GO to Your Reunion!

reunion get out of your caveI always tell myself “Go to the reunions!” but then this strange reticence overtakes me. Maybe it’s common to us all, the worrying that no one will talk to us but the classic what-do-I-wear dilemma weighs, I think more heavily on the females.

Take my case.  I’m pretty sure I’m no longer in danger of going in a tangle of long Country-Western-style curls and a fringed leather miniskirt, but what if I end up walking into a room full of evening gowns, only to look down and find myself dressed like Pinocchio? Because, you know, this has happened.

But then I remember what my 11-year-old said to me back in the late 90s when I was I fretting about what wear to wear to a certain wedding. “It’s fine,” he said not unkindly. ”Nobody’s going to be looking at you, Mum.” True enough! 

And so it was that on a recent Saturday night I started getting ready. I climbed into this caramel pantsuit I had bought in the spring of 2012 only to realize I looked like the last cruller in the bin. A mist of cold sweat bloomed down my back. 

Then I spotted the black dress I had just for $69 in a catalog. I threw it on and headed for the car with my husband.

That’s when the great realization finally came on me: This wasn’t my reunion! This was HIS reunion! I wouldn’t have to do a single thing but smile and listen as people spoke to him.

I figured he would have an easy time too, because as the Class President and Football Captain, he’s be remembered.

He was remembered him. But if people remembered him, they also remembered one another, after the quick peer-down at the nametag for the rapid calculation that aligned this older face with the face they had known at 18.

All night, people literally called out to one another in joy.

“THIS guy!” a burly ex-football player said to me, his arm tight around David’s neck. “THIS guy went in head-first every single time!”

“You know what it was like being in class with Dave here?” another guy said to me ten minutes later. “He’d walk in to class seconds before the bell and find the rest of us frantically studying. ‘Is there a test today?’ he’d go. He hadn’t prepared! Then, what do you think? I’d get a 95 on the darn thing and HE’D get a 98!”

In general, the expert remembers like these two carried the evening aloft, bringing people’s thoughts vividly back to the past. 

It took the woman who spearheaded this whole reunion effort to carry their thoughts back to the present, by arranging class gift of backpacks and bus passes for those current students at the school who could really use them.

People danced plenty, though not as much as they had done at earlier reunions. They drank plenty too, but again not as much which one could plainly see when the swarms huddled at the bar slowly morphed into clusters gathered around the coffee and tea.

Anyway, I myself had a super time at this reunion that wasn’t my reunion, and by evening’s end I saw how silly it is for any of us to ever worry about who will come talk to us, when it is entirely in our power, as members of the great old Class of 2015, to go up to anyone at all and get the conversation started our own selves.

it wont be the same

This Old Thing?

my bangsI was giving a ride to a young friend the other day when he suddenly caught sight of himself in the passenger-side mirror. “Man, I just pray I never go bald!” he said. “I have such a weird-shaped head!”

“What are you talking about? You do not!“ I said back. But then instead of modeling a more self-accepting way, I went foolishly on. “I know what you mean though. I wear bangs because, well…. really I’m kind of homely and I always figure bangs might help.”

It was a pitiful exchange and one that had me thinking yet again that if we could only stop fretting about how we look, or how we come across, or what they’re thinking of us NOW, we‘d be so much more open to the present moment.

We’d be better able to notice things I mean: Like nature. Or other humans, who are just so funny and brave, and kind for the most part too – and what a shame to miss catching daily examples of all that. 

When you spend your time fixed on your own ‘image’ it’s like going to see some great movie but then missing all its bright beauty because you’ve spent the whole time in the theatre’s dim little bathroom critically regarding yourself in its dim little mirror. I mean, didn’t we all do enough of that in Seventh Grade?

It isn’t easy to be self-forgetful, God knows, especially in this Internet culture where everyone but your pet hamster maintains a carefully crafted public ‘profile.’ Then too there are those things your parents were always saying to you when you were young, like “Stop that awful slouching!” and “Get your hair out of your eyes, can’t you?”

When I was in high school, I was always pointing out the run in my stockings as if it had just then appeared, when in fact I knew very well it was there when I put the stockings on that morning. And what kind of strategy is that, pointing out your defects to others before they can point them out to you?

People do it though. Compliment a woman on her hair and half the time she’ll say “Oh it’s all crazy today!” Compliment her on her dress and she’ll call it ‘just an old thing.’

Men do it too. At one point in my career I was considering whether or not I should sign a deal with a literary agent I had been talking with for the better part of a year. I remember closing one jaunty exchange with him by saying, “Well, it would be great if we could work together. Among other things, I like your teeth.”

