do I even fit?". I attended the 10 and 20 year reunions for my HS and found that they were a lot of fun, despite my apprehension. In HS I was on the fringes, having "friends" in all of the social groups except for the uber-pops. I went more out of curiosity than anything. I wanted to see how certain people turned out, and was relishing the idea (and hope) that the most popular girls (of course) may have turned into matronly frumps in the 20 years we had been out of school.

I actually went stag to my 20th, not knowing if the acquaintances I could comfortably hang out with would show. Since I was still drinking at the time, the liquid confidence helped me and I had a great time, bopping semi-drunkenly between all the groups and stopping just short of making a fool of myself.

On a related note, the FB phenomena gave me an idea for a writing project, and I have consulted with a couple of people from my class that have friended me on FB. I wondered about the interactions between people on FB that never would have mingled with each other back in HS. I wondered why some of the folks that never knew me in HS were all of a sudden wishing me Happy Birthday, commenting on how cute my son is and commenting on how good I looked in such-and-such picture. Since when did we become close? One of the people I spoke to had all these great things to say about me, and we barely spoke in HS. It made me wonder if the barriers really could be broken. The project is still in the idea stage, but I am determined to flesh it out and see what comes of it.

Anyway, sort of a hijack there. I guess my point is, the fact that you didn't receive an invite speaks more to the people planning the event. Still, it can easily dredge up the feeling of being an outsider and I don't blame you for feeling bad. I know I would.
posted by sundrop at 8:15 AM on August 21, 2010

Response by poster: I find the possibility that this would be intentional and malicious instead of an oversight to be a possibility that strains credibility.

Ha ha! Thanks, but I'm not having *that* bad a day... I realize of course that there was nothing intentional going on there, just expressing these pesky teen angst feelings that have resurfaced after all these years!

Have you done anything to keep in touch with your old classmates yourself?

Uhm, no, no interest whatsoever, which makes how I took all this to be so ironic!

Go outside, get some sunshine, do something creative. I have these impulses the most when I have too much time on my hands.

Agreed! Getting dressed and heading out to an art gallery... thanks for the push! ;o)
posted by braemar at 8:24 AM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can absolutely see how this would make you feel left out. I agree with all the reassurances above that it was certainly an oversight rather than a deliberate choice, especially because you aren't among the low-hanging fruit of facebook members. But even with that in mind, I can also relate to how crappy it feels to be an oversight. I would like to think that somebody from high school remembered me enough to make sure I was on the list. Maybe you feel the same.

The thing about reunions (at least where I come from) is that they're planned by whoever was the class president 10 years ago, along with any unwitting accomplices that person can rope into helping. That means ONE person who won a teenage popularity contest a decade ago is now saddled with the responsibility of planning a huge event that they might not even really be interested in. It's got most of the hassle of planning a wedding (figure out the budget, find and rent a space, hire a DJ & caterer, plan and execute decorations, etc.) without any of the excitement of getting married. That is to say, it's a huge PITA. The people who are super-easy to find will get invited, and the people who stayed in contact with the class prez. will hear by word of mouth, and that's about it -- because that person already has way too much on their plate. Movies make it seem like every reunion is planned by some super-excited person who really really REALLY wants to track down every last classmate so they can catch up, but in reality I don't think that ever happens.

I guess my point is that you not getting an invite doesn't mean that nobody remembers you. It doesn't even mean that the people who went to the reunion don't remember you. At my 10-year, most of us stood around wondering where this person or that person was, because they weren't at the reunion. You might have been the #1 topic of conversation among the attendees, who were all wishing you had showed up! All your lack of an invite means is that one overworked person didn't have the time to track you down.
posted by vytae at 8:27 AM on August 21, 2010

I organize tons of events. When you say:
- I'm not on Facebook
- I'm not on Classmates.com
- the school doesn't know where I live
- I don't keep in touch with anyone from the school
- you recently moved back to the area (after not living there, which folks may have known)

...how in the world were they supposed to find you? Look up every single person who hasn't wanted to be in touch with the school or classmates or any other friend of a friend on Facebook? Why would they assume you wanted to be contacted if you're not easily found these days?

That is a LOT of extra effort for an event organizer. It's always a volunteer position, and that person is often in charge of determining a date, coordinating with school officials and getting the known contact information for former students, advertising, dealing with finding a venue, some kind of food, some kind of drinks, determining either cost-per-person or cash bar or restaurant decisions, some kind of nametag thingies, parking, finding as many people as easily as they can, some kind of decorations (yearbook photos, or games for the kids, or whatever), etc., etc. THESE EVENTS DON'T JUST HAPPEN! And often 1-2 people are doing all of the organizing.

When I organize events like this (I've never done a reunion, but similar things), I do as best of a job as I can. I'll look for folks in a variety of venues but I'm not going to spend oodles of time tracking folks down all over the place. If you knew your 20th reunion was coming up, and you might even want to get invited to a reunion, you certainly could have
a) updated your contact information with the school
b) asked the school if any event was being planned
c) contacted anyone you knew to see if they had heard of an event

Then you absolutely would have been invited. People don't try to deliberately exclude people from high school 20 years ago. And if someone did, that means there is ZERO (I repeat -- imagine it echoing into the universe) Z-E-R-O chance you would have wanted to have been there.

They did the best they could, finding the people they could find. If you want to be in touch with them, send them a note saying you were sorry you didn't get a chance to update your information and you'd love to see any photos they have available. And if they'd like help arranging a 25th anniversary BBQ, you'd be glad to lend your help.

