Some thoughts on going to my husband’s high school reunion

August 4, 2008 | On a Lighter Note | 32 comments

Due to lack of time I’ll skip any efforts at charity or optimism and just come out and say it: is there anything worse than going to your spouse’s high school reunion?

The purpose for our visit to Houston this weekend was to attend my husband’s 20th high school reunion. To be honest, I was not looking forward to it, but I did try to be as positive about it as possible. Often when we attend social events in which the circumstances seem to offer a perfect storm of social awkwardness opportunities for me, I try to look at it as if I am a missionary, being sent by God to perhaps spread the Good News, or just bring a little happiness and peace to someone’s day. In the past when I have prayed for God to help me see social events as an opportunity to do his work, it’s been surprisingly effective: I always end up feeling peaceful about the event, and almost always end up with some kind of clear opportunity for evangelization, e.g. ending up randomly sitting next to someone who is searching for God and wants to talk about it, or something like that.

So as we walked into the dance hall of the barbecue restaurant on Saturday evening, I did my best to maintain a positive attitude and see the evening as nothing but one, big opportunity to do God’s will!

Almost immediately I got separated from my husband when he got called away from the group we were standing in before the introductions were finished. “NICE TO MEET YOU! I SAID… NICE…TO…MEET…YOU, ” I attempted to yell over Guns N’ Roses Welcome to the Jungle. Luckily a Whitesnake power ballad came on next, which made it a bit easier to at least hear one another’s names.

It only took a few of these interactions for me to realize: people did not pay $160 to come to this reunion to talk to their high school friends’ spouses (yes, I said $160 — long story — we got a big discount, which was the only reason we were there). Even the spouses didn’t want to talk to the spouses.

At one point, after my husband was yet again called away in mid-conversation, I found myself standing next to a guy who knew my husband from swim team. The way his eyes desperately scanned the room as he shouted some conversation about what elementary school his kids attend made me worry that he was actually going to grab the next passer-by and beg them to rescue him from this conversation. I imagined myself gently taking him by the hand and saying:

“We are only standing here together because my husband, WHO WILL HEAR ABOUT THIS LATER, wandered off in the middle of the conversation, leaving us to fend for ourselves. I realize that these initial efforts at chit-chat have exposed the fact that we have absolutely nothing in common, and that you wanted to talk to my husband and not me anyway. I want you to know that I am OK with that. Ah, I see that the DJ just put on Young MC’s Bust a Move, and even seems to have turned up the volume for the occasion. Why don’t we just sit here quietly and enjoy the 80’s-themed ambiance together?”

That little speech would have undoubtedly brought the guy great relief, but he probably would have only heard every third word over the music anyway.

The one highlight of the evening was seeing how much everyone adored my husband. I had forgotten that he was voted Most Popular out of his class of 600+ people, and had a reputation for being a very smart, fun, kind person. After the umpteenth person came up to grab him by the arm and gush something like, “It is SOOO good to see you! I remember you so well from high school: you were as humble as you were brilliant. I’ll never forget how much you helped me when I was struggling in [name of class they shared together], ” I couldn’t help but contrasting that to the reactions I would undoubtedly get if I were to attend my own high school reunion. After musing about it for a while, I decided that the top five reactions to my attendance at a high school reunion would be:

  1. “You’re still alive?”
  2. “Why are you here? Did you lose a bet?”
  3. “Your hair is so different! It’s not green or blue or purple anymore.”
  4. “Is that you, Jen? I didn’t recognize you without a disdainful scowl on your face!”
  5. “I remember the last time we talked you were saying how much you hated this town, this school, this class and you were lamenting the difficulty of being surrounded by such a bunch of conservative, religious fools. So what’s new?”

As you can guess, being voted Most Popular in our high school class is not something my husband and I have in common.

My envy for people whose spouses were homeschooled reached an apex as I sat next to the bar, mercifully alone, and tried to figure out whether I thought the moves of the alumni on the dance floor were more offensive or intriguing. Just then one of our acquaintances walked up to say hello, a guy I’ve met on a few other occasions. When he got closer I saw by the look in his slightly bloodshot eyes that the beer he was holding was probably not his first (or his second, third, fourth or fifth). He made a sweeping motion towards the crowd in front of us, and announced, “I’ve ****** every chick here” (“******” being a vulgar colloquialism referring to intimate relations). And the conversation went downhill from there.

I believe that that was the exact moment when I gave up on trying to see this event as a mission to spread the Good News. Against the backdrop of Aerosmith and Debbie Gibson, I pondered once again the notion that every moment is an opportunity to do God’s will. As our acquaintance informed me that he was “totally f****** shredding fools” in some MySpace-reated competition, just as a couple almost stumbled into us when their grinding dance moves left them off balance, I realized that this was an opportunity to accept on faith that this is true. With my limited human intellect, it may be tempting to think that the inanity of this moment overpowered even God’s ability to use this situation for his glory, and yet my faith tells me that that’s not the case. Though I might not see how, I do believe that God can ultimately use all moments for his glory, even when those moments involve drunken proclamations, freaky dancefloor escapades, and have loud 80’s music blaring in the background.