“My teeth?“ he cried with true alarm. “My teeth are the first thing I’m going to change when I’ve saved up enough money!”

Oops. I should have remembered then that passage from Alice in Wonderland that I’ve always been so struck by. It comes when Alice first meets the Mad Hatter before sitting down at his tea table.

“Your hair wants cutting,” he nervily remarks.

“It’s rude to make personal remarks,” she tartly replies.

And she’s right, our little fictional Alice. Just ask very tall people how they feel about hearing all those “How are the weather up there?” cracks.

No, we’d best not be talking about one another’s looks. Doing so just sends us all back to the sad little mirror in the movie theatre bathroom, there to miss, on the big screen just down the hall, that dazzling feature film called Life.

the mad hatter & alice


Who Cares How You Look

In relation to all this recent talk about how funny-looking I was as a kid at summer camp, I have to say: at least we were competent athletes. We learned how to play every sport and the big girls looked so pretty sashaying the quarter of a mile from the cabins down to the lake.

Friendships 13

Some could dive so clean into the lake they made nary a splash.

where I first learned to dive

Some could high-jump. This is my cousin Mary Lou at the track meet.

mary lou high jumping

We also put in my time learning to use fake sporting equipment like the Bounce-Back here. (I know these campers look less than adept. This was the first time any of us every interacted with a Bounce-Back.)

the bounce-back

But we could hit a tennis ball! We could field a baseball and WEAR YOU OUT in volleyball! We knew the J-stroke and so could keep ourselves going where we wanted to go when alone in a canoe.

We had all the Red Cross Waterfront classes so to this day I can do the Tired Swimmers Carry because I took Junior and Senior Lifesaving. To this day I know the order you use in reaching out to help someone who’s in over his head. (Throw Tow Row Go.) The Red Cross Water Safety courses make you memorize definitions, like the definition for panic, which I still remember as “the sudden unreasoning and overwhelming fear in the face of real or imagines danger.” There’s plenty of that in life, all right! And so now I know what to do about panic when I come across it.

Camp was great and so what if we didn’t look like fashion models every second of the camp day. We didn’t even have any mirrors in the cabins except that four-inch kind you hang on a nail. We had other things to think about. We were learning how to lose gracefully and also how to win, and not ‘spike the ball’ when we did win. Sure, when we were older we tried sneaking out of camp some, or smoking cigarettes on the cabin roof when the counselors were at that big meeting, but it was all good.

In sum we spent no time at all in self-consciousness, the theme to which this week has been devoted and that seems a very good thing for a girl.  Even an old girl like me probably needs to get outside herself more. I’m heading for The Y right now for the morning swim – see an earlier group below heading for their morning swim (there’s that kid with the crazy hair again!)

crazy hair goes swimming

… but after that I’m hitting Sports Authority. Do you think they still make the Bounce-Back?

Ya Got a Little Something

Humbling: I gave a talk yesterday at a library luncheon which  I knew was the real draw for the folks  who came; I was just the after-dinner mints, just that anonymous somebody there to offer the entertainment. Nobody really knew me in other words, which turned out to be a very good thing since it meant I could scoot quickly past the toothsome wraps and salads, slide right by the acre of sheet cake on my way to the lectern. I got there fast enough so that the kind woman who came up to me did so before any one else could notice:

“Hiiii!  Terry, right? Listen if this were me I’d want to know so let me just tell you: you’re not zipped.”

I looked down at the front of my pants. Sure enough!

Then after my talk, which involved many merry tales, the occasional wiping of eyes and a short pause when I forgot what I was saying in the middle of a story –  another kind soul approached me.

“I know you weren’t aware of this but you have frosting all over the front of your suit.”

I looked down again. Yup. Frosting from that giant sheet cake. It was like the time I stood on a stage looking down at an audience of 800, croaked out an opening sentence, reached for the glass of water thoughtfully provided – and poured it right down the front of my dress.

It’s a hard thing when as a speaker you falter or simply stops dead in a fugue state of confusion, since the last thing you want an audience to have to do is worry about you. While I don’t think anyone worried about me exactly at least a few of them sure pitied me.

And I guess I’m OK with that. I used to worry so about people’s opinion of me and practically apologized to my blind dates for not being better looking. Self-consciousness ruled my world then.I‘m happy to say I am through with all that now. I’ll bet I make a dozen mistakes a day and find it not SO bad to be the recipient of people’s pity.

Pity’s OK. There are days when I pity practically everyone I see, from the cold and lonely stars above to that little ant I watched on my windowsill, dragging his dead comrade home for burial.