My 30th high school reunion begins as most of the stories of my life do — with an embarrassing moment.
“You have something on the back of your pants,” the young woman at the registration table says. I figure her age to be somewhere between 15 and 17. I will soon learn she is one of the daughters of the reunion organizer, graciously and helpfully volunteering as the Stoughton High School Class of 1980 saunters into the Holiday Inn. And one of us – me, of course – has something foreign and inappropriate stuck to her ass.
I wonder: What could it be? I don’t have my period, I have not peed my pants — have not had nor done either of those things in quite some time. I have not shat myself. I am wearing midnight black pants. Did I sit in a bucket of white flour? Did I eat any mauve-colored yogurt? I’ve been known to fling that stuff around. Is there a big, ugly, sticky glob of undefinable muck on my ass? How bad could it be? I smile at the young lady. I use my fingers to diddle blindly at the back of my pants. I say calmly, coolly to the girl, “I can’t feel anything.”
Her face is red. Mine is middle-aged.
If you’ve been following my blog, you are not surprised to learn that here I am, standing at the threshold of my 30th high school reunion with the first boy (now man) I ever dated by my side as I feel up the back of my ass with my fingers. If you are new to my blog, let it be known to you: This is a typical scenario in my life.
I see that the young lady is mortified but I must ask, “Since I can’t find anything, what is it, then?”
“It’s a price sticker,” she says. She moves toward me, tentative and brave. At that moment, I think she may die from embarrassment. I am amused by this.
“Is that all it is? Oh well.” I am trying to calm her anxiety over my pants. I mean, the things that might have been stuck to my ass (see potential disasters as mentioned above such as bodily fluids, indefinable gunk, shit, wildly flung pink yogurt, etc.) The young lady takes the sticker off for me since I have apparently become helpless in my middle-age. I thank her and smile.
Time to ponder two curious aspects this “something on your” pants incident…
First, I’m not nearly as mortified that something is stuck to my pants as the young woman is who notices it. I joke with her, “As long as it isn’t a sign that says, ‘Kick me.’ Hahahaha.” She does not laugh. Sometimes it’s good to be middle-aged and feeble-minded rather than teenage-ed and sharp-minded. Things sticking to your ass don’t matter anymore, not after all you’ve been through in your life. Colonoscopies. The death of parents. One, two, three or more broken hearts. Bad jobs. Prejudice. Discrimination. Sexual harassment. Bad drug trips. Bad bosses. Bad dates. BAD DATES. What is a sticker on one’s ass after all of that?
Second, I’m perplexed and amused that I had a price tag stuck to the pants. I’ve owned these slacks for two years. I wear them often. Is the price tag something I just picked up recently when I sat down on my bed or in my car? Or have I been walking around wearing these pants with a price tag stuck to the ass for two years? Ha. What a thought. I almost wish it so. I appreciate the irony. I also appreciate the young woman at the reunion registration table for finally pulling that sticker off my ass. She is very sweet.
So, sticker-less and with a presentable pair of slacks, I walk into the reunion.
“CINDY ZELMAN,” a youthful looking man says to me as I walk up to a table, and I swear he doesn’t even peer at my name tag or high school picture, both attached to my sweater. It’s as if, after 30 years, he merely recognizes me. He gives me a big and loving hug. I admit, I have to look at his picture to identify him. I say, “G—! It’s so nice to see you. I can’t believe you even remember me!” He looks better now than he did in high school. I mention something like this to him but with more finesse, “I didn’t recognize you, you look fantastic.” (You hear a lot of that at 30th high school reunions, by the way.) “Yeah, I lost a lot of weight,” he answers. Truly, he looks more boyish now than he did when I met him in seventh grade. I don’t admit this, but I am very touched that he remembers me and seems so happy to see me. I don’t recall very many conversations between us in junior high or high school, but apparently, I made some impression.
Why do you remember me? I want to ask but don’t.
Why do I remember you?