32 Comments

  1. mrsdarwin

    God never uses 80’s music for his glory, and someone should have told that to all the retreat directors who thought “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was the most awesome song ever. And the song about “did you ever know that you’re my hero”.

  2. Tausign

    Here’s a short sum to today’s meditation from a 31 day devotional: “Reflect that the world is a deceiver and only knows how to give bitterness even when it promises pleasures and triumphs.”

  3. Heather

    While having a homeschooled spouse does save me from attending high school reunions, it is not all roses. I spent the beginning years of our marriage teaching hubby what he should have learned in high school. Since he didn’t interact with peers as a teen, he was completely inept on picking up body language, artistic exaggeration and sarcasm in conversations. Naturally, he married someone who does all of this frequently. We had many interesting conversations those first few years!

  4. Bender

    I was just happy that most folks that I knew in school knew who I was at my reunion — which meant that I still looked pretty much the same (without the head of hippie-hair, of course), even if a few pounds heavier. As for the others, the girls all looked the same and were instantly recognizable, but most of the guys looked completely different and I would not have known them were it not for the name tags.

    But even when we were in school, I didn’t have a lot to say to 80 percent of the people (class of 600), and so for most of the folks there at the reunion, I was pretty much in the same boat as the spouses — not much to say to most of the folks. That, and I got over the party/reception/bar scene (i.e. hanging out with total strangers) long ago. So, I’m sure you had a lot of sympathetic people there with you Jennifer.

    Now, our music wasn’t nearly that loud. And we had a picnic for families that same weekend, which was much more conducive to simply hanging out and not feeling as if you had to “perform” or “entertain” people.

    I don’t know if I’ll go again next time, but it was fairly interesting to see some of the folks that I hadn’t even thought of for years and years.

  5. Christine the Soccer Mom

    Oh, Jen, I’ll have to save this to share with Travel Man when he changes into Soccer Dad again later this week. His 20 year reunion was last summer (middle of Kansas, total class population was 50, half were there), and mine is in November (Jersey Shore, total class population was 400, we’ll see how many go).

    But, once again, my girls hear me chuckling aloud and want to know what’s so funny. Happens most times I read your blog. 🙂

  6. The Wade's

    The whole point of my 10 year class reunion was to show me what prom would have been like had alcohol been served!

  7. amy

    My 20th high school reunion was this year. I didn’t go, wanting to skip the “storm of social awkwardness opportunities,” as you put it.

    “So, after I got my PhD, I took a job overseas for blah blah blah… What sort of work do you do, Amy? A house-what?” (awkward silence follows when my fellow classmates realize that I have no thrilling tales of adventure to share, unless one considers how to get silly putty out of fabric an adventure story).

    Didn’t much care for high school then; can’t imagine I’d enjoy a recap of it now… Your post confirms for me that my decision was a wise one. Luckily, Hubby feels the same way, so I won’t have to endure his reunions, either.

  8. Jane @ What About Mom?

    I've missed my 5 & 10 year reunions (as has Dick). Reading your post made me even gladder, though sometimes the nostalgia bug bites.

    I appreciated that you let the post end on a note of faith expectant rather than fulfilled. Woulda been a bit of a letdown if you'd converted someone in the last paragraph.

    Thanks!

  9. Carrien

    I suspect that God is able to do more with the empty, lonely, hungover feeling that the morning after such an event may produce than the event itself.

    I never want to go to my high school reunion.

    And my husband was home schooled so I go to his school reunions every weekend when we visit his family. He was valedictorian. 🙂 But not most popular.

  10. Melanie B

    Pretty much the same thing happened with me when I went with my husband to his reunion. Except we had left the baby and my sister at his brother’s house and so had a perfect excuse to duck out early. When we left, after having been there for TOO LONG people were still milling about in the foyer and no one had yet migrated to the actual hall. So no dancing, no dinner, just lots of trying to yell over music that was too loud to people whose disinterest in chatting with me was mutual.

  11. Barb

    My last high school reunion was awful too and I will probably never go to another…as least for a long time. In situations like that, when I feel that I can’t have any direct impact on a person spiritually, I do always say a prayer in my mind for that person. I figure that may be the only good I can do in the situation and it surely can’t hurt.
    Sometimes, God can put someone in our life just for a brief moment just so we can pray for them.

  12. Creative Clayer

    I was the bartender at what would have been my husband’s 10 year reunion, had he graduated. (He is not cut out for classroom education and dropped out to pursue a career) He was the chef (see how that worked out?) It was humorous to see how much more mature my husband was/is compared to those in his class.

