Last week, someone called me a “mensch” over email. I was about to write back and say, “Oh yeah? Well, your face looks like a butcher’s apron,” but I Wikipediaed it, and apparently a mensch is a “person of integrity and honor.” There are just some words that do not sound like what they mean. Like “rolfing.” It’s just some form of deep-tissue massage or something, but it just sounds dirty.
Anyway, last weekend, Jameelah and I attended her 10-year high school reunion, held at a bar in Capitol Hill. High school reunions, from what we’ve seen in the media, are supposed to be a cathartic experience that validates the choices you made in life, unblocks psychological barriers that stem from traumatic high school experience, or ideally both. And there’s usually free food and booze and you can see who got fat.
It was ridiculously awkward. People put on name tags, then glanced around, nervously, hoping someone would recognize them and come over to talk. The awkwardness was palpable. I ordered a long island iced tea.
It was even more awkward when you didn’t go to the school but are rather the spouse of someone who did. You’re reduced to a prop. A sexy, vegan prop. I decided to have my own fun by pretending I was one of the students. While Jameelah stood in the corner scoping out people, chugging her cranberry-vodka, I went around the room and yelled, “Anna?! Anna Martinez?!” at random women. People were so nervous that they were glad anyone is approaching them at all. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said, “you looked like Anna. Whatever happened to her?” Then I’d move on.
Several of Jameelah’s friends came and they all fell into patterns of hugging, observing, pointing, and making comments. “Look at that guy over there,” one of them said. “His name is Toby. Poor guy, no one’s talking to him. He was a nerd in high school.” I grabbed my drink and went over to him. “Toby?” I said, “Is that you? It’s Huy! Remember? Huy from Mr. Sherman’s class!” “I’m so sorry,” he stammered. “It’s OK,” I said, “we had a large class. No way you can remember everyone. Come on let me introduce you to some people.” I pulled him over and introduced him to Jameelah and her friends. Poor Toby didn’t know what to say. I talked to him about videogames for a while before he awkwardly wandered off to talk to no one.
Throughout the evening, people got more relaxed as the alcohol kicked in, thank God. I was hoping for a cathartic showdown, but no such luck. The closest was one of Jameelah’s friends, Katie, who pointed out a guy who used to torment her in elementary school. The guy seemed like a jerk, bouncing around in khaki pants, a blazer, and a tie. “You should go over and tell him off,” I recommended. “Yeah, I should,” she said. Then we both stood still and drank.
Overall, it was incredibly boring for me. Which was why I stood in the corner with my drink and yelled, “Boring! Borrrrrriiiinng!” Eventually, we spotted a woman that Jameelah and her friends knew. “That’s Hannah,” they said. “She got kind of fat.” Hannah came over, and she was rather attractive and a fascinating person. She holds parties for adult toys. “They’re like Tupperware parties,” she said.
Jameelah, who was nervous, becomes exceptionally social, usually charming, after her fifth or sixth cranberry-vodka. She was talking to people, laughing and joking with them. I had to drag her away. At this point, I should make some sort of profound observation about how the real world is like high-school. But I can’t clear my mind of the image of a Tupperware/Rolfing party. Overall, Jameelah had a good time and probably felt validated for the choices she made in life. Apparently she was a punk who beat up people and instilled fear in the masses; now she’s a well-regarded teacher. For me, it unblocked some psychological barriers that stemmed from my experience with high school. Namely, I missed out on the joys of drinking.
Visit Huy at his Jagged Noodles blog at www.jaggednoodles.com.