My mind has been wandering into thoughts of getting older ever since I received an e-mail reminding me that 2023 will mark the 50th anniversary of my graduation from high school.
I was driving in Seattle traffic one rainy night last week when I found myself turning down the volume on my car stereo so I could see better. I realized at that moment that I was no longer a young person. There are undoubtedly things about growing older that are good. Obviously growing older beats the alternative, and there are real, tangible benefits to aging. Senior discounts, for example. Taking naps and going to bed early whenever you feel like it.
Skipping exercise if it’s raining outside. (Here’s a pro tip about exercising: if you stop calling your bathroom the “John” and instead start calling it the “Jim,” you can tell your friends that you start every day off by going to the Jim). Another benefit of aging — now that my memory is getting so bad, I can successfully plan my own surprise birthday parties.
Truthfully, I don’t think I would want to be a young person today. When I think about some of the truly stupid things I did when I was in high school, I am grateful that I was a teenager before Al Gore invented the internet, and therefore neither my knuckleheaded antics nor my naked posterior was ever captured for posterity on a cellphone.
I don’t know about you, but I did not have a terrific high school experience. It seemed to me that I was attending a school for emotionally disturbed teachers. I went to a public school, which at one point considered requiring all students to wear uniforms in order to create a safe, stable environment — you know, like the Post Office.
As far as I know, my high school has been holding semi-regular reunions for my graduating class since 1973. I went to my 10-year reunion, and the event left such a bad taste in my mouth that I have not been to another one since. I won’t go into details, but let me just say there was dancing involved. But a 50th high school reunion seems like it might be a special moment in one’s life worth celebrating, sort of like a first communion, a first kiss, or perhaps getting out of jail early.
I keep in touch with a small but close-knit group of my old high school friends. Several of them have now passed on, and the rest of us don’t get together as often as we used to. But in talking to some of them recently there was surprising support for the idea of all of us going to our 50th Reunion together.
I was defending the opposing side of the argument — why would I go all the way to California to see a bunch of old people face-to-face when I have already unfriended most of them at one time or another on Facebook? (For the record, I have nothing against Facebook. Browsing the internet and connecting with old friends is a fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon. It’s much like some of my hobbies as a kid, such as collecting baseball cards. But I didn’t look at my card collection every six minutes.)
I still haven’t decided if I’ll go to my 50th reunion or not. On the one hand, I think I’d have to actually run all the way there in order to lose the 20 pounds I need to shed before I’ll let any of those losers I graduated with see me. And I’ll need to color my hair and spend some time in the real gym. It might be cheaper just to pay my son to go in my place and claim to be me.
On the other hand, not only do I still fit into the T-shirts I wore in high school, but I still own and occasionally wear many of them. Not on windy or rainy days, however, for fear that the shirts would be reduced to cotton confetti. If I do go, I’m planning on making my own custom nametag that says in very large type: “Hello, I Can’t Remember Your Name Either.”
On the third hand, there is nothing that makes you feel younger than being in the presence of those who knew you when you were actually young. The late Frank Zappa famously said “high school is not a place; it’s a state of mind.” Perhaps that is the lure of attending a high school reunion, a chance to return to a state of mind where there is no COVID, no Twitter, no war in Ukraine, and where just being an “Instagram Influencer” or a Kardashian is not considered a legitimate vocation. Who wouldn’t want to live in that world, even if it only lasts one night?
Tom Tyner writes a weekly humor column for this newspaper.