I just experienced my first class reunion. And when I say I experienced it, I mean I experienced the whole…dang…thing. Due to my incredibly shortsighted decision to be a class officer in high school, I not attended, but had the pleasure of planning of this glorious event.
Or non-event, I should say. Well, that may be a stretch, but compared to the buildup and bruhaha one normally associates with class reunions, it was just not that interesting. There were no surprise attendees, no uber-geek had made a million dollars and married a supermodel, and the vast majority of people didn’t go. But while all of these things
contributed to it being on the dull side, the core reason why it wasn’t an interesting event is very interesting (if you think cultural trends and shifts are very interesting, which I do):
Everyone who I have had the slightest inkling of wanting to interact with from my graduating class of 131 people in the last ten years, I have. Through Facebook. Sometimes it’s just friending someone, saying “hi,” and then pawing through the pictures of their kids/wives/embarrassing-things-they-shouldn’t-have-posted, but isn’t that why you used to go to a reunion? Now we can do it without running the risk of getting pinned in the corner by a disgruntled former-classmate whose feelings you apparently hurt in fifth grade and who is clearly still having difficulty coping with the pre-pubescent fallout. At 29.
But let’s back up, since it wasn’t the night itself, but the planning process that was the real point of interest. When our class president hunted the rest of us “officers” down and reminded us that this was our sworn duty, our collective reaction was somewhere between a grumble and a sigh. I was insanely busy at work, was half-living in two cities, had a sick dog and was considering a career change to boot. And I wasn’t the only one. My to-be-cohorts-in-planning were in various stages of job-searching, house-purchasing and wife-impregnating, (class officer-types are so predictably overachieving, aren’t we?) so everyone was in agreement in our level of enthusiasm for this task.
What we were not in agreement about was the reunion format. On one end we had suggestions of catered, plated dinners with black ties and blocked out hotel wings. On the other, it was recommended that we post on Facebook the bar or park at which to meet and everyone could bring their own food or drinks or whatever and we have a nice, relaxing, low-pressure gathering. Guess which suggestion was mine?
I swear this was not because I was lazy. OK, so maybe 20% of my motive for proposing this very hands-off approach to a class reunion was genuine laziness. But the rest was just good, common sense – mixed with a dose of marketing knowledge and event-planning experience. My argument was that that it came down to two things: people in our generation don’t pay for things they can get for free, and they don’t commit to plans until the last minute. In our particular case, where most of our parents live in the same small town from whence we came, those who want to really spend time together still do, even if they live a distance from each other. Couple that with Facebook tying us to all of our remaining desired acquaintances, and a class reunion is definitely something any one of us should feel like we could – and do – get for free. And those who would be willing to pay, would be reluctant to RSVP in advance, so planning would be a nightmare.
And it was. Fast forward to the week before the reunion: we’d settled on a less-formal, but still formal-ish hall and had ordered catering, though it would be low-cost and buffet-style. However, the due date had long passed and something like eight classmates of 131 had RSVP’d. This was after multiple conference calls, meetings, Facebook address research, invitation creation, printing, stuffing and sending, and a whole host of other logistical tasks that were in no way elating to any of us. So, when ten days prior to the event we realized we didn’t have enough guests to cover the cost of the hall or food, our level of exacerbation exceeded even the delight I should have felt at this rather “I told you so” moment. Not that I said that out loud. I waited, so I could blog about it later.
The be-all end-all is that we cancelled the hall and catering and rescheduled at the go-to downtown bar who also agreed to supply pizza and salad at a ridiculously reasonable rate. We showed up, we decorated, and later that night about 20 or so or our classmates showed up with their significant others and it was a nice, ho-hum, chatty time. I did spend most of the time talking to the people I see and talk to regularly, however, as I enjoy their company, which is why I see and talk to them regularly. There were no painfully awkward moments (well, except the aforementioned fifth-grade faux pas), but there were no joyfully reminiscent moments either. It was just fine.
So what’s the point? Good question. What was the point? It wasn’t that I had been right (but I was!), but it was that the point of having class reunions has been greatly diminished by our collective connectivity. Though class reunions have been a part of our culture for who-knows-how-long (Wikipedia doesn’t know. I checked.), and have been romanticized in film and literature, they just don’t stand much of a chance in the future – at least in their current form. Their mystic has simply been eliminated.
Honestly, I think this is totally fine, considering what is replacing it. Sure, we may be losing a tradition of reconnecting and reminiscing, but we’re only losing the event because we’re not losing touch in the first place. Unless we want to. Which is also (cue anxiety caused by awkward, crazy-person confrontation) totally fine.
One thought on “Putting the “class” in “class reunion””
As a person who skipped my reunion to host a family party, I think you have touched on a nerve of our generation, a perspective my parents questioned when I said, “Naw, I’m not going to pay $50 to go to my reunion. How about about we have the family over my place for an after Thanksgiving party and celebrate Howell’s Festival of Lights instead?”
They were shocked that I “was skipping my reunion,” and it oddly took some coercing to persuade them that spending quality time with family was justifiable rather than drinking Bud Light for $6 at a Royal Oak bar. (Wait, didn’t I go to high school in Dearborn? Why was my reunion in Oakland County?)
There’s something to tangible, face-to-face conversation. My mother is actively involved in organizing class reunions for her grade school! And they love getting together. Social networking won’t replace this. It could make our reunions less scary, less intimidating. However, I have a feeling your inquiry could be true: Our Internet connections have made the rush to relive those school years less exciting.