Friday, November 13, 2009

Humor Me: 20-year high school reunion

By MATT WIXON

Last month was my high school reunion. My 20-year high school reunion. Yeah, that’s a little sobering.

It’s hard to believe that two decades have passed since I graduated from Apollo High School, home of the fightin’ Hawks, disappointing test scores and smoke-filled teachers’ lounge. I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday when I could walk through the parking lot and see the school motto of “Pride, Class, Dignity” while avoiding the sharp edges of broken beer bottles?
No, it wasn’t yesterday. You have three kids and like two hairs left on the top of your head.
Thanks for that slap in the face, wise inner voice. I wish you had been around in 1991, when I ate that macaroni and cheese that had been in the refrigerator for more than a week. The only time I felt sicker that year was after I spent six bucks to see Hudson Hawk.

So it’s been 20 years, but is that really a long time?

Oh yes. When I graduated in ’89, the Berlin Wall had not yet come down, Whitney Houston was both talented and coherent, and a first-class stamp was 25 cents. Even more stunning was that people were still sending letters to each other via the U.S. Disgruntled Postal Service. Because, like OMG, there was no e-mail then.

There were no text messages, either. Or emoticons. Or ways to send a Twitter tweet in the middle of a world history class in which a teacher who really didn’t want to be there -- Hi Mr. Grassi! -- put on a marathon of filmstrips to fill class time. To make things worse, the Extra-Strength Clearasil of 20 years ago really didn’t do much but dry out your face and leave the pimples to thrive. It was a dark time for teenagers.

Now move forward to 2009. Teenagers are pretty much the world’s rock stars, right? They’ve got everything going for them, and they’ve got the video, uploaded to YouTube or another video-sharing site, to prove it. As for the Great Satan of oily skin, Clearasil now has something called “Rapid Action Treatment Cream” that claims to visibly reduce pimple size in four hours. And man, life can’t get much better for the greasy-haired teenage boys of today. Gorgeous women find them so attractive that they lose their minds and jump on them right in the school hallway. At least I think so, because I saw it in a commercial for TAG body spray.

(Quick sidebar: The closest I ever got to such a seductive encounter was when I was riding my bike through the school parking lot and got hit by a car driven by an older girl, perhaps a senior. She got out of the car and asked if I was okay, but had I been wearing a potent body spray, who knows what could’ve happened. Wowee!)

Anyway, the point is that a lot can change in 20 years, and that’s why I wanted to go to last month’s reunion. I can only imagine the topics of conversation about Apollo High School, home of the fightin’ Hawks, spider-filled portable buildings and many, many dedicated teachers -- including one so dedicated that he married one of my classmates.

Seriously, it’s true! One of my teachers married one of my classmates shortly after we graduated. Pride, class, dignity ... occasional inappropriate relationship.

Despite all that, I did like high school. And had I still been living in Arizona, I probably would’ve attended the reunion. It would’ve been great to hear talk of the old days, including the awesome basketball team, the dreadful football team and the occasional unsubstantiated rumor that Skinheads were going to take over the campus. I heard that rumor several times, but our campus never did have Skinheads, just a lot of bald teachers.

I probably missed out on some great conversations, but flying from Texas to Phoenix was hard to fit into the schedule. And although I had some great friends back in high school, I can find those people with Facebook, swap stories through e-mail, that sort of thing. I’m also still working on obtaining washboard abs and millions of dollars, and pulling up in my 1999 Honda C-RV with the rockin’ AM/FM cassette player wouldn’t make a great impression.

So I skipped it. But after the reunion, one of my friends gave me a report.

“Mildly enjoyable,” he said. “I chatted briefly with several people, but it tended to be the same people with whom I interacted in high school. It was kinda funny how that works.”

That’s how it would’ve worked with me. Twenty years have passed, but I’m pretty much the same. I was shy in high school, and although a journalism career has forced me out of my shell, I’m still not an effective schmoozer. I’m not a social butterfly who, at least with people I don’t know well, can flit around the room and make conversation. That’s partly why I wasn’t Mr. Popularity at Apollo High School, home of the fightin’ Hawks, mandatory P.E. outfits that bordered on child abuse, and yes ...

Some of the best times of my life.

Some of the best times, that is. But most of the best times of my life have come since the day when I was a dorky 17-year-old walking across the stage to receive my high school diploma. I don’t remember much of that graduation ceremony, but I do remember this:

We once had a mandatory assembly that was supposed to inspire us all to “get high on life, not drugs” or something like that. I remember Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” played before and after some guest speaker told us “these are the greatest days of your life!”

Maybe at the time. But 20 years later, I hope that’s not true for most people. The high school years can be great, but what a bummer if your life peaks that soon. If high school is as good as it's going to get, then what do you have to look forward to?

Your first high school reunion, I guess.

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