It’s been 10 years since I last trod the hallowed halls of my high school. A decade has passed since I last rocked a blazer that featured a visible list of my sporting achievements, attended chapel twice a week and viewed boarding school dinners as a speed-eating exercise. In 2002 I was living in a glorified, highly supervised version of a share house (replete with a swimming pool turned stagnant pond), being reprimanded for wearing sport socks with the summer uniform or a black ribbon that was too short, and passing my spare hours by swapping VHS tapes of the latest episode of Alias and Dawson’s Creek with the neighbouring boarders.
And so, with 10 years worth of water under the bridge, tradition, nostalgia and Facebook declared it was time for us to get the 150 girl band back together (like the Spice Girls if they stayed together longer, but had less cultural impact). Twas reunion time, bitches.
Due to some belated international backpacking (which, bizarrely, coincided with the false accusation that I tried to shoot a man… true story for another time) I had missed the 5 Year Reunion. As a result I was rather enthused for the gathering, but making Fi and Livinia join me was akin to pulling teeth (but less financially rewarding – unlike the orthodontist who gave me straight teeth, and the Parentals Painefull empty wallets during my high school career). By bizarre contrast, in the lead up to the event Jim was persistently asking me if there was any way he could come along. After living with me for 3 years, tales of my high school had somehow developed a mythological status that made him eager to get a first hand glimpse of the natives I had described. He wanted to play Painefull High School Bingo. Given that it was an all girl school, slipping someone called Jim into the mix was going to prove a little tricky.
The solution to all this? The 10 Year Reunion Side Party. What is a 10YRSP you may be asking? I’ll tell you what it is mum. It’s the small gathering of non school friends you coordinate to stage a drinking session at a nearby watering hole, thus offering an escape route for the less than willing reunion attenders, and an improvised entry point for the vaguely curious.
Side Party of Randoms: Acquired
So how do you kick things off when you have a 10 Year Reunion and a 10YRSP? Well clearly that requires some sort of pre-party gathering. Because when you start with one party, why not make it three?
Third Gathering: Acquired
And what’s three parties without at least one party game? So, in a stroke of what I assumed was genius, I came up with a contest (largely inspired by the legendary Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion). The challenge was this:
Each contestant must come up with a lie that’s believable to someone you haven’t seen in 10 years, but utterly ridiculous to those that know you. A point is scored every time that lie is fact checked with another contestant in the game.
Challenge: … accepted*
Naturally I instantly declared that my lie was that I had a two year old child, called Tomas, whose father is German. It pretty much sells itself. But in case it didn’t sell itself, when I told my current crop of classmates the plan, they suggested I would need some form of photographic evidence. Thankfully one of those classmates happened to have his own child, relatively fresh out of the box, with him.
Photographic Evidence: Acquired
|My baby is on order, he's arriving fully trained with dish washing capabilities|
Amongst the other back story lies, we had one girl who was going to reveal she was recently released on parole, an ASIO officer, and a pair with suitable hair colouring that had formed their own ABBA tribute band called ABBA-Salute.
Of course, when it came to the eve of the reunion itself, not everything went precisely to plan.
The 10YRSP venue turned out to be closed. Jim was granted his wish when, for lack of a decent Plan B, that gathering of randoms who never went to our high school was forced to station themselves within the reunion venue. When confronted on the rather obvious fact he never went to our all girl school, his absurd knowledge of my year finally paid off when he claimed to be the post-op version of a girl who wasn’t in attendance.
And when I finally built up the courage (and remembered) to try out my lie… I happened to test it on the girl universally acknowledged as the nicest, kindest, loveliest person in the year. What with her being so very nice, kind and lovely, she didn’t try to debate my tale, or query the photo I showed. All this, plus alcohol, sent me so rapidly into a spiral of guilt that I was forced to admit the deception 20 minutes later. And as I swayed drunkenly, while she looked at me with earnest, confused, widened eyes and asked:
“Why on earth would you lie about something like that?”
Forcing me to admit that it seemed like a funny idea about a week earlier… I knew then that 10 years had evolved me into an even stranger person than I had been at high school. If that’s possible.
After that it was just a hop, skip and a jump into belligerent, retrospectively embarrassing sweary-ness (the type that often sees me coining phrases like ‘I prefer to bump’). And tap dancing. It’s remarkable that the most common thing said to me by various people the next day was:
“You really did a lot of tap dancing.”
Well not that remarkable. What was remarkable was that I didn’t find my way into a top hat in the process.
And so, that cultural tradition (tap dancing at one’s 10 year reunion after lying about one’s life achievements) and excuse for a trip down memory lane has passed. It was technically uneventful considering the Facebook Event Page that organized it devolved into a war of words over the venue that would make the Jets and the Sharks complain that things were getting a little too camp. What it was, was incredibly eerie to step into a room where you recognized every face from some distant, long ago time.
It’s also been an eerie experience for Mother Painefull. Her claim to everlasting youth – a final, last-though child that went to school a decade after the rest of her children – has taken a serious hit with the revelation that I am no longer that youthful myself.
P.S. The final scene from my evening involved housemate Layla (a participant in the 10YRSP) and I demolishing a plate of dips and cheese in a heady, primal swoop, seated in the darkness of the lounge room, not making eye contact, aware even in this most primal state that what we were doing wasn’t a notable high point for either of us.
Then I watched an episode of Battlestar Galactica. That’s right Tomas – mama parties hard.