Learning through Laughter

Bob Owen, Humorist

My 40th high school reunion has come and gone – a few years ago.  I didn’t go to every class reunion since graduating, but I went enough to notice a difference in how we judged each other over the years.   

The 10-year version was fun enough, but I think most of us were still trying out our self-confidence and were still concerned about what people might think about “where we were in life.”   As a result, we still seemed to gravitate to our familiar groups and buddies that we knew back when.  And, we complimented each other openly.  “Wow, Susan, looks fantastic.”  Or “Larry is doing well.  He has his own engineering company in Texas.”  Or “Look at Tyrone.  He bought into a fitness gym and is a physical trainer.”   

Another 10-20 years, and the groups attending changed a bit.  Some of those stars who never seemed to fade in high school had found out that life had a bit more tarnish when you were fighting your work and family battles away from home.  And, others of us didn’t feel the connection with high school buddies we once did and used work and family scheduling as excuses not to attend.

But, the 40th celebration was awesome.  Completely unexpected.  People came out of the woodwork.  We all had worked ourselves through the uglies and pretties of life, the downsizings, the failures of various kinds, and we had emerged.  Battled but not torn.  We were beautiful.  We were confident.  And we were in our prime.

Geeks in high school weren’t geeks any more.  Stars in high school weren’t stars any more.  And, the real beauty, clicks didn’t exist any more.  People who wouldn’t give other people the time of day in high school were hugging and laughing and having a great time together.  We weren’t sucking in our bellies.  We weren’t lying about our jobs.  We weren’t showing pictures of our houses and our cars.

We were comfortable with ourselves.  I’ll always remember my Dad saying:  “When I was a teenager, I worried about what others said about me.  When I was in my 30s and 40s, I didn’t care what others said about me.  When I was in 50s and 60s, heck, I realize they weren’t talking about me at all.”

That’s where we were.  Wherever we were in our lives, there were several someones in the same boat.  Those of us who survived downsizings at companies where we had worked for decades, found that many of the others were in the same situation.  Those of us who had added a few pounds in high school found others shared our fate.

The whole weekend made me look at friendships in a different way.  My wife described it best.  “These were people you grew up with and spent the first 18 years of your life with.  Do you realize a lot of people don’t have that.  That creates a bond you can’t and don’t want to break.”

Bobby Sue and Gary were always close friends of mine, and that relationship has stayed.  But in planning for the reunion, I rediscovered Pat.  I knew her in high school. (We only had 70 or 80 in our class.)  But, we never “hung out” together.  Now we stay in touch regularly.  And, one young lady who wouldn’t give me the time of day “back then,” sat in my lap, planted a kiss, and said, “you look wonderful.  You haven’t aged more than 30 or 35 years.”

No body talked about anyone else, because we were too busy pointing out our own deficiencies.  One buddy who was the stereotypical good looking athlete girls chased had “matured” rather significantly – to the tune of an additional 50 pounds.  As he made his entrance, he announced, “Last year I bought a pizza parlor and have been eating my profits.”  We laughed.  But no judged.

I told continuous bald jokes on myself.   Betty talked about wrinkles and other maladies of age.  We all laughed.  But no one judged.

We all accepted ourselves as we were, and we were NOT intimidated or envious of any one else.

Until Tommy arrived!  There’s always a Tommy.  Tommy was senior class president, and when he walked into the room, he still had the same comfortable, casual gait he had in high school. He still had the natural ability to say just exactly the right thing to everyone. People gravitated to him.  After all these years.  His dark hair was lightly salted with some white, but it made him look distinguished. Some of the girls declared, “quite sexy.”

It gets worse.  He was still in great physical shape, probably not weighing one pound more than he did in high school.  He was disgusting.  Most of us had aged “well.”  Tommy showed few signs of aging at all.  When he made the comment that he was still the same size as in high school, he was booed out of the room.

Never missing a moment to tease someone, I rushed up to him, patted him on the back and said loud enough for everyone to hear, “Tommy, I was so glad you beat that felony charge.”

And you know what he had the NERVE to do.  He hugged me and said, “I was hoping you would be here.  We need to catch up.”

It’s one thing to still look great after 40 years.  But, to keep the same gracious personality is obscene.

Date of Blog Story: 
October 16, 2007

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