Reunited and Its Feels So Good

Dear Ann Landers:

It's been nearly 16 years since graduating from high school (class of 85 rulz!). And what a sweet 16 years it has been. The acne has cleared up and the facial scarring is barely noticeable. Forget Jonas Salk and the polio vaccine, and Sir Alexander Flemming and that thing called penicillin. Hell, with a few pieces of moldy bread even I could have invented penicillin. In my opinion, whoever invented tetracycline, Clearasil, Oxy pads, acutane, Retin-A or benzoil peroxide should have received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Plus, even though I didn't go to the prom, in the latter half of these 16 years I finally managed to lose the big "V." That's right, I no longer have my Volkswagen "Thing."

But I need your help, Ann. At this moment, as I write my letter, I'm eating alone and I seem to have lost my appetite. The food is okay, that's not the problem. It's Meredith (not her real name). She called yesterday.

Sixteen years ago Meredith was the popular girl in high school. Next week we're going to lunch.

It is probably difficult for you to gather in just a few simple sentences, but when I was attending Oyster River High School in Durham, NH, the class dork was me. Most likely, since it was 1985 with my Rick Springfield haircut, Cory Hart sunglasses and Chess King apparel, I was called a turkey, a geek or a pizza face. Admittedly, any adjective that could be construed as unflattering was my nom de plume.

The only word that was never hurled to describe my high school years, was the one that I longed to hear. And that was "popular." Even to say that I was "unpopular" would have at least meant that I made a blip on the high school radar. Instead, I was the B-2 bomber of ORHS. I was stealth. Not sleek mind you, just unnoticed.

At the opposite end of the high school spectrum were the jocks and the cheerleaders. The social clique my fellow members in the band referred to as "the popular crowd." Girls like Meredith.

Ms. Landers, now that you are closer to death than you are to high school, you may not remember what it's like being the class dork, so let me refresh your memory. Ridicule, low self-esteem and lunch.

If Lucifer himself were to take my hand and guide me through the gates of Hell, nothing he could say or do would be worse than eating lunch in the high school cafeteria by myself. Eating alone in the 12th grade was tantamount to being the weak gazelle on the plains of the Serengeti. The lions (football players) would eat you (me) alive. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but you've got to admit, that words and wedgies can cause a rash.

However, even the worst parts of high school can be a blessing in disguise. For instance, instead of having friends, I studied. It's hard to say how smart I am, but as a gauge, when I watch Who Wants to be a Millionaire? I can sometimes get to $32,000 by only using one or two of the allotted lifelines. Once, I even got the $250,000 question correct (after it was narrowed down by the "50/50" lifeline). Shout out to Mrs. Baxter, my old school librarian.

Without a doubt, though, the best thing that came from being a social outcast in high school is that now I actually look forward to eating lunch by myself. Instead of worrying about conversation or which fork to use or whether or not the forefinger is or isn't a utensil, I just have to worry about eating. Like I said, that's what I'm doing now right now (sorry about the sauce on the paper).

And that Ann, brings me to the crux of this letter. When I left New Hampshire, 16 years ago, I never looked back. Packing up my trombone after graduation, this young man headed west. And in all those years I haven't heard from anyone. Not even the kids I played with in the orchestra. Who cares? Who needs them? Just a bunch of band nerds that don't return phone calls or letters.

Then came yesterday! Thanks to the Internet (I swear Ann it really isn't a fad) Meredith was able to track me down. She moved to Salt Lake City this summer and she wants to meet for lunch. Sixteen years too late, but finally, I've been invited to eat at the "popular" table.

This brings up all kinds of questions: Where should we eat? I'd like this to be the prom date that I never had. Should I rent a tuxedo? Does the cummerbund face up to catch the soup? Meredith never made fun of me, I'm not even certain we actually talked, but I know her friends were less than kind. Should I bring up this dirt or should I just be polite and reminisce about the good old days and the parties I never attended? Our school colors were fluorescent orange and green (don't forget it was the eighties), should I wear these when I first meet her? You know, school spirit.

Please help, Ann.

Signed, Not the Captain of the Football Team

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