    My 10 year reunion is in 2011. That gives me…what? around 3 years to drop ~100 lbs? 😉

  13. SuburbanCorrespondent

    Just for general information purposes, most (almost all) homeschoolers do interact with peers regularly, just not for 35 hours or more a week. And Heather’s husband going to high school with his peers may not have resulted in a guy adept at picking up on body language and sarcasm – it might have resulted in someone with much lower self-esteem because he couldn’t manage to do same.

    I think what homeschoolers do miss is a true understanding of what it means when someone says, “Oh, that is so high school!” Lucky them…

  14. Shannon

    I’ve passed up all invitations to my high school reunion (class of ’71). I wouldn’t mind getting together with my high school drama buddies, but the class in general? No way. I left town 2 weeks after my 18th birthday. Went back a few times because some family still lived in the area, but when I took any pictures, they were all in black and white! That’s how I remember that place. Yuck.

    On the other hand, I have gone to a couple of reunions of kids I’ve taught. The 20th reunion of the class of ’84 was fun. One woman was there with her first grandchild. One of her classmates showed up with her newborn…

  15. Marcie

    That could have been my blog post exactly. I also have a stunningly handsome and brilliant husband. Sadly (or…happily) I didn’t even get invited to my high school reunion!

  16. Abigail

    So funny! I’m glad all of your anguish got us some good prose.

  17. Anonymous

    Jen—
    Your experience may not have been to share the Gospel….maybe it was martyrdom? A penance? Shaving a few years off purgatory? Suffering should never be without a purpose. Offer it up for the poor souls!
    Heehee. I forgot how ‘cool’ the music was in the ’80’s.
    Jen in OK

  18. Sandy

    Your post describes perfectly my experience at my husband’s most recent class reunion in 2006. It was (gasp!) his 40th. I have been to his 20th, 25th, 30th and 40th. Ugh. We moved back to his small hometown when we married so I always know quite a few people at the reunions. I wasn’t really dreading the 40th, but found it was the worst for “people who are here to catch up on people they graduated from school with in 1966 aren’t here to make small talk with spouses”. I told my husband I was never going to another reunion with him. Most of his classmates came without spouses. At one point, I sat for an hour (literally!) at a table by myself, when finally another spouse walked up and started a conversation. That was the highlight of my evening.

    I guess the only consolation for me is that 60s music is soooo much better than 80s music.

  19. Sarahndipity

    My 10-year high school reunion is in October. I’m actually really looking forward to it. I can’t wait to see how everyone turned out. I can understand how going to your spouse’s reunion wouldn’t be much fun, though.

  20. Paula

    My dh just got home from his 20th reunion in WV yesterday. I was supposed to go with him but we decided the (9 hour) trip with four children (2 of which are 2 and under) was too much. I’m glad I stayed home. He had a great time and was able to have some really good conversations. After getting home he asked me if I would want to go to mine. I just laughed. I grew up in England and I don’t think the Upper schools even have reunions! And after moving to the States, I lost contact with the few people I had tried to stay in touch with through college. I don’t think it would be worth the cost of the airfare to go, even if such an event were to be organised. Then when I read your list Jen, I laughed again because mine would be similar. My classmates would remember me as someone who was very negative, anti-God (not that they were particularly for Him, but still), and would also be surprised that I’ve lived this long.

  21. Meredith

    I could not make myself go to my 10th high school reunion. Could not face the questions of why “most likely to succeed” was just a housewife with a toddler.

    It has taken me a few years to work through that.

    You and I might have been friends in high school. I was the one who addressed our football stadium with the news that God could be a woman–called the ACLU about the school-led prayer planned for the invocation.

  22. Multiple Mom T

    DH and I went to the same high school, so problem solved. I was, however, a little bit different back then (was actually disappointed that I didn’t get voted the biggest flirt). Went to the 5th and 10th. Waste of time. 15th I had new triplets at home and 20th (last fall) couldn’t afford to both go to the reunion AND pay for the babysitter. We’re planning on going to the 25th. I think. Watching other people get drunk is not high on my list of favorite things.

  23. Jennifer L. Griffith

    Jennifer,

    I followed your comment from Rachelle’s blog and found your testimony amazing. Many people think that Christians are believers because of their family or upbringing. That they always believed on some level before their surrender. My pastor grew up in an atheist home and surrendered his life to the Lord at 22 after his older brother shared with him. I LOVE these kind of stories that only God could write. We all go from void to full when we receive Jesus as our Savior, but there’s something about this kind of “void”.

    “Though I might not see how, I do believe that God can ultimately use all moments for his glory, even when those moments involve drunken proclamations, freaky dancefloor escapades, and have loud 80’s music blaring in the background.”

