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Reliving the Memories

Malkie Schulman

Every year, more than 27 million people in the US attend class reunions, whether it’s for a 10-year or 50-year trip down memory lane. How to prepare yourself for these events, how to avoid awkward moments, plus tips for planning a reunion for your own class.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

reunion “I was so excited for my sixth-year reunion. I hadn’t seen many of my classmates since my wedding,” Elisheva shares. “My friends and I sat down at a table when Malka — tall, thin, charismatic Malka, who always had a knot of fawning friends surrounding her — sat down to join us. My heart skipped a beat because she had unwittingly seated herself next to Roizy.

“Roizy was the slightly nerdy, plump girl in high school. Most girls tried to be nice to her, but she rubbed Malka the wrong way, and Malka kept Roizy out of her social circle.

“Now here they were sitting next to each other,” Elisheva recalls. “Roizy smiled and chirped a friendly hello. I held my breath, wondering how these six years would change the scene. Malka simply nodded, smiled thinly, and went on to share excited greetings with the rest of us. She didn’t so much as acknowledge Roizy’s presence. Once again, she was ignoring and humiliating her.”

Whether it’s been five or 50 years since high school, things have a way of repeating themselves at class reunions — which, as in Roizy’s case, can be excruciating. Batsheva, who graduated 30 years ago, has seen the same “nothing changes” phenomenon at her class reunions but she laughs as she talks about it.

“In school, I was the cute, funny kid,” she says. “I’ve evolved and matured over the years. But when I get together with my old friends, I feel as if they’re still looking at me that way. One time, a girl who used to tease me in high school tried to tease me again. I just laughed and made a joke and thought, Wow ... things don’t change.

“Even now that I’m a school principal,” continues Batsheva, “you’d think one of my old classmates would acknowledge that fact. But nope. There’s a girl in our class who’s a respected psychotherapist. I am the only one who ever made mention of her accomplishment. It’s like there’s an unspoken agreement among the girls to lock each of us into our 15-year-old persona.”

Despite this drawback, Batsheva still makes an effort to attend all of her class reunions. “It’s still fun seeing old friends, and we always laugh a lot,” she says.

Batsheva is one of an astounding 27 million people in the USwho attend class reunions annually. What compels alumni to show up? That’s a question that intrigued Douglas Lamb and Glenn Reeder; the two doctors conducted a study on why people attend class reunions and published their results in Psychology Today.

Nearly eight out of every ten people in the study ranked “to renew old friendships” as the most important reason they attended their class reunion. The runner-up reason was to reminisce — to relive the fun experienced in high school. “It’s like having the best of childhood return,” remarked one woman, who had graduated 36 years earlier. Interestingly, only two out of every ten attendees came looking for changes — for instance, to see how others had changed, to talk over life’s changes, or to have people see the way they had changed.


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