News and Tribune

July 30, 2013

BEAM: The early bird dinner club

By AMANDA BEAM
Local columnist

This isn’t a story about redemption. Yet, at least according to the movies, the Jeffersonville High School class of 1993 reunion should have been just that. 

Look at “Grosse Pointe Blank,” or “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion” or even “The Big Chill.” In those flicks, the act of getting back together with old classmates always ended fantastically. 

The geeky underdogs prevailed. Snotty girls and cruel jocks got their comeuppance. Like in a John Hughes film, a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal all realize that they’re more than their labels and that they’re not so different after all. 

In the cinema, that one special night long after graduation always trumped the 1,460 mostly mundane days of high school years that each one of us had tolerated to get here. 

If you haven’t noticed, I’m not a screenwriter. While I’d love to transform our reunion into a monumental action extravaganza that would have Michael Bay foaming at the mouth to direct, that little troublemaker called reality unfortunately once again has tied the hands of this fanciful columnist. 

No helicopters carrying filthy rich nerds landed at Wick’s Pizza on Friday night. Few, if any, of the Red Devil alumni have killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. And I doubt highly that a baby was conceived by any old friends at the end of the night. 

Although, after witnessing some public displays of affection that would have surely earned a visit to the principal’s office, there’s always a chance that I’ll be proven wrong on that last one. 

Even without the theatrics, 20 years can change a person all the same. A few flashes of gray hairs have now replaced our bouffanted bangs of the ’80s. Instead of acne ointments, remnants of correcting creams could be seen after having just been lathered on our aging skin with a feverish delight. 

Children, and in some instances grandchildren, have fundamentally altered the way we perceive the world. Jobs and lovers and just plain living have added layers of learning to our former selves, begging the question of if underneath it all we’re still not the same stupid, young kids from all those years ago, albeit with a little bit more weight and a lot more experience.

Some things still stayed the same. Old cliques endured basically unaltered. A reversion of sorts occurred, transporting us back to the social realm that a lot of us tried so desperately to escape. Intoxication quelled these insecurities for some. Heels and dresses cast a calming spell for others. Good friends that always understood the real you made the night worthwhile.

Other than distance or scheduling conflicts, not participating in this masquerade ball was the biggest reason classmates said they chose not to come that night. These alum didn’t want to pretend that high school was a happy time for them, and the chance that maybe, even now, their lives wouldn’t measure up to their ‘93 selves. 

A few refused to remember the past, and rested happily in the present, content to allow their reunion to happen daily through the digital world of Facebook rather than the wooden floors of a New Albany pizza joint. 

Assumptions like these are universal. A commercial for Kia represents the idea well.

“Remember that girl you didn’t notice in high school?” the ad asks as a leggy brunette exits her car while men at her reunion ogle. “We’re a lot like that.”

And for those of us who remained out of the high school spotlight, that’s the Hollywood magic we craved. That somehow now we’re better than the person we were our senior year. That others were mistaken in their assumptions of our worth and value. That, due to all these life changes, we now fit in. 

At the end of the night though, after the ’93 grads stumbled away from the closing bar doors, the grand notion of redemption was shattered like the emptied beer bottles in the trash. In all truthfulness, it wasn’t what was sought after when some of us attended the event in the first place. 

All that was really wanted was a basic reaffirmation that who we were, even during our teenage years, wasn’t so bad to begin with. 

— Amanda Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at hoosiermandyblog@gmail.com