The High School Reunion

There’s something gratifying about kindling a flame with the embers of an old crush. It’s a vindication of the humiliation endured in that paper shredder of the ego called “high school.”

I was sitting at a table at the Grape Leaf, having a mini-reunion with two women from my graduating class. One of them looked good. She was a JAG attorney with wickedly long legs, framed by tight shorts and a pair of peep-toe sandals. Her friend, Frumpy Jane, looked just like she did in 1988 (albeit with a better haircut).

I remember Sexy Lawyer Lady as a rebellious teen with a Motley Crue haircut in tight pink spandex, defiantly puffing a Marlboro on the smoking patio with the outcasts. I thought she was hot, in an acid-washed denim kind of way, but I was an awkward pudgy teen desperately clinging to the coattails of the “popular” crowd.

There are two groups of people from high school. Those that were popular – and all the rest.

The people that were attractive were popular. The ones who weren’t, weren’t.  Let’s face it; high school isn’t exactly a high-level social structure. Looks are all you have to go on. You haven’t had time to accomplish anything else.

Twenty years later, all of the ugly, fat, or awkward people in high school have filled out, slimmed down, and learned how to complement their features from watching Makeover Reality shows and Dr. Phil.

Thankfully, most of the popular people from high school are now fat, bald or disgusting. They still see themselves as that same attractive person, no matter how gross they’ve become, because they hit their high note in those formative years. The rest of us still look in the mirror with disgust because we can hear Jerry Cronwald mocking our fat rolls in the locker room. Thanks to that ruthless motivation I’ve been able to keep slim since college. Jerry, on the other hand, looks like he’s been living on doughnuts and bourbon since 1998. C’est la vie.

Sexy Lawyer Lady had connected with me on Facebook and asked me out to the Grape Leaf for dinner with herself and Frumpy Jane, as a kind of “pre-reunion” reunion.  The actual event was two weeks away.

We caught up on classmates and gossip. Moving back to Louisville after being gone for 14 years left a pretty big gap in my social life – most people I once knew had completely different lives.

The ladies suggested we take the party somewhere more exciting. We headed down to Glassworks to see a show up on the top of the city, looking out at the city lights and watching the moon rising over the Humana Building. The bands were terrible, so we quickly zoomed off to the Z-Bar.

As we packed in the dance floor Sexy Lawyer Lady got close and personal, using her long legs to her advantage. I was a little giddy – somebody who had never paid me a nanosecond of attention in high school was now making up for it in a very direct way.

I’ve never gotten used to Louisville’s 4 a.m. closing time – it took four more Tanqueray and Red Bulls to keep my stamina up until the wee hours of the night, when the three of us took a cab back to her house.

Just like in high school, the unattractive girl passed out on the couch as the other couple stumbled up the stairs into bed. Not even drunken exhaustion could keep me from channeling that adolescent angst as I consummated a twenty-year old crush.

But in the aftermath of nostalgia, was there anything left?

Not really.

You can’t forge a relationship based on vindication of the ego. It doesn’t serve anyone. We never had a second date. She didn’t even show up to the actual reunion.

There was no real connection – more time has passed between 1991 and now than I had been alive when I graduated. Those awkward teenagers have been replaced by adults, with an entirely different set of needs and desires.

We should create relationships based on mutual interest or romance, and not who sat next to us in homeroom twenty years ago. There is a temptation, as we get older, to search for the familiar.

But in our search for the comfort of familiarity, we may find that it was never very familiar in the first place.

High school is over. You have to leave it behind at some point.

Why let four years of your life define the next forty?

Contact R. Chase at