Two months ago I received an invitation to my five-year high school reunion. I threw it away immediately. I didn’t even look at the date or the schedule of reunion events—something about a parade, something else about a bar. I saw a picture of four guys I never cared for pointing at a sign that read CLASS OF 2007. What I wanted to throw away was the idea that five years ago I was a high school senior. Stinky! Stinky! Stinky!
I can’t decide whether 2007 seems impossibly long ago or impossibly not-very-long ago. Somehow it’s both, in that funny perspectival way of conflicting emotions. So much has happened in the intervening years that I shudder to think how old I felt at eighteen. Perhaps I really was old, and now I’m simply older. Or, perhaps age is a function of foreshortened time, hard lessons learned and losing battles fought, that taken together bring about a general resignation to a growing number of things, the exhaustion of which just makes us feel old. I don’t imagine I’ll be sure for another five years, or maybe five years after that.
Part of my hesitation about my impending reunion, I told myself, has to do with an aversion to conversations with near-perfect strangers that begin, “So…what are you up to these days?” This is a well-known opening act for the better-known headliner, “Well I’ve been…” from whoever it is I’m stuck talking to. Perhaps I’d be more inclined to participate if I were living abroad, or the star of my own TV show, or a mule running used paperbacks to Kandahar. Living at home and looking for jobs don’t quite seem schmoozeworthy.
But maybe I’m a cynic. (I am definitely a cynic.) Perhaps my skepticism about the prospect of reliving high school (even combined with the prospect of free beer) stems from the fact that high school wasn’t fun for me. Reunions are a chance to catch up with old friends! you may cajole. You can relive the glory days! I pity the fool for whom grades nine through twelve stand out as “the glory days,” especially just five years out. I’ll fast-forward through the sob story and the trapped-in-the-closet business (the Christina Aguilera kind, not the R. Kelly kind), suffice it to say I’m not particularly nostalgic.
Moreover, why would I bother to catch up with “old friends” when I can simply catch up on them, from the comfort of my laptop? Ladies and gentlemen of the Internet, I present: Facebook.
This most pervasive of innovations allows me—nay, encourages me—to find out what my old friends (and their friends) are doing without ever having to ask. What’s-her-name is engaged, that girl from my calc class is in grad school in Ohio, God help her, and the jock guys all got fat. Are we surprised? One classmate of mine is pregnant, and just yesterday I spent five minutes on her Facebook page, skipping through pictures of the crib, the ultrasound, gifts from the shower, and a pretty-gross-when-you-think-about-it pile of positive pregnancy tests. I haven’t seen or spoken to her in years, and yet I know her baby’s due date. It’s all fascinating, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure I need to see any of it in person.
Facebook makes obsolete the grating “What are you up to?” in favor of the much, much juicier “Have you seen what [that bitch you hate] is up to?” At the same time, other, less gossipy activities—calling Information, renewing prescriptions, and checking in to your flight—have been streamlined in a similar way, in that the interface has become electronic. This, truly, seems to be the course of all technology: to replace as many human beings as possible with machines, presumably so that we all have more time to Facebook each other.
Even aside from all the good reasons I have to Facebook stalk rather than schmooze over Bud Lites, I sense the biggest reason for my resistance is that it allows me to negate the enormous/tiny amount of time that has elapsed since high school, and all the things that have/haven’t changed. The zany gang from American Pie are getting back together this year in American Reunion—inexplicably after thirteen years (?) rather than a cool multiple of five—so I guess I should feel some degree of pop-culture pathos. Instead what I feel is pressed for time.
My twenties are here, ten years that are supposed to be my prime—my Glory Days, if y’all will. I should be brewing my own beer, or roasting my own coffee, or making my own soap, or somehow otherwise contributing to the culture of my downwardly mobile, oddly survivalist hipster generation. Instead I’m counting down my cash between Starbucks and the Mobil station. Call it American Humble Pie.
Whatever sort of pie it is, if I don’t have to worry about looking good for high school classmates I’ll help myself to another piece. My diet starts before my ten-year—you know, just in case I’m a book mule by then.