What I Learned at My 25th High School Reunion

What I Learned at My 25th High School Reunion

A woman I’d known only as a star athlete — tall, freckled, beautiful — told me she was a lesbian, too. Someone else was a professor of French. A few were divorced. Not everyone had children. Some had lost parents. At midlife, our stories were written on our faces, topographies of love and loss and struggle. Not much had turned out the way we planned. Including ourselves.

In the midst of it, I remembered the best two words of counsel I’d received in high school, from a teacher who, perhaps, had glimpsed something yearning and restless under my compliant skin. Mr. Wilk motioned me over one day from a teeming hallway, leaned down and said quietly, “Don’t hide.”

By the 25th reunion, I could heed his advice. And here’s the irony about hiding: When you stop doing it, other people emerge from hiding, too. The labels we wore in high school — geek, jock, cheerleader, stoner — weren’t untrue, they just weren’t the whole story. Each one of us was a palimpsest of a person, layer upon layer of doubt, ambition, risk and regret. We lingered at that reunion, talking and talking over cucumbers dipped in ranch dressing and bottom-shelf Chardonnay, until the banquet staff turned on the lights and brought out the vacuums and shooed us out into the unpredictable night.

Originally published at Purple Clover

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