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Why High School Reunions Are Good For You, Really

<em>Chicago Tribune</em> columnist Clarence Page says if old wounds are holding you back from going to your high school reunion, you're missing out.
Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page says if old wounds are holding you back from going to your high school reunion, you're missing out.

For many adults, high school is a time they would rather not revisit. Some remember their adolescent years as traumatic and cringe at the prospect of seeing their peers ever again. So when a high school reunion rolls around, people come up with all kinds of excuses for not attending.

In his Chicago Tribune column, Clarence Page admits that it took him two decades to work up the courage to attend his class reunion — but he tells NPR's Neal Conan that he's glad he finally did it.

"The thing about reunions," Page says, "[is] you can clear a lot of the air with them."

Old humiliations keep too many people away from their reunions, he says. But if you find the courage to go, you might be surprised to hear some very heartfelt mea culpas from old nemeses.

"It's amazing how many apologies I heard," says Page. "One fellow came over — a white classmate — out of the blue, and apologized for being so racist 40 years ago."

On a lighter note, Page says he was also approached by two female classmates who wanted to apologize for bullying him whenever the teacher wasn't looking.

"Of course, I had totally forgotten this," he says. "Your parents are right when they say time heals all wounds, and wounds all heels ... The person who's the big shot now, or the cool girl ... 40 years later, it's Archie and Edith Bunker."

Of course, Page says, when it comes to angst-ridden teenagers, those platitudes often fall on deaf ears.

"This is why I think the [20-year] reunion is so important. Because by then, you've had kids of your own," Page says, "and you start to see how high school is always ridiculous, regardless of what generation happens to confront it."

If you do decide to go to your high school reunion, Page has one piece of advice: Never ask an old classmate if they remember you.

"First of all, if the other person does remember you, you don't need to ask because they're going to make it quite apparent," Page says. "If they don't remember you, then they are busily — with a big grin on their face — trying to talk their way around the fact that they don't."

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