Should I go to a reunion of people I haven't seen in 30+ years?
November 3, 2013 2:23 PM   Subscribe

After high school, I pretty much disappeared off the radar of my crowd. I had my reasons, which weren't especially due to anyone I knew then, just my situation led me to make some changes to my locale and I lost touch with them over the years. Now that Facebook has made looking up people so easy, my posse from high school has tracked me down and wants me to attend a party, a reunion of sorts. One of our cohort passed away unexpectedly and they put out all the stops to locate me once they got wind I was still alive and kicking.

When I got contacted, I was a bit flattered, now I'm vacillating, which is a good way to avoid making a decision at all. I've never been much of a party animal and I'm somewhat worried I'll be the mystery attendee who shows up back in town after an extended sojourn to who knows where. Then there's the expense of flying into a town, renting a car and getting somewhere to stay, which is a chunk of change for basically one evening of hanging out in SoCal.
On the other hand, haven't seen these folks in 37 years. They are all good people from what I recall. My wife says on my deathbed I'm going to wish I had gone to see them as I probably won't get another chance as I don't plan on attending high school reunions.
Anyone had an experience like this? I was always a bit off the beaten track in high school, and continued to be that way when I moved into adulthood. It's hard to say what good will come of this, on the other hand, avoiding connection with people who were once good friends doesn't seem like a great way to live either.
posted by diode to Human Relations (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I can't really see any downside, except for the money. And it doesn't sound like that's a huge issue. I say go. The worst thing that happens is that it's a bit awkward and then you go on with your life.

And I say this as someone who has never been to a high school reunion. But if my old friends tracked me down and invited me to one? I'd definitely go.
posted by lunasol at 2:26 PM on November 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've chosen not to attend my high school reunion next month; however, the biggest reason I decided against it was because no one tracked me down to tell me the reunion was even happening. The only way I even knew it was happening was when I was joking on facebook about how lame my class was that they weren't having a reunion and someone else responded that "oh, we're having one, there's been a Facebook group since April." I realized that if no one cared enough about me to think "hey, we haven't heard from EC, someone tell her this is happening so she can make it if she wants", then I don't care about them either.

However, I DID attend a "reunion" of sorts a couple years ago - a number of different alumni of the music department at my school, people from many different years, got together to put on a tribute show for our teachers. I had similar doubts about going, but a lot of the old crowd really wanted to see me, and I joined (I was one of the two stage managers who saved their asses, too) and it was fantastic - it also healed some wounds I hadn't even realized were there.

Your situation sounds a bit more like the second one than the first. I'd go.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:30 PM on November 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I had a ball at my 30th high school reunion. I also love getting together with my friends from high school and I love hearing from them on Facebook.

What did we do without it all those decades?

Go. You won't be sorry.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:37 PM on November 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I went after 20 years recently and felt the same way you did. Reconnecting with even one person made it worth it!
posted by thorny at 2:37 PM on November 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Eh, I went to a reunion of old college pals (not a class reunion per se) about 10 years ago. It was quasi-entertaining, semi-embarrassing, and the only chance I've ever had to publicly play my solo half-speed rendition of Cream's Badge on a borrowed Les Paul.

I'll never be that drunk again, but everybody ought to be, once. Seize the fray!
posted by paulsc at 2:37 PM on November 3, 2013

Best answer: To look at your main concerns about going:
I've never been much of a party animal
With all due respect, and my maths is not good, but you're all in your 60s? How fierce a party will it be? I'm in my 30s and reunions tend to be chat and drink based and bed by 1.

I'm somewhat worried I'll be the mystery attendee who shows up back in town after an extended sojourn to who knows where
As someone who hates being centre of attention I get this. But - again, respectfully - you will be just one of many, and your "what I've been up to" story will be one of many, and conversation will not resolve around your past unless you want it to.

Then there's the expense
Only you know if that's a dealbreaker, but if it isn't my motto is do the thing you can't do again. You can spend money every day on lots of needless things, but this is a one-off event.

On the positive side:
they put out all the stops to locate me
So despite your non-party-animalness, your lone wolfness and your absence, these people really want to see you. You're right to be flattered. You obviously meant something to them and it would be nice to honour that.

I think you should go, and have a great time.
posted by billiebee at 2:44 PM on November 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I went to my 20th after similarly falling out of contact with my friends and it was absolutely worth it. I would recommend it for anyone, and especially if people are specifically tracking you down to reconnect. It's good to have history and those are people who know you in a way no one else ever will.
posted by goggie at 2:48 PM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've never gone to any of my high school reunions (mostly for the reason that my crowd was spread among 3 graduating classes across 3 different high schools -- such were the social facts of life for punk rock/new wave kids in the suburbs of Denver in the mid-'80s). A couple of years ago, though, the core group of musicians within my crowd decided to get their old band together for one last gig -- a sort of Gen X Big Chill. I was torn about going, for similar reasons as you, but in the end decided I had nothing to lose.

