I just went to my high school reunion and I actually had fun. Why am I surprised? Because, in the realm of conflicting emotions, my feelings about school reunions rank way up there.
With family reunions, I’m all in, volunteering to host and help organize, wearing the T-shirt Uncle Bubba designed, jumping up to get the Slide started (Electric, Cha-Cha, Step, Wobble… you name it), and rallying the little kids to entertain and love up on their elders—especially the toothless ones. But revisiting folks from the good old alma mater? Not so much.
Maybe my resistance has to do with the kinds of schools I attended. My graduate program was one-year long. Ten months to be exact; that’s how long it took to earn a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. Was it an intense 10 months? Unbelievably! Did I have good times and make great friends? Absolutely, and a few have even stayed close through the years. But it was such a brief moment in time, at the end of which we all dove into careers and the pursuit of real adulthood, that I’ve never gone back. Not once. Maybe I will this year (of course, I’ve said that every year).
My undergraduate school, Smith College, was also atypical. It was all women, mostly White, and while I got an exceptional education, am a very proud alumnus, and avid supporter of the school, I was deeply conflicted about it as a student. In fact, I spent my junior year at Spelman College and that still stands out as not only my best college year, but also one of the best years of my life. So, while I’ve visited Smith for many reasons since graduating, I’ve attended only one Smith reunion.
Then there’s high school. Bronx High School of Science is, as its name implies, specialized, emphasizing not only the sciences, but also high level academics in general. We had no football team, no pep rallies, and no School Spirit Day. We passed a test to gain admittance, so kids came from all over New York City, not from one neighborhood where we’d all gone to elementary school together or where we could all hang out on Friday nights. We were a diverse collection of teenagers more than 800 strong (in my class alone) who endured rigorous classes and enjoyed reputations for being smart. We had a prom, but only a small fraction of the class attended; my Black classmates and I gathered at Bentley’s, a Black club in Manhattan, instead.