    You’re right…God uses it all, and sometimes its about “us,” reminding His children what life looks like without Him. But “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12) Those powers knew that you carried the Holy Spirit into his arena…you (and God) had more impact that you’ll ever know.

    When I attended my 20 yr reunion, I was pleasantly surprised by all who had surrendered their life to Jesus. It was really cool. Those who hadn’t, boy did I share and share…but I grew up with them which offered a conduit in some respects.

    Thanks for sharing. Your blog is a delight.

  24. Jennifer

    Hilarious post.

    But I have to take exception to the comment about 80s music–Mister Mister and U2 have both moved me on Retreats when I was a teen.

    So THERE.

    And Jen–I don’t know if someone said this (this is lazy comment boxing). You were doing God’s will by being a good wife and supportive of your husband.

  25. Sharon

    $160?!
    Dang. You’re a nice person.

    I thought it might be nice to go to mine for the 10 year reunion, but I went to a very small school-there was only 10 in my class.
    I don’t think I’d be willing to pay $160 for it, though!

    Btw, Heather’s comment cracked me up!

  26. Grafted Branch@Restoring the Years

    I went to my 10, out of curiosity. Everyone seemed puffy–including me.
    Not FAT, just puffy.

    I skipped my 20 year reunion because I saw the pictures from the class before me and thought that at 38, everyone’s vain attempt at recapturing their lustful youth was just…well…disgusting. Or maybe that’s just in the Phoenix metro area. lol.

    Oh, and I have to answer Heather’s comment that her husband was inept because he was homeschooled. You can’t blame that on homeschool. It’s more common, in my experience, that home educated students–regardless of their level of peer interaction–are better able to relate to all ages! With eye contact, acceptance and a smile.

  27. Tom in Vegas

    “[I]s there anything worse than going to your spouse’s high school reunion?”

    Yes. Your own.

  28. Cheryl

    I really enjoyed this post. I wish I had your great attitude when going to all the weddings we attended in the 90’s. My husband’s 20th reunion is this Saturday. (I think he was voted most friendly. So I can relate to fending for myself at social functions.) Anyway, I’m not attending. My excuse is that I can’t bring, or leave behind our three week old daughter. I’m looking forward to his reunion being over so that he won’t be planning it anymore.

  29. majellamom

    I’m telling you…it probably could have been worse…at least you had the 80s music to deflect from making conversation.

    At my hubby’s reunion (10 year, several years ago now), we had about 40 people (his class had about 40 some), no nametags, and several people going through messy divorces or showing up with a third husband 25 years senior…

    I ended up having my ear talked off by a poor drunk guy who had his son with him and got to hear all about his divorce…

    That reinforced my desire to NEVER attend a class reunion. I missed mine (did I say missed?)

    And, people probably WOULD recognize me at a reunion by the sneer on my face, because I’m pretty sure I couldn’t smile my way through one.

    Next time, hubby is on his own!

  30. Anonymous

    I am appalled at you people. Do you really hate your once-dear friends that much? Did you have no-one you remembered fondly that you wanted to see again? Why do you see only the bitterness of comparing waistlines and wallets, and overlook the opportunity to rekindle great relationships, to laugh and remember the fun times – even if only for a few minutes! I had a super time at my reunions, and as far as I could tell, most everyone who attended also did. At my 20-year I had TWO wonderful conversations with guys I HAD NEVER SPOKEN WITH in high school. Now I’m organizing my 30-year — voluntarily — and am having a great time hearing insider stories that people WANT to tell about their lives and how good God has been to them. Maybe it makes a difference to have gone to a Christian high school, like I did. For shame, all of you. I’ve never heard so much self-pitying drivel.

  31. classOf78

    I am appalled at you people who vilify your own reunions. Do you really hate your once-dear friends that much? Did you have NO-ONE you remembered fondly that you wanted to see again? Why do you see only the bitterness of comparing waistlines and wallets, and overlook the opportunity to rekindle great relationships, to laugh and remember the fun times – even if only for a few minutes?!? I had a terrific time at my reunions, and as far as I could tell, most everyone who attended also did. At my 20-year I had TWO wonderful conversations with guys I HAD NEVER SPOKEN WITH in high school. Now I’m organizing my 30-year — voluntarily — and am having a great time hearing insider stories that people WANT to tell about their lives and how good God has been to them. Maybe it makes a difference to have gone to a Christian high school, like I did. For shame, all of you. I’ve never heard so much self-pitying drivel.

  32. Karen

    Really well-written post. Thanks for all the comments, everyone, to help me prepare for my (gulp) 30 year reunion in May. So I won't be able to get a more successful job by then, but I'll have my husband of almost 24 years by my side, and that's a success in itself, these days.

    And Yes, God does use 80's music for his glory, to show us all to aspire to better!

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