Saturday, October 23, 2010

History repeating

My five-year college reunion was last night, and I got suckered into going by some passive-aggressive peer pressure and, most importantly, the fact that it was at the pub directly across the street from my apartment. I had absolutely no excuse to avoid it, and – as one is – I was mildly interested to see who showed up. Alumni events have a tradition of being sparsely attended, but a respectable number of people had RSVP’d, so I girded my proverbial loins and registered.

Judging by this one – being my first reunion and all – these things are fun for about the first hour. You see people you haven’t seen in five years, meet a few “new” ones (or, well, you’re apparently new to them, despite the fact that you saw them at the dining hall daily for four years), track down the few people you do care about seeing, and reminisce with the smattering of fellow Londoners from your semester abroad. That all takes an hour or so. And then suddenly it’s nearly three hours since you arrived and you’re with your usual friends at your usual table at your neighborhood pub with the musician playing his usual lineup of songs (various Irish tunes, “Hey Jude,” “Sweet Caroline,” “Country Roads,” and that one Irish song that you’ve never quite learned the words to, but it involves clapping and gets your London friends hollering, all “Hey! Guys! Remember this from Killarney?!"). And then you’re ready to go home.

The thing about reunions is that nothing has changed. The Mean Girls (specifically, a Bert-and-Ernie pair with the same first name and last names both beginning with “McK”) are still the Mean Girls. The old social groups start to reemerge, separating like oil and water, once the novelty of “Hey, I remember you!” has worn off. The two guys who wrote point/counterpoint pieces for the campus paper are in intense discussion at the bar, one with a beer and the other with a martini (dirty, two olives), one now writing for the Washington Post and the other a former Giuliani staffer. The clingy guy you tried desperately to avoid for four years (and still do, occasionally, when you spot him on the Metro) inevitably appears at your elbow, and one by one, people around you “spot friends across the room” or “need another drink” and flee. It’s all weirdly, yet unsurprisingly, the same.

Except that Mean Girl #2 has gained 15 pounds. So, you know, small victories.