This magically pulled up behind the banquet hall...
This magically pulled up behind the banquet hall...
Photo By Craig Hlavaty

10 Lessons Learned from My High School Reunion

This past weekend was my ten-year high school reunion. In the weeks leading up to the events -- the high school football game, the mixer, the family picnic and the actual reunion event -- I started asking people around me what to expect. All I knew about these things was what I had seen on movies and television, and my own parents' experiences.

The advent of Facebook for the past decade has made reunions not so much obsolete but just a little less of an event. You can catch up online, message back and forth, and look at each other's lives, significant others, spouses, pets, houses and children.

I'm comfortable with my station in life, and I am used to meeting tons of new people a week, and I feel no ill will towards anyone from high school. (Okay, one or two, let's be real.) I had no problem catching up with anyone, and I had nothing to fear. It's not like I could be the only one there with male pattern baldness. Because I wasn't. Ha.

Friends had plenty of reasons not to go. Money, distance, work, anger, dread, mistrust abounded, with apathy topping the list. If anything, it's a good chance to maybe reconnect with people who lead different lives than you and enrich your own damned self. Most of the people who graduated with me and didn't want to go to the reunion I see at bars and concerts around town anyway.

The weekend went great, and by Saturday night, when all was said and done, my throat was sore from laughing, smoking and drinking. I talked to people for longer than we ever did for the four years we were together from 1997 to 2001, and I realized that we were probably all nervous just the same.

In the end, about 143 people drank 30 cases of beer, downed 20 bottles of wine, pregnant gals got down to Usher, we spray-painted the side of that train car (above), and one of our own, an actual successful male stripper, rubbed his junk on untold numbers of girls. There are videos on YouTube that you shouldn't see.

I was keeping a running list on my phone of tips I was picking up on along the way. Some of the tips make no sense in a sober mind, like one that just says "Hot Gurls," which I am sure means something classy.

10. Don't bother trying to get fit or dress nice

Most people are too worried about paying their bills, staying married and surviving to go out of their way to make the night into a couture fashion event. Sure, some guys will dress up, but it will more than likely just be Texas shorthand for casual, meaning cowboy boots, jeans and a nice button-up. As for the girls, it depends on who is married or single, or pregnant.

9. Drinking Is The Great Equalizer

If you didn't know each other or even get along all those years ago, all it will take is a few beers or shots to ease any perceived tensions and for the laughter to begin. Nerds will rise to heroes, the cliques will fall back into place, and everyone will have a story to tell. It's also a sure way to see which of us are now alcoholics, but the fun kind, not like Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas.

8. Bring The Old Yearbooks

There is nothing like cracking open the old yearbooks to look at all the pot leaves you drew, the zits, the sixth-grade mullets, and the couples who would be together forever and ever and never ever break up. They did in fact break up, and they will steal glances at each other all night, thinking about what might have been. Like a country song or something.

7. Listen To Everyone's Story

High school was kind of like war, and everyone had a different and unique side to what they saw and experienced. Some people will tell you that they thought you hated them, when the whole time you thought they hated you. This time around your hormones and emotions shouldn't be raging and out for blood, or so we hope.

6. Honor The Veterans

In my class we had plenty of guys who were seasoned military vets. We had past and current members of the Navy, Marines and Army forces, and they all saw and did things you couldn't imagine while you were partying your way through college or delivering pizza. Make sure to tell them you are thankful for their service, and don't ask how many people they killed. This isn't a Call of Duty chatroom.

5. You Will Crush. Hard. Again.

Once you see the boy or girl you crushed on for longer than you want to remember, be prepared to watch yourself make awkward small talk. We saw this happen numerous times this weekend. Girls approached guys that they never noticed in high school, and vice versa. There were a few girls who people couldn't stop staring at because a decade seemed to have done nothing to them physically. Robots probably.

4. The Music Makes A Big Difference

Our DJ looked at the surroundings and the style of dress of the crowd and started playing Travis Tritt, Taylor Swift and George Strait. But sure enough, as the beer and wine, and the snuck-in whiskey, vodka and tequila, set in, it was all dance and hip-hop.

3. Take Plenty Of Pictures

Luckily one of our classmates is a great photog and he managed to capture the evening correctly, even my own pit stains. Gross, right? He even documented us spray-painting that poor train. What? The off-duty cops we paid to be there had no problem with it. The point is, make sure you find a photog that is either from your graduating class or at least near your ages, who will see the whimsy in things and not get too formal. Maybe a former war correspondent.

2. Have A Family Picnic Before The Reunion

It's a good chance for everyone to see the tiny people you made between high school and now, and maybe score some free babysitting services (dumping off site, really) if you reconnect with friends from your part of the city. It's really simple: Just order a few bouncy houses, a sno-cone machine and get one of the guys with no kids or wife to make a few hundred hot dogs on the barbecue pit. He will at least leave with a dozen or so to take home with him for himself. Ahem.

1. Just Go, Dammit

We totally understand not being able to afford a reunion ticket or living too far away, but if you can make one of these, do it. Personal, human interaction (and drinking) isn't something you can do on Facebook with someone. There is no problem with time-tripping for a weekend, and it's important to know where you came from, because it may teach you something about the person you have become in the time since school.

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