It was an absolute blast, worth every penny, and really reinvigorated a number of friendships that I'm so grateful to have in my life again. I think you should go, too.
posted by scody at 2:50 PM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

So, I think you should go as well.

BUT I'm the person who didn't go to their high school reunions (why bother? All my friends didn't attend school with me) and recently opted after a bit of angst to not go to a college reunion. I looked at the pictures of the reunion and am pretty happy I didn't go - none of the folks I hung out with, even the couple that actually live in COLLEGETOWN went. So yeah. Do what you want to, I fully support you making the decision that you feel like doing right now.
posted by arnicae at 2:55 PM on November 3, 2013

I avoided high school reunions like the plague until this summer, when I went to my 40th. I enjoyed it, connected with almost everyone, even people I didn't really connect with when we were in school. Had not seen anyone in over 35 years!
posted by coldhotel at 2:59 PM on November 3, 2013

Do you think your partner is recommending that you attend because that is what she would do, or because she thinks it would make you (the unique, individual you) happy to have gone?

Sometimes when I'm struggling to decide on something, I try to think about what my partner would recommend for me. It sounds like you have her recommendation here, so if she made the suggestion with you in mind, take a minute to consider why.
posted by samthemander at 3:23 PM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I went to my high school reunion with some trepidation, because I knew most of the people similar to me weren't going. Many of them had been tortured and bullied in high school and still others felt like they could never be themselves there. I had been to my 10-year, but had felt sorely out of place. But a friend asked me to go to the 20 year.

To my surprise, many people had matured and others weren't as insecure as before. And some really lovely people talked to me. Some of them confided that they'd put on an act to stay popular in high school, that they never felt like they could hang out with the people they liked, that they had to act dumb, etc. I met some great people and got to know them. And several people who might not have been bullied as much as I had but still had never figured out how to navigate social circles (which I eventually did) came up and thanked me for having been someone who was nice to everyone and made their high school life bearable. I was really surprised by the enter event. I ended up partying with a motley crew till the wee hours. It was wonderful and I wish high school had been like that, but it gave me hope for the world that we'd come a long way by the time we were almost 40.

I would imagine people in their 50s and 60s have matured even more and perhaps have more to share.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 3:24 PM on November 3, 2013

Best answer: Go, for all the reasons detailed above, in addition to this: Always Go to the Funeral.
posted by carmicha at 3:46 PM on November 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

One of our cohort passed away unexpectedly and they put out all the stops to locate me

This happened to me when it was my closest high school friend died quite suddenly at the age of 33, and while I was secretly pleased to get an e-mail from the prom king, I'd already disappeared and just wasn't in an emotional state to show up in person to represent.

Are you?

Because I regret that I wasn't. And that was a long time ago, for me.

I think you should go.
posted by mgar at 4:07 PM on November 3, 2013

One of our cohort passed away unexpectedly and they put out all the stops to locate me once they got wind I was still alive and kicking.

This is also the phrase that stood out for me. You might, indeed, be "the mystery attendee who shows up back in town after an extended sojourn to who knows where" but it's very clear that they want you to be there.

If the finances are a big deal, then that's one thing. But if you can afford it -- go. If it's awful, well, you can leave at any time. If it's now awful, then you'll be glad you went.
posted by anastasiav at 5:44 PM on November 3, 2013

Do it. Little to lose, more to gain than you think.
Seriously. I've been to a few and come away drained and bereft, meaning they were great fun and so deeply satisfying to engage with people on a different level than HS.
And I wished so much that Anne had been there, and Smitty, and Dana, and Bobby R.
And then tell us about it.
posted by LonnieK at 5:51 PM on November 3, 2013

I've never gone to any of my high school's reunions; but that's because while I've always been *extremely* easy to find, not a single one of my over 800 graduating classmates has ever evinced the slightest interest in contact with me. My class will probably have a 40th reunion next spring; I haven't been notified of it, but I have no desire to attend anyway.

I'm guessing that since this is your 37th, you're 54 or 55 years old, and haven't seen your classmates since you were 17 or 18? On the one hand, you sound curious to see how your classmates turned out; on the other hand, you also sound ambivilent about spending the money (more than the time) to visit people who are basically strangers. And to be blunt, that's what they are: strangers. Strangers who were once friends, perhaps, but now strangers anyway.

Perhaps you could take a middle road here, between the 'all' of going to the reunion or the 'nothing' of not going --- after all, failure to attend the reunion doesn't mean you'll never have another chance to be in contact with them: it's unlikely every single one of them will drop over dead the day after the reunion is over! Maybe keep up the facebook/email/whatever contact for now; if you're unsure, maybe even set up a separate email, a separate facebook page, just for this. That way, it'll take off the deadline pressure from the reunion ("you MUST make a decision NOW!!!"), and give you time to get to know them again a bit before you decide if you want to meet them in person.
posted by easily confused at 5:52 PM on November 3, 2013

Best answer: I am still good friends with 6 guys I went to high school with (in the 70s). I just got a call from a gal who I went to school with but had not talked to in quite some time who told me she had a crush on me in high school, was going to be in town, and would I like to get together for a drink. I will let y'all know how it goes next week!

