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Sunday 2 April 2023 Dublin: 7°C
As I prepare for the surreal experience of my 20 year school reunion, I can’t help but wonder what surprises will meet me…

I DIDN’T ATTEND my ten year reunion. I wasn’t even entirely sure at the time why I didn’t, but I didn’t, and I suspect it had something to do with the absence of a rock on my finger, or a steady boyfriend at the time.

Somehow the absence of a significant other, at the grand old age of 28, made me feel distinctly disinclined to dock up at what felt a little too like a ‘Show & Tell’ for the previous decade. Pathetic, but true. I felt unwilling to expose myself to a social gathering which had the potential to feel like a kind of ‘beauty parade’ of who had achieved what in the previous decade.

Now, ten years later again, I’m more just plain curious about how other people’s lives have evolved. Perhaps that’s a sign of maturity. Or perhaps I have just given up on the ‘rat race’ a cackle of girls can sometimes provoke, and the ambitions that drove me 20-odd years ago have somehow gone by the wayside. I’m not sure if I have gained perspective, or just become plain lazy.

Which means that by now it will be two full decades since I will have met, or seen, 99% of those classmates with whom I spent seven hours a day, five days a week, for nigh on six years of my life. I still feel a small prickling of apprehensiveness, like the feeling you inevitably get whenever you’re forced to sit down and review your CV. What have I done with the passed 20 years? Who am I now? And have I turned into what they, and I, expected me to be? How do I, the 38-year-old me, compare with my 18-year-old self, all ideas, and bluster, and blind determination to take on the world?

I’ve had no sneak previews

So to distract myself from thinking about me, I got to thinking about what surprises might lay out there, as I prepare for the surreal experience of entering a virtual time warp where 1995 suddenly becomes 2015. And how we’re all likely to have developed?

I have the rare pleasure of not being on Facebook, and so have had no sneak previews, and have somehow avoided this window into my former classmates ‘best selves’. So I feel somewhat privileged, because in the absence of any trailers, I have absolutely no idea what to expect. Other than to recognise that I have been around long enough to know, that some will, no doubt, fit into the following categories. I’ve had enough random encounters with blasts from the past over the years, on Grafton Street, or in the frozen food aisle, or worse still, in the maternity ward, to appreciate that time can mould people in ways you’d never have thought possible. Recognise any of the below?

The Swan

You know the one. Was plain as day in school. Decidedly unremarkable. But who’s likely to waltz in and leave us all gobsmacked at her transformation (and chomping at the bit to understand its genesis) and who will take great pleasure in reminding us, that back in the day, we used to ‘affectionately’ refer to her as ‘Big Mac’.

Conversely, there will no doubt be her less fortunate sister, otherwise known as ‘The One to Whom Time Has Not Been Kind’. The one the lads all fancied in school, whom we all idolised and admired, thought was destined for great things. But who, it turns out, ended up married to a decidely ordinary Joe with 5 kids in a semi-d.

The Ball Breaker

This is the one who has gone on to Rule the World. And will make no bones about letting you know that’s the case. Will drop casual references to declining standards in Business Class, whilst rooting out her top-of-the range smartphone from her Michael Kohrs handbag.

She will be immaculately groomed as she steps out of her 7 series, and will only just have resisted the urge to get a bespoke ‘Didn’t I do well?’ Armani T-Shirt printed up for the occasion. And yet, the most lasting image you will have of her, is that time she got arrested for freewheeling down Main Street in a Tesco shopping trolley.

The Unlikely Earth Mother

She’s infuriatingly happy and relaxed and sanguine. Greets everyone with a genