May 1, 2024

To Re-Une or Not to Re-Une: This Is a Question?

Calling “Mayday! Mayday!” on May Day

By Ed Goldman

Starting soon, many of us will make plans to attend our high school reunions. Simultaneously, the word “Why?” may begin to dominate our thinking. 

For if we’re fortunate enough to live to senior citizenship (in my case), why is it incumbent upon us to attend high school reunions? Haven’t we suffered enough already?

Edgy Cartoon

Meet ‘n’ grate

Reunions are a target of mislabeling. They aren’t “get-togethers” so much as they’re competitions—maybe even death matches. You show up to measure how much you’ve aged in comparison to everyone else. The people who win this are either those who’ve always had cherubic faces (and still do) or conversely, those who already looked 50 in the 12th grade (usually guys). Now that they’re actually 50, or more, they still look like they did in the 12th grade. 

I say this as someone who’s attended a handful of my high school reunions—and one for the school attended by my OSSO (oh-so-significant-other). I enjoyed hers more than mine because nobody at hers had ever laid eyes on me. For all they knew, my looks demonstrated I’d (a) aged gracefully, (b) was near death or (c) had already died but hadn’t had the good sense to lie down.

Had I been feeling mischievous, I’d have loved pretending I was an alumnus of her high school. In fact, when one guy came up to me, looked at my nametag and said, “I’d know you anywhere,” I was so tickled by his warmth that I found myself saying, “Yeah, those were good times, weren’t they?”

“Hey,” he then asked, “whatever happened to [name I can’t remember]?”

“Man, I have no idea,” I said with absolute sincerity since it was the first time in my life I’d heard the name. The fellow shook his head and sighed.

“We always thought he’d come to no good,” he lamented. I nodded solemnly. The writer in me wanted to fabricate an entire marvelous life for our absent classmate, winding up my reverie with something like, “Last I heard he was cruising in the South Pacific with [name of glam movie star known to be single at that moment].” But I can lie for only a few seconds at a time, which pretty much rules out my having a late-in-life career in politics or at Fox News.

While we’re at it, who came up with cute terms like re-une and alum? Does it take that much effort to say that you’re reuniting and that you’re an alumnus? If alumnus is too dead-language-Latin for you, just say you’re a graduate. But be aware that this, too, is a medieval Latin word.  

On a similar note (which many of you may be finding flat, discordant and downright cranky; my excuse is that I haven’t slept well the past few decades): What deranged event planner decided that going to a football game, dinner or sock-hop comprised a homecoming? Did they used to live in a football stadium, banquet hall or gymnasium? 

I should point out that I’ve been referring exclusively to my high school reunions, attended by whoever’s left of my 1968 graduating class of more than 1,000 students. I’ve been to the 10-, 20- and even 50-year ones. I skipped some of the off-year ones, figuring everyone would seem pretty much the same at the 15-year shindig as at the 10-year soirée—unless they’d managed to squeeze in a facelift, liposuction or death in the interim, as people will.

All of that aside, I’ll proudly admit to attending nearly every year a party in Southern California with my classmates from Lakewood High School drama class. We’re members of the Thespian Society, an international collection of student performers, directors and designers who, at one point, participated in a candlelight initiation ceremony and acknowledged the group’s motto: “Act well you part, for there all the honor lies.”

Looking for a Great Gift?

When you absorb something like that at a turning point in your youth, it sticks with you. While it may be a simple reminder to neither trip over the onstage furniture nor forget your lines, many of us, spurred on by our inspirational teacher—Milton J. McMenamin, still active as a lecturer and author, I’m happy to say—suggested the words had deeper implications for living our best lives.

I’ll be visiting with my drama buddies again this fall, though some of us also stay in touch with a monthly Zoom call. While full-blown high school reunions offer the mixed-bag comfort that almost everyone in the room was born the same year I was, the birthdates of my fellow Thesps can vary by as much as two years. My class is the youngest—and because I was born in November, I’m one of the youngest in my class (though you wouldn’t know it to look at us). 

And that’s okay. I like having all these older siblings to tease and encourage me. That’s what coming home is all about.     

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).