Reunions: Love Them or Leave Them. It’s Your Call.
Some love them; some hate them but after the long three-year pandemic when so many of us took shelter, many alone, we think more of us might be amenable to gathering socially for a reunion. This includes a class reunion, a family get-together or a support group gathering—or anything else you might be invited to or think up.
For those who dislike the idea of getting together with a large group of people we haven’t seen perhaps in years, it might be about how we look now versus 30, 40 or 50 years ago. If a family reunion, some might not care for some of the members. If the reunion is far from home, the cost of transportation and lodging might be a deterrent. A support group gathering might conjure up some uncomfortable memories.
Is it time to reevaluate the upside of these events? Some of us are getting closer to 55th and 60th reunions, shocking but true. Many of us are getting sick or dying. Attending a reunion can be meaningful and even joyous and might be the last time you see these people from your past.
How we look now, the competitive edge, notion that cliques will be intact and the mean girls or guys still will snub you is what may keep many away. We like to think that after so many years, the petty stuff has subsided. This is a time for shared history, an opportunity to celebrate where we grew up and that some class members may have known our parents or siblings and recall together favorite activities such as sports pep rallies, painting storefront windows for Halloween or trick-and-treating together and collecting money in milk cartons for UNICEF.
In many cases our bonds have strengthened since the beginning of the pandemic when classmates—whether grade school, high school, college or graduate school—regularly participated in Zoom calls. Many of those groups have disbanded as we’ve stepped out more into the world, but some continue. Barbara’s in one of 10 of her K-8 classmates who talk on Zoom every other week. Not everyone shows up at all times, but many try to and cover a range of topics.
Those who live in the New York metropolitan area, who represent the largest contingent, gathered for dinner before Covid and recently gathered again in person. Spouses and partners came, too, in a few cases.
Margaret was in a grade school Zoom once every few months which has since fallen by the wayside. No one had the time or desire to continue to host it. Now, she hears, there may be a 60th high school reunion in the works, which would require her to travel back to St. Louis if she decides to attend.
Family and Support Group Reunions
Family reunions also tend to spur negative thoughts when many of think of relatives getting together since there probably are some we’d rather not see. Yet there probably are also some we really like and with whom we’d love to catch up.
Or a support group can also engender similar good and bad thoughts. Perhaps, we joined one because of a traumatic event in our life—the death of a spouse or partner or parent—or someone’s addiction. These reunions lend themselves nicely to being together because the bonds forged in such times were usually strong.
Here are 9 pointers to make any reunion more enjoyable:
- Go with the right attitude.Don’t think regrets or dwell on what you didn’t like about the people who might show up. Think positive about the ones you’ve liked or ones you want to get to know better. You might be surprised that even though you disliked college, a reunion can be a time to revisit your campus, find what you did like and form a more positive memory of your school.
- Splurge on how you look.So many negative thoughts about reunions stem from fear of not looking great, and even comparing yourself to the good-looking cheerleader or the handsome football player. Put in some time to look your best whether a good hairdo, some makeup, a nice outfit and that essential smile.
- Get involved somehow. Being involved in the planning—making calls or helping with a reunion booklet—will connect you with others even before you go. It may increase your enthusiasm level.
- Go with someone you know if possible.Walking in with another person always makes it so much easier, whether a spouse, partner or friend.
- Think confidently so you radiate that feeling even if it’s a bit phony. That means not shrinking into the corner if there’s someone who was once mean and you’re afraid of being in the same air space. Be bold and maybe even step up to that person, re-introduce yourself if they don’t remember and engage in some casual chit-chat.
- Have your ice-breaker conversations ready. Go for some thoughtful questions to engage with others. Steer clear of the usual: Are you married, do you have children, where’d you go to college or what do you do professionally? You can ask more generically: how do you spend a lot of your time or did you move away and where do you live? If you get stuck in a long-drawn-out conversation, have a quick quip to move on, possibly, “Oh, do you mind if I say hi to so-and-so? Been great seeing you!”
- Try to make one new acquaintance or friend or re-connect. It doesn’t have to be a bestie, but you never know. Barbara has made two close friends she was never very friendly with back in high school since her 40thand 50th high school reunions; both have been unexpected great surprises. And she re-connected with a childhood friend who had left their high school when she came back for the 40th.
- Tag along, if asked. If your spouse or partner asks you to go to their reunion, be a good sport. You may already know some from the class or it’s a good time to meet them. You can always go to just one event if it’s a weekend of several dinners and lunches rather than everything.
- Laugh and share stories. Remember when…Some might include long-kept secrets such as hosting a party when your folks were out of town or playing hooky. You got in trouble in both cases when your folks learned, but now you certainly can laugh about it.
A reunion can be a blast from the past. And if your past wasn’t such a blast, put on a new attitude with your new outfit or hairdo and try to make the best of it.