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Making Friends with the Past, Part I

It was around this time last year that I had to face a harsh reality: my 20th high school reunion was quickly approaching. I don’t know why this news sent me into a panic, but it did. I suddenly felt really old. Overnight, my laugh lines turned into wrinkles, and purple bags formed under my eyes. This rapid deterioration couldn’t be all in my mind, could it? Was it the fear that I would soon have to face the clique of girls that always reminded me of that classic movie, Heathers? And what about those friends that I had lost touch with, whether amicably or not-quite-so? Did I really want to deal with all the feelings the past might stir up? In short, was I ready for this reunion?

While I was mulling this over, a website had been set up, and people from the Edgemont High School class of 1988 were now chatting online.This is what I heard through the grapevine, at any rate. I couldn’t actually verify the fact that my former classmates were reconnecting via this new-fangled, post-80’s technology because I had decided not to follow the link sent to me by Sarah, one of my best friends from high school.And that’s because I had decided that I wasn’t going to go to the reunion. “I think that’s a wise decision,” my husband, Brett, concurred. He and I were waiting for a table at the diner with our children one Saturday morning last March. In the 10 minutes that we were standing there, I had run into about 5 people I knew from high school.“Every day in Scarsdale is like a reunion for you. I say, save the 85 bucks per person and take a walk around the village, waving at all the people you’ve known since the mid 70’s. Call it a reunion.” He had a point.And he was on a roll.“Clearly, you should not go to the reunion. You loved high school. We go out with all these ‘Edgemont couples’ – people who actually married their friends from high school, and it’s like some sort of convention where I don’t know the language. You guys are like Trekkies. I don’t think I could take a whole room of you people, gushing about the good old days when you went to Madonna concerts and wore finger-less lace gloves, or smoked cigarettes while eating fries dipped in gravy at The Mont.” He had another point.High school really was fun, come to think of it.“You had friends you loved, and teachers that you loved so much that you decided to become a teacher yourself. You moved back to your hometown! You were even a cheerleader! Yeah, you totally shouldn’t go to that reunion.” I was detecting some sarcasm from my normally sarcastic husband.“Okay, I hear you. I’m like the poster child for it,” I admitted. “I’ll probably end up going. And you’ll probably have to come along. But please, let’s get one thing straight: I was not just a cheerleader. I was a cheerleader who made fun of cheerleaders. It’s the essence of who I am. You know, insider/outsider.” “Whatever. Did you wear the little skirt? Did you jump up and down and shout rhymes at athletic boys?” I nodded. “Then you were a cheerleader. You did not take a political stance.” “I’m not sure about that. Senior year, we put together a very impassioned petition stating that cheerleading was indeed a sport and therefore worthy of exemption from gym class. It was highly politicized.” “And how’s that turn out for you?” “Some of the squad had to make up gym credits over the summer in order to graduate.” The memory of it made me wistful.By the end of that breakfast, I had decided to go to the reunion.That night, I went online and updated everyone with my 20-year story in about a paragraph of text. I also casually mentioned in that note that I would be glad to help Steve, now living in New York City (and married to another EHSer, of course), who had come forward to organize the reunion. The next day, my phone was ringing.“Hey, Julie! How’d you like to plan this thing with me?” Steve asked. By the end of the week, I had gone from not attending the reunion to actually co-chairing it. “Now, that’s my cheerleader!” Brett winked.I dug through the attic to find my pom-poms. Goooooo Re-union!!! ****** Spring turned into summer and summer into fall. Before I knew it, the scent of football season was in the air. The reunion was now a mere 4 weeks away. RSVPs had been pouring in from across the country and around the world. I had been connecting with people via email that I hadn’t seen since graduation. The experience was strange and exciting at the same time. I was starting to really look forward to this event.Dana was coming from Bulgaria. Sarah from New York City. With them by my side, I could walk into that reunion and feel confident.As long as I had the right outfit.It was time to get my game on. Several trips to the city later, I had fourteen options and nothing to wear. Was the black cocktail dress very Jackie O. or very Nancy Reagan? Were wrap dresses so 2005? And should I wear fierce boots or stiletto heels?I was having trouble focusing on anything other than the big R. My book group had witnessed enough, and was on the verge of kicking me out. On a Tuesday in early September, they cornered me in a corner of Lila’s living room. Lila spoke.