Why I played hooky from my old school reunion
BIG Mick sent a WhatsApp telling me that he and Richard T were definitely going. Monica the redhead had already notified me by Twitter that she would be in attendance. Miss Dunn had mentioned it months ago when it had been posted on Facebook. Jacqui “The Shark” (having changed her three-day trip to the Low Countries) was flying over from Donegal to be in Glasgow for less than 12 hours. And while Liz Goodstadt couldn’t make it, she’d emailed from Sydney asking whether I was going to be there. I most definitely wasn’t going to be there. Let me explain. I have known Mick, Richard, Monica, Miss Dunn, The Shark and Aussie Liz since I was at school. Some, I have known since I was eight years old; others when I moved up to the “big school”. I see Miss Dunn often and regularly; The Shark and I are in touch; Big Mick always comes to see my Edinburgh show; I bumped into Richard T at Haymarket station a few years back; I’m seeing Monica next week; and Aussie Liz and I are in touch via Facebook. Last night was our school reunion – reuniting after three decades of life spent away from St Aloysius’ College, Glasgow. Guys, girls and ghosts gathered in Garnethill, many having never met in the intervening time. There will have been looks of surprise, eyes opening with gradual recognition and plenty of talk about trysts and love that had remained unrequited. Greyhaired, heavier-bodied and saggier-skinned, I’ve no doubt many will have had a great night. I just know that I would have. Much as I had a great time at school, much as I will always have a fulsome fondness for my decade with the Jesuits, I can think of nothing worse than a school reunion.
Perhaps I sound rather anti-social, dismissive and judgmental. Maybe I am, but here’s the truth. Anyone from school that I have wanted to keep in touch with I am already in touch with and they are in my life; and there are a few that have slipped through the net who I have contacted.
Here’s a thought. Who do you reckon will have been there last night? I’m fairly certain that it will only be those who went on to achieve, the positive stories. That seems to be the nature of these assembles. I’m sure my old school pals, most of whom were fine, upstanding people, will have a good time; but there would have been be no shortage of success-swapping, karma-comparing and money-mentioning.
Reunions are self-selecting. Those who go are only the ones who really want to go, those with something to say. Those who were always going to achieve will show up to share their achievements; and those who were underrated and written off will be there to prove a point and right perceived wrongs.
Do you ever think you would see that one guy that you all knew would end up being a guest of Her Majesty, showing up with an electronic tag and having to leave before dessert in order that he complies with the requirements of his sentence?
How about that kid who was suspended for drinking at the school disco and vomiting in the middle of the gym hall during The Cure’s Love Cats? Or what about that girl whose life was made a daily, weekly, monthly misery by an army of bullies that ruined her teenage years?
Do you reckon any of them would show up at a school reunion?
That’s my issue. If my school reunion had been a genuine gathering of all those who spent a decade together, the people who remind us of the good, that help us recall the bad and make us confront our own ugly, maybe then I would go. That would seem more like a reunion rather than an excuse for the boastful and bombastic to boast and be bombastic.
I was very lucky. I went to school with some genuinely good folk and a few I hope never to see again. But I really don’t need a night of nostalgia, full of maudlin moments and whispered “what ifs” surrounded by strangers I once knew, and people that I thought I knew who are now strangers.