Real life is not as aesthetic an experience as the movies. I mean, I know that. You know that. We all know that. Certain events, however, create an expectation that something more than real, something movie-magic making, might, indeed, happen to us. Events like weddings, first dates, proms, funerals, or reunions are supposed to provide life-altering moments. Maybe it’s just me, but I have a tendency to project what I’ve seen in movies, on tv, or read in books onto these kinds of events.
I was recently in a room of people, most of whom I have not seen in twenty years. It was fun. I was reminded of Chad’s winning smile, Juliet’s gentle but deep gaze, Bruce’s sincerity, and Jen’s generousity, and how much I simply adore Emily and how I have so much fun when I get to hang out with her. There were a lot of people who were not there that I would have liked to see: Josh, Ben, Daoud, Nick, Shula, Dena, Mandy, Beth, Alice, Jen, Victoria, and Maria to name a few. Even with many people missing, there wasn’t enough time to see everyone and I missed saying goodbye several people and certainly didn’t have a much of a conversation as I might have liked with Juliet or Chris. Again, it was fun. Yet in the end I felt underwhelmed, like something was supposed to happen, some personal revelation that brought the last twenty years into focus or the opportunity to reconnect with an old crush and learn that she had harbored a secret crush on me too . . . ah the irony and we would laugh and drink and reminisce and make fun of our teenage selves even as we found an intimacy that would have been far too frightening as kids . . . oh, sorry, there I go again. Thinking of my life like a movie. Stuff like that happens, sure, but so rarely that even when I see it in the movies, I often find it to be false and forced; a cheap sentimental ploy to play with my emotions.
In real life, the reunion ended and nothing intrinsically aesthetic had occurred. Instead, I saw some people and had some drinks and shared some laughter and good memories. So why wasn’t that enough? I am now in touch with, or have the ability to be in touch with, a number of people who represent a rather good time in my life and people who, I’m willing to bet, have much to teach me about the world and myself. Through Facebook and email, I can now keep in touch with some good people, people who I would, without a doubt, love to meet for coffee or dinner or drinks and get to know who they’ve become and share my own stories with them. So why not view the reunion as a resounding success?
First of all, I cannot turn off the fact that I look at most events and performances with a director’s eye and feel for aesthetics. On that level, the reunion was kind of “teh suck.” The music was played too loud for normal conversation. There was no use of online media to get us past the need for every person to discuss a) what their job is, b) where they are living, and c) how many kids they have—all of which could have been given to us ahead of time in order to catch up with the basics before we got to the reunion. The food was mediocre and the bar should have been open for at least an hour or two at the beginning of the night. I would have also liked to see some recognition of classmates we have lost, or some kind of attempt from the “class leaders” to bring us together as a class rather than as a group of various cliques. It would have been nice to have copies of our yearbooks that we could have looked through in order to laugh at ourselves. Because we didn’t have anything like that, I really appreciate Lincoln’s decision to actively go around taking pictures for everyone (regardless of which social group they belonged to) and Chad’s generosity to put the photos up on his website. I don’t know exactly how or what, but in general I just wish there’d been something more to bind the class together, to acknowledge that we shared something in those four years as we moved from childhood to adulthood.
Second, and this is me being slightly more honest than maybe I should, I really was hoping to live out that “we had separate crushes on each other and never knew” fantasy. With who, you ask? Well, I was a teenaged boy, so I pretty much had a crush on almost all of the girls I knew in high school at one time or another. So, at least from my perspective, it could have been any number of people. Not only is that fantasy, well, a fantasy, but it is also hard to make true when nearly every single woman there was married or in long-term relationships. Sigh
Finally, as with most events, I have a tendency to be simultaneously in the moment and observing the moment. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a director, or because I’m a writer, or both, but I rarely stop trying to analyze the story of what’s happening around me. This is not to say that I never settle into the present moment and enjoy the company of friends and loved ones without reservation. However, in social situations that are larger than a few friends, I often feel split in a deep and existential manner. That split reserves part of myself from my surroundings in order to observe and catalogue and analyze. Sometimes I resent this, and struggle against it, feeling like I am missing out on the unadulterated joy that others seem to so easily experience and that’s when I get that “more alone in a crowd” kind of feeling. Perhaps the trick I need to learn is to accept my natural inclination to analyze in order to enjoy both the moment and my analysis of the moment without worrying that I’m losing out or feeling the need to apologize.
Gee, you mean accepting myself more completely might make my life more enjoyable? Who’d of thunk it?
So, yeah, twenty years on: We were all older, some of us carried more weight and less hair, and some of us didn’t (and I don’t hate any of you who look exactly the same (ahem, Juliet, and yes, you too Chris), really I don’t, not one little, itty-bitty smidgeon of a bit). I genuinely enjoyed seeing and talking to everyone that night and wished I could have talked to more people than I did. I both hope and believe that the reunion will be responsible for rekindling several friendships that have languished over the years. The reunion was good. I think the repercussions of going to my reunion will be even better.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch Grosse Point Blank.