“We need to stage an intervention. We’ll be over Friday night at 7:00. You’ll try it all on for us and we’ll decide.” “But…” I began.They held their paperbacks up to me, as if to strike. “No buts! We’re coming. End of story.” To take my mind off the costuming issues, I decided it was high time to see my dermatologist. There were capillaries on my face that needed zapping.“Now, this might sting a little bit,” the doctor with milky-white, perfectly unwrinkled, rosacea-and-mole-free-skin warned. “Like rubber bands being snapped against your cheeks.”I looked at her and thought, I’ll endure almost anything to have skin as blemish-free as yours. Bring on the rubber bands! “Also, you will have some bruising. It might take a few weeks for your skin to heal fully.”Bring on the bruising! I have 15 days! Now here’s a little lesson for you folks who, like me, might not see the danger in those words. If a doctor ever says to you that “there might be bruising,” you should stop right there and ask some questions. Like, how bad will that bruising be? And, for how long will that bruising last? And then you should up and run, even if only wearing a backless paper gown. Because, otherwise, you will end up like me.I left that office $400 poorer and in a deep state of psychic disarray. In the first hour post-procedure, my face looked so bad that I thought, surely there has been some mistake. The v-Beam is lauded by movie stars precisely because it doesn’t cause any bruising. There is not supposed to be downtime between the procedure and the perfection.For me, the not-Angelina girl, this harmless laser caused 12 days worth of brownish blackish, bloody-looking pustules that threatened to take over the entirety of my face.“Remember that guy who got shot in the face by Dick Cheney?” Brett asked me as I sat to write this article. “I didn’t want to tell you at the time, but you looked just like him.” Thanks, honey. In order to take my mind off the bruises that I was sure would keep me disfigured for life, I decided to go back to obsessing over what to wear. I headed into Scarsdale village for one last look around before the book group intervention that evening. And at one store, I found something that could be perfect. It was a shimmery dark blue dress with a deep v-neck and some stretch to it. Accessorized with a thick black belt and a little cardigan, it felt very me.But since the return policy would leave me with a store credit if I changed my mind, I had to be certain before purchasing it.I looked at my watch. 12:00. Which of my friends might be on-call at this hour? I dialed Janie, my friend from high school who now lives in Edgemont with her EHS husband. I explained my precarious situation to her voicemail. It went a little something like this: “I’m-in-the-village-and-I-need-help-deciding-what-to-wear-to-the- reunion-because-as-you-know-I-am-a-crazy-person-help-me- my-face-is-all-messed-up!!!!”

Next person on the list: Lila from book group. She already knew how insane I was, having planned the intervention. She answered the phone and I explained.“Oh, I’d love to come see, but I’m getting a pedicure. Can’t leave the chair.” “Are you getting a pedicure in the village?” I asked, an idea forming in my mind. “Yes….” “Then I’m coming to you.”Don’t you just love shopping in a small town? The saleswoman in the store shooed me out, seemingly not too worried about the fate of the dress and whether or not I would ever return with it. I marched over to the nail salon, price tags flapping all over me.A few people stared and I smiled back. Then I remembered what my face looked like. People weren’t gawking because of my outfit. Lila loved the dress. So did the woman in the pedicure chair next to her, as did all the ladies who worked there. My second bit of advice to you is this: if you ever need an opinion about something, just walk into a nail salon. Doesn’t matter if you know anyone there. You will have a captive audience, a committee of commentators!“Honey, turn around. Let me get a good look.” An elderly woman called from the front of the salon, where her fingernails were drying by the windows. I obliged.“Very pretty. But what happened to your –?” Want to know how it turned out?Seeing the clique of girls? Former boyfriend? Prom date?Tune in next week.

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