PS: if you had the reaction, "so and so was in town and they didn't bother to look me up?" well then -- now's your chance! Drop them an email, and say hi! Sorry I missed you! Here's what I'm up to, hope you're doing really well, let's have coffee the next time we cross paths! It's not everyone else's job to somehow rekindle relationships or friendships with you. It's a two-way street!
posted by barnone at 8:29 AM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

To be fair, I'm not on Facebook or Classmates.com and the school wouldn't have my current address although I'm easy enough to track down on Google.

Nobody can invite you if they don't know how to invite you.

o put things in perspective, if the organizers had known how to contact you, they would have most certainly contacted you, on a weekly basis. For my own high school's 20th anniversary reunion, the same jackasses that acted like such total dicks to me and to other people in high school were the people organizing this thing. I never liked them back then, and, although I gave them a chance, I don't like the balding, greying, paunchy late-30-somethings they've become.

Yet they kept pestering me, and pestering me to attend over Facebook and mass email, etc., because they needed to meet certain numbers for the catering estimate.

I think they did a great job (they were volunteers after all), even though I didn't attend. But my point is, if a reunion organizing committee knows how to contact you, they will. Multiple times.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:32 AM on August 21, 2010

Response by poster: You might have been the #1 topic of conversation among the attendees, who were all wishing you had showed up!

Vytae you're a sweetheart, what a kind sentiment, thank you!
posted by braemar at 8:39 AM on August 21, 2010

It's also your responsibility to update your contact info with the school if you're so inclined.

"God, guys, can you believe how standoffish and better-than-everyone braemar is? Couldn't even be bothered to keep in touch at all or attend the reunion. Just like high school!"
posted by thebazilist at 8:43 AM on August 21, 2010

Best answer: This was just an emotional trigger that brought you closer to those feelings you had in high school. If you looked at an old yearbook, you might have had the same feelings. I doubt any volunteer who also has a life would put the effort into tracking people down to that extent.

Our emotions get triggered by memories, memories get triggered by visual, audio, tactile senses, etc. That's all.

Enjoy the gallery. Guaranteed to be much more fun.
posted by Vaike at 8:47 AM on August 21, 2010

Best answer: I heard a logical explanation for "hurt feelings" once--and I always refer to it whenever I feel slighted. (It's overly simplified but here it is):
When we were cave people we'd have to escape harsh weather, so we'd all throw in together and trudge along in a big group. THIS accounts for why we feel a deep upset when we perceive that we are being rejected by "our clan". We don't want to freeze to death alone at the last camp. It's "intrinsic" to feel hurt by other people (even when you don't really care for them) because you are hard-wired for survival.
posted by naplesyellow at 8:56 AM on August 21, 2010 [7 favorites]

Most public high schools don't have a formal alumni association, or even the infrastructure to store alumni contact information, at least not to the extent that private schools and colleges do. Like others have mentioned, the planning and communication falls to a committee which may or may not contract with one of the large reunion services (not worth the $ IMO, but that's another post). If they want to do data-mining to find everyone, there's a cost - either dollars or time - and it's hard enough to try to get all the details set without a major archeological dig to find those folks who seem to have severed all ties.

As far as reunion experiences: My family moved away the year after I graduated from HS. I attended my 10th and had a miserable time. I'd just had a baby, but all my girlfriends were still single, and I felt very out-of-place and insecure. I skipped the 20th because I felt too fat to go. I joined Facebook about a year before our 25th reunion and ended up connecting with a lot of people (some whom I'd forgotten and didn't realized I'd missed, others who I probably wouldn't have considered "friends" many years ago but thought, what the hell) and was peripherally involved in planning, and had an AMAZING time. There is something about the daily "interaction" through social networking that took away all the perfunctory BS we went through at the previous reunions - what have you been doing, how many kids do you have, etc. It was "how's your foot" or "I loved your vacation pictures" or "I've been meaning to say that your son looks just like you." There were still groups of people who were closer than others, but by our 40s all those cliques and the old drama just seemed less important. I honestly wish we could have reunions every year now.

That may (or make you) make you sad that you missed yours, and it's really unfortunate that your group wasn't able to get the word to you in time. If you really care about being invited to the next one - even if you don't plan to attend - it's worth reaching out to someone to share your contact info.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 2:03 PM on August 21, 2010

oh please, if you wanted to hear from your old classmates you would have joined facebook, or classmates.com, or subscribed to the alumni newsletter, or kept in touch with some of them, or told someone you were back in town you've got no place to be offended here.
posted by swbarrett at 2:03 PM on August 21, 2010

Ten years ago, when my 20th HS reunion was planned, I heard about it only by chance. My parents still live in town and are, I believe, fairly well known. My father is one of a half-dozen local insurance agents. Obviously, had anyone been really trying, it would not have been hard to find me. I felt, like you, inexplicably slighted by these people I hadn't seen in in 20 years.

When I got the list of "People we've been unable to find", however, it was apparent that the organizers hadn't slighted me, they just weren't digging really hard. There were a least a dozen people on that list whose parents were still in town.

If they weren't calling parents to try to track down one of the most popular girls in the class, they certainly weren't trying to slight the band and drama people like me by not contacting them.
posted by chazlarson at 11:44 PM on August 21, 2010

Response by poster: ...you've got no place to be offended here.

Right swbarrett, thanks so much for taking the time to read my post!!
posted by braemar at 7:32 AM on August 22, 2010

oh please, if you wanted to hear from your old classmates you would have joined facebook, or classmates.com, or subscribed to the alumni newsletter, or kept in touch with some of them, or told someone you were back in town you've got no place to be offended here.

It's not about that. It is about emotions that came up and why. Seemed clear in the question to me.
posted by Vaike at 5:36 PM on August 22, 2010

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