The Real World is Just Like High School (except for the bits with the Chicken Dance in)

After several years spent forging a new life for yourself in a new city, there’s nothing quite like catching up with old high school friends to go some way towards closing the divide between your old life and your new, and reminding you of where you’ve come from. Especially when they’re old friends who have known you since you were 12 and have dozens of incriminatingly dinky sleepover photos featuring yourself.

On Saturday night I attended the 21st birthday party of Susan, a friend from my first high school. I was unsure as to what to expect, since I haven’t seen Susan for about two years, I didn’t know which other old friends would be there, and it was at the Glenferrie Hotel, where I’d never been before but Stu groaned when he learned where it was (I might add that after experiencing it, I hope to never do so again, but that’s a whole other rant).

I was more nervous than I probably needed to be. See, I left that high school at the end of Year Ten for another. Some bad shit had gone down for me personally (culminating in a nervous breakdown on my part) in the last few months of that year, and I never really talked about it with most of my friends. It impacted my friendships as going crazy and not talking to friends and all but dropping out of school kind of does, but by the end of the year, most things seemed to have been resolved. Then I changed schools and gradually lost touch with most of my old friends. We’ve always stayed friendly to some degree, but time and distance and the fact that I had never really explained what happened to me in those hellish months preyed on my mind and my inclination to keep in contact. There’s a lot of stagnant water under my personal bridge that I wish would move along, and sometimes I link it to people who were a part of my life in those particular times, like some people link songs to events in their life. It’s not fair on these friends of mine and it makes things a lot more difficult for me.

Wow. That was oblique. Sorry. This is what happens when you feel the need to give background on something but contains a lot of stuff you don’t really want to write about on a public weblog. Maybe one day. At any rate, this is my long-winded way of explaining that I was worried about this party; worried there would be a sense of fraughtness.

I needn’t have worried. I’m not sure if it was alchohol or because they knew I was coming and were waiting for me, or a combination of both, but when I arrived at the Glenferrie with Stu in tow, I was descended upon with much gleeful shrieking and hugs. I was instantly comfortable and felt stupid for worrying.

Of the core group, Tara, Lauren and of course Susan were there. Lisa, who didn’t go to our school but was always in on sleepovers and general teenage girl malarkey, was also present. Notably absent were Shannyn, who is six months older than me and got married last year and is now 5 months pregnant, and Mel, whom no one has seen for a while but has been through some bad times herself recently. She never did well at school, but she was a gifted musician and last I’d heard of her, a year or so ago (I haven’t seen her now since Tara’s 18th birthday party, nearly four years ago now), she’d gotten into a music school in Melbourne and was living up here. She’s since dropped out of her course, moved back home, and sparked some concern with her drinking habits. Her younger brother died recently in a car crash, a month off his 18th birthday. I didn’t know what to say when I heard that; I never know how to acknowledge other people’s loss and was selfishly glad that it was Lauren sitting next to me telling me, rather than Mel herself.

Lisa, with the issue obviously weighing on her mind, blurted out ‘I kissed your ex-boyfriend! I’m so sorry! It was ages ago and I still feel bad!’ This was, of course, the guy with whom I wasted spent about three years of my teenagehood. I found that I genuinely didn’t care, which kind of surprised me. I mean, logically, it was after we’d broken up. It (both the breakup and the kiss) was a few years ago now. I think I’m supposed to be angry, and jealous, and take her down bikini-clad in a pool of mud, but I honestly don’t mind, and that does kind of surprise me. I think I’m supposed to be questioning my choice of friends or something right about now. I’m amused by the whole scenario but not entirely sure why.

However, this isn’t the first time a friend of mine has retraced my steps, as it were. Which doesn’t bother me at all (most of the time), but it does make me worry about my friends a little bit. I mean, most of the people I’ve “spent time” with, to be euphemistic about it, should come with warning labels and/or OFLC-style classifications. You know,

“Dating this person will turn you into some sort of batshit-crazy Daniel Cleaver clone. Best avoided by most. Rated H for High Level Emotional Drama.”

“Sex with this man should not be attempted unless you are, shall we say, “adventurous”, as well as extremely morally flexible and don’t mind not being able to walk or sit down properly for several days after seeing him. Rated R18+ for Drug Use, High Level Sex Scenes, and Extreme Sadism.”

I ended up dancing to the jukebox and even briefly to the woefully bad covers band even though I wasn’t drunk, a practice which is virtually unheard of. I just couldn’t say no to Lisa’s little sad face.
‘I’m warning you,’ I said, ‘I usually only dance when I’m drunk, and there’s a reason for that: I bust a pretty mean move.’
‘Hey, that’s okay,’ she said. ‘I bust a move so mean, it makes people cry.’
The night ended up being tear-free in the end, and I even succeeded in getting Stu on the dance floor, a previously unheard-of act. I can now firmly state that watching slightly unco engineers get their groove thing on to ‘Push It’ is one of my favourite sights in the world.

There’s not really much else to say, in terms of a narrative of the evening. It was fantastic to see everyone and, wanky as it sounds, I do feel happier about these relationships now, and less divorced from my sense of place among these old friends and with my past (there goes that obliqueness again!). Plus I got to drink and giggle a lot and discover that some in-jokes just never grow old. Also, I caught myself checking out the cleavage of a girl who turned out to be a bitchy girl from high school, who just happened to be there and was not linked at all to Susan’s party. That’s the kind of blast from the past I could deal without, even if it did come in an intriguingly presented package.

One Response to “The Real World is Just Like High School (except for the bits with the Chicken Dance in)”

  1. Beth Says:

    Yike! Well done for even getting there! Very brave – I have always wondered if I’d attend a kind of ‘reunion’ thing – I would have to ponder for a long long while….