I dread reunions.
Why, oh, why do people even want reunions? My own Chinese New Year reunion dinners are, at best, a page out of a script for the Jerry Springer Show that was rejected and sent to Oprah at a specified lunar movement every year. And these are the people I live with; what of people I haven’t seen in years? What would I say? What would they say?
I’ve been reunited with a select bunch of guys from my high school years, and we’ve been having somewhat regular beer sessions, but to this very day I’m confident in saying we still feel a slight tinge of trepidation whenever one of us calls for a meet-up. The fact is, a lot of years have passed in between, and none of us know enough about what’s happened and what’s changed in each other’s lives to hold a truly meaningful conversation that would last 15 minutes, much less 4 hours (the time it takes for some of us to finish 2 pints).
And then recently, I’ve had the opportunity to catch up with some more of my sordid past (some of whom I’ve actually dated, others I tried to date, and then some I didn’t even want to hold hands with). Between them and me stands more than a decade of lost years, during which a large truckload of them got married, had children, carved out high-flying careers (literally) for themselves, moved away to another continent or generally wasted their lives being jackasses who would never amount to much (namely, me).
The past few months of bantering to and fro actually spurred the idea of a reunion that, if all goes according to my reluctance, will be happening in 2 weeks’ time. I’ve come up with all the excuses I could come up with, from “Nine Inch Nails is coming, I can’t go that day” to “I’m going on a church mission to Southern Thailand” (I’m a Buddhist, by the way) to “I got cancer, aw shoot, chemo appointment’s that very night”.
But what am I really afraid of?
There’s them to me; in those lost years, I’ve never really thought of these people. Sure, they’re in my Facebook friends list, but who really talks to every single one of the people you add on your friends list? And the sudden interest in seeing my newly gained weight, hearing about my newly started family, asking about my newly established career, laughing at my newly grown hair… it just wierds me out.
And then there’s me to them; it’s been more than a decade. I don’t know how you’ve been getting along, where your life stands right now, what you’ve gone through to get where you are today. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing I really know about you is your name (and only because it’s on Facebook). If I were to start a conversation, how do I know I’m about to say something offensive (I’ve met people who get offended from even a simple trigger, such as “fat” or “religion” or “Amy Winehouse”)? How do I know you didn’t like me back when we were in school in the first place but never said anything because you’re not confrontational by nature? How do I know I’m not just gonna freeze up, pick a seat on the corner next to a huge plant and silently count the hairs on the back of the hand I use to hold my bourbon coke until it’s time to go?
The fear is further amplified when even before we meet, incidents are already happening (thanks to Facebook, Twitter and Web 2.0, the marvel of the new millennium). Some are shy; no matter how you poke and prod, you never see them comment on anything; it’s almost like you’re being ignored. And then there are those that are not shy; they are so comfortable with their friendships (even though it’s been more than a decade since you’ve seen each other and are now practically strangers) that thoughts and assumptions come flying at you like bullets over No Man’s Land in Afghanistan. Albeit in jest, through separate private conversations with each other, I’ve already been described as a narcissist, a gay perv and a potentially unfit father-in-law (don’t ask where that came from, I’m WTFing it myself) in just over the past 3 days (wow, it really does feel like high school again).
Yes, I have a mentality towards reunions that compares with much accuracy to that kid who says he sees dead people (for the first hour-and-a-half of the movie anyway). I also acknowledge that because of this exact same mentality, I have no friends (according to my mother). I can hear you saying now, “Get off your fucking high horse, you gay, narcissistic excuse of a father-in-law, step out of your cocoon and get a life.” And you’re right. Something needs to change. The principles guiding my life which I have upheld and guarded in the last 10 years are fundamentally flawed. I’ve written all of 830 words so far in dedication to my ire of reunions, blocking my own path with assumptions that ultimately remove any sign of redemption through the use of one simple philosophy: try.
I’m going to a reunion.