Where did all the ‘Popular Ones’ go?
As the hands of time ticked steadily onwards to the Twenty-Years-After-Leaving-School-Date, I cringed. Someone was bound to suggest the dreaded bloody Reunion Thing. And no way was this girl going to be a part of it! The Facebook page was set up. Bubble and hype abounded. Just about everyone claimed they were ‘Up For It’, and then one day even I found myself saying:
‘Why the hell not then? That was MY school, some of them were MY friends, and that was MY childhood.’
I double checked my reflection in the mirror. All traces of the heavy fringe, side boards, spots, bushy eyebrows, Mr Sheen forehead and acne were gone. And I thanked God for not doing away with my gorgeously full on pout. Rubber Lips may have been my alter-ego back then, but botox I was definitely not having to invest in now. I no longer felt like The Dishwater.
There were 117 pupils in my year group at secondary school. A week before the reunion just 11 (including moi) had confirmed their attendance! Yes, suddenly over 90% of the girls and boys I shared the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations of my school days with, well, they’d mysteriously been sucked into a hole. Suddenly over 90% of them were off on their hols to Tenerife, or had a charity sky dive to fulfill, or they’d emigrated to Australia, or they simply had to attend Great Uncle Norman’s 90th. Or their cars had broken down.
Talk about an anti-climax. Reading between the lines, this self-confessed Self Help Junkie saw it a little differently, and maybe it went something a little like this:
– Some were ashamed of what they had (or hadn’t) achieved. Maybe they never quite made it to Oxbridge after all (as some of them were so highly tipped to). So what? They were probably all the more interesting for it!
– Some had lost their head turning good looks and gained some poundage instead.
– Some had lost hair, grown wrinkles, prefer girls, prefer boys, have baby/marital/un-trusting partner issues – they might just fall for the School Pin Up all over again, leaving the Trouser Wearing Other Half after a couple of beers to sail off into the sunset and start a new life!
Mine was J…. R….. by the way. Who was yours?
And so, as this on-the-face-of-it-quiet-and-unassuming-Taurean sometimes does, I downed a double G & T for Dutch Courage, and told everyone about my little theory, as well as the bullying I endured at school. I also threw in a copy of my life’s CV covering the past twenty years. This was no time for beating about the bush.
We’re talking one MAHOOSIVE essay style ‘Article of Enlightenment’ on the school’s Facebook page…
I also threw in a detailed description of the time I volunteered to be the ‘model’ in Miss Flemming’s art class, after which I was made to peruse the Spitting Image sketches my darling peers had created alongside a backdrop of sniggers and woops… Just for good measure. Which just about everyone who had ever been to that school would see!
And then I switched off my laptop and cried hysterically: ‘You Utter Twit! What have you done?!’
Yet I felt good. I felt like I had done something amazing (in my own little, probably pretty insignificant way). Because what if just 1 person read that and it resonated? What if it motivated just 1 more person to show up at the Beer Fest on the Somerset Levels next Saturday afternoon?
I think it was three days before I dared check for comments. And I was almost blown away by the support when I did. My preach had only officially broken the ice!
Because there was no getting away from it. It had been a bloody long time and we were all bricking it just a little bit. Yep, even the Popular Ones. Because most of us have allowed life to age us; challenge us; weather us. But if we didn’t get our arses together on that village playing field to sit on hay bales and drink beer that Saturday afternoon, then when? When would we ever achieve it?
This was a gathering of celebration, not judgement.
Sure we’d all been on ‘journeys’, but hopefully there were some good bits of our ‘roller coaster rides’ to share with one another, too. Hopefully we could abandon our plans to get the weekly shop at Tesco/Waitrose (lucky us if it’s the latter) to hug old friends; maybe even make some new ones…
And this was a celebration of freedom, too! Twenty years of freedom from a timetable; twenty years of freedom from Mr. Higgins lobbing boxes of bricks in the middle of the floor during Maths and scaring us half-witless; twenty years of freedom from running the 1500 metre track with not so much fire, but a prize-winning stitch in our bellies – or was that just me? Twenty years of freedom from the daily drudgery of morning tutor group (well, I did have Mr Hayes). And to top it all off, we had twenty years of freedom from Mr Gouge’s tin whistle playing in assembly to raise a toast to, too. If that wasn’t worth celebrating over a pint, I don’t know what was?
I may not have convinced the world, but the funny thing was; not only were we Just Seventeen at the school reunion on Beer Fest Day – if you weren’t a girl and a teen in the early nineties, I can’t be bothered to explain the reason that number is in italics – but only the Loveliest People turned up, aka The Non Bullies. And when you grow up, you practice a little Self Help – or a bit of Ye Old Fashioned Common Sense – and you come to realise that the bullies were only ever deflecting from their own inadequacies anyway.
Funny that. Perhaps this was their turn to feel like The Dishwater?