I have gone to my reunions and party gatherings. I really enjoyed them as almost everyone had a really interesting story to tell, they all had matured (probably more than me) and they all just wanted to reconnect. Granted my HS class was only 135 kids, but it was great to see them all even the ones I did not hang out with.

We are all different, and only you know your situation, but knowing what I know about my own, I recommend you go. ESPECIALLY since they tracked you down to invite you specifically. Good luck.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:24 PM on November 3, 2013

I went to my 10th. It wasn't horrible, at least not totally so. The best part of going was that I will never again be tempted, not even for my 50th in a few years. Look upon it as a potential learning experience...
posted by jim in austin at 6:40 PM on November 3, 2013

Go! Watch The Big Chill first.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 6:40 PM on November 3, 2013

I was so excited to go to my 30th and connect with people who I truly did like in those years but who I hadn't stayed in touch with at all. As it turned out for me, I think the more fun part was the pre-event Facebook love, and the event itself was kind of a letdown for me. Part of it was that I wasn't drinking at all, and from what I could tell the people who were having the most fun were those who were drinking as though they were still 18. Part of it was that I was surprised that it invoked a bunch of my insecurities and not an insubstantial amount of regret for some of my behaviors and attitudes that had lain dormant in me for decades.

That said, I wonder if with my high expectations I was sort of doomed to disappointment. Perhaps your experience would be different if you go with a realistic vision of what it will or won't achieve for you.
posted by gubenuj at 6:57 PM on November 3, 2013

Response by poster: Well, this is all pretty encouraging. Getting it out there is the first step. Some of my reluctance stems from not having any particular reason to go to this area other than this reunion. I've just thought of a way I can combine a major interest of mine with the trip, so that's an additional inducement.
If I don't go, that's a major step on the way to never seeing any of these folks again, so investing some time and money in a trip seems like a small price to pay to reconnect.
My expectations are pretty low, so my chief worry is not remembering people's names or even that I knew them at all. Guess I'll need to get some coaching there.
Thanks for the comments. A lot of people here have had similar experiences to mine, and yes, maybe I'll watch the Big Chill beforehand.
posted by diode at 7:07 PM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Listen to your wife. Go. Class of 76 - the Bicentennial class and from SoCal, oh my god go. I share your apprehension in that I was pretty much invisible in high school. Yours was a weird time and place that you and your cohort share. Please go.

And 37? Your class only has reunions in prime number years?

On preview; that's what name tags are for.
posted by vapidave at 7:14 PM on November 3, 2013

Go. I've found my reunions to be pretty rewarding, honestly. Lots of great conversations -- and every time I end up spending a lot of time talking with people I didn't even hang out with in high school, and they turn out to have grown up to be neat people, and I am glad to have had a chance to find that out and get to know them a little better. I haven't regretted going to any reunions, and we just had our 30-year reunion this year.

Side comment to EmpressCallipygos:

"I realized that if no one cared enough about me to think 'hey, we haven't heard from EC, someone tell her this is happening so she can make it if she wants', then I don't care about them either."

As someone who was involved in organizing a reunion within the last year... Please don't use this to make your decision. Usually it's not that people don't care, it's that people think someone else will make the contact or there is just disorganization. And then that person thinks someone else will do it. We tried our best to let people know about ours but I know that some people still didn't find out. It wasn't that we didn't want them there, I can assure you! But things happen. We tried Facebook, Classmates, email, sometimes snail mail, sometimes phone -- and still missed people we would have loved to see.

In our case we found the biggest problem was that most of our classmates were on Facebook but sometimes we weren't their "Facebook friends" and so they weren't seeing the messages we were trying to send them (because Facebook sends them to the Other mailbox that no one ever remembers to look at). So we'd try to get their friends to tell them, and I think sometimes that worked and sometimes it didn't.
posted by litlnemo at 8:17 PM on November 3, 2013

I would go. These are people who share your background, some of your history, and who were real friends. You'll likely find that some people have had tragedies, some have been lucky, and they have all been living their lives - with 30+ years of catching up, it won't be boring. You'll probably learn from it, and rekindle some nice relationships.
posted by theora55 at 9:06 PM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I reconnected with a small group of high school friends at a funeral for one of our own when we were in our 30's. Now we see each other 3-4 times a year, and keep up regularly through email and whatnot. So I basically gained a "new" group of friends long after I thought I was done with the making friends thing.

My *mom* reconnected with some of her old grade school buddies when they were in their *70s* and hadn't seen hide nor hair of each other in over 50 years. And now she goes to lunch with this group monthly. Granted, they're all local, but she feels like she's acquired a whole new set of friends.

Not to put pressure on you. You don't *have* to rekindle any friendships at all. But how bad could an evening of sitting around chatting about the old days possibly be? Like your mom told you when you had to give a speech in front of the class: "Everyone else will be too busy worrying about themselves to notice you're nervous!"
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:33 AM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Unless you have no desire to ever see any of these people again, go.
posted by yohko at 3:58 PM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

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