You know the feeling. You open your email and find an invitation to your school reunion. Instantly a scene flashes through your mind of gorgeous super skinny women – staggering under the weight of their sparkly jewels – talking loudly about how Tarquin and Orlando are golf and tennis pros at the age of 6 and 8 while you stand next to them feeling very dowdy, inadequate and well, bored. That’s what I envisaged when I saw my school reunion coming up. And very unfairly, as it turned out.
I went to the local public single sex school. It was a ‘good’ school which had a well-respected reputation. It wasn’t super flash or anything – we went on school trips to Murawai, not Paris. We had a mix of male and female teachers, with scandals that were only ever whispered about. We sat outside at lunchtime with our shoes and socks off, tanning our skinny legs with baby oil and gossiping about boys and clothes and things. Some of us talked about what we wanted to be or do. One girl wanted to be an astronaut! How cool we all thought, that would be amazing, wouldn’t it? And indeed, the school did produce loads of well-known successful Kiwi women – a high-end fashion designer, a prime minister, several NZ sports representatives, TV celebs and probably lots more that I can’t remember offhand.
From a roll of around 300 girls in our year, 50 came along to this first class reunion. Amazingly, time had left some completely untouched – it was like they walked out of a time capsule. Others were not so recognisable, and not because they had aged, but because I honestly didn’t remember them. In our last year at school, we had a photo taken of all the girls in the year. I remember someone passing round a paper with all the names on ‘so you don’t forget’, and I remember thinking ‘I’m never going to forget!’. How wrong I was.
Everyone was very nervous in the beginning – after all, school reunions have an ugly stigma attached to them. There’s a big fear of not measuring up, of not being successful, of not being how you dreamed you would be. But the truth is that no-one’s lives turned out how we thought they would – everyone had a different story and different memories to share. The years melted away within seconds, and the air was filled with laughter and chatter. No-one was scary. No-one was unwelcome. No-one was embarrassed.
I’m glad I went along. It was nothing like the movies at all.