G looks at me and at M—–, the boy (now man) who was my first ever date and has agreed to be my date for tonight’s reunion. G says, “I just had a flashback about the two of you. You were at D.W. Fields Park and I saw you holding hands. I took a picture of you and brought it to school – it was seventh grade – I wanted to give Cindy hard time but all she said was, ‘Nice picture, can I have it?'”
M and I look at one another shaking our heads. We talk later about how we both suspected we’d had second date and we both thought it was at D.W. Fields Park, but now we know it because out of the proverbial blue, G has confirmed this with his memory. He remembered our second date better than we did.
Why do you remember me?
Why do I remember you?
Many of the attendees of my 30th high school reunion looked quite good. At age 48, they’ve held up well, at least the ones who chose to attend. I was most taken by a group of men, G included, who were in my 7th grade smartie-pants-nerdy-some-of-us-might-be-geniuses class. Some of these boys were borderline geeky in those days, too skinny or too fat, definitely too smart, in the way back of the mid-1970s. And yet, here they all are – that particular group of boys, now men – and looking mighty fine. Handsome. Filled out. Slimmed down. Successful. Kind. Charming. Loving. Nice boys who have grown into nice men.
I begin to play the What-If game. What if in junior high and high school, I’d paid more attention to these nice boys rather than dating the bad boys and bad men that I did. (Older men are another subject entirely and for a different blog entry.) What IF I’d dated some of these nice guys for more than two dates. How would my life have turned out differently?
Dear reader, you must realize, if you don’t already know, that I am a lesbian who came out in her twenties in the 1980s. However, at this moment of my 30th class reunion, I am experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and past-life remorse wondering again what I might have missed. I am flashing back to the 1970s without the use of drugs.
WHAT IF I’d dated G or T or S or J or M for REAL, for four years instead of for four days or four weeks, and instead of those sexually obsessed psychopaths I did date? Oh, WHAT IF? Would I have lived the life of glee?
Instead of a life of gay?
Well, okay, we know the truth: if I had dated nicer boys I would have enjoyed high school more (with fewer dicks stuck in my face and more corsages pinned to my prom dresses) but I would have still discovered my lesbianism at age 24.
A lesbian is born, not made. Society may repress her from knowing her true self for decades, but she comes to learn who she is. And while we do not choose our sexuality (nodding to recent public events and debates) my lesbianism is neither greater than nor lesser to anyone’s sexuality. It is what it is: I love women in “that way.” You take my taxes. So let me get married. Stop bullying my children. Stop debating my rights. Stop voting on my life. Stop playing God.
I drift off topic.
I wish I could have fallen in love with one of those nice boys, so I could have felt high school the way so many (although by no means all) kids feel it. With society backing me up and cheering me on. But for those of us who are gay, we don’t have such backing. We didn’t in the 1970s, and too often, we don’t now.
In the end, I did not fall in love with one of those boys, these lovely men who stand before me now at our 30th high school reunion. When I did fall in love in the 1970s, I fell in love with a girl. I kissed a girl decades before Katy Perry was even born. And I meant it. I fell in love with Lynne Simmons – I can say her name fully because no one knows where the hell she is. Does anyone? She was a bad girl. A very bad girl. I wonder if she’s still alive.
Life and death. All we have lived through, those of us at this reunion. Sorrow and joy. The colors in between. Errant things stuck to our asses. Health issues. Children. Lovers. Disasters. Wars. Money. Lack of money. Houses, homes, cats, dogs. Bicycles left out in the rain. All we have lived through and been blessed with, both good and bad. We are alive.
Leading me to my final thoughts on the reunion.
May those we lost from the Class of 1980 Rest In Peace: Kathryn Boyle, Kevin Brown, Paul Francis Callahan Jr., Pamela Camara, David Flanagan, Margaret J. Kiddy, and Shawn Joseph Nonnemacher. Peace to those classmates who may have passed away that we don’t yet know about. And may those young people who have taken their own lives recently rest peacefully also, those we know about and those we don’t. We send you our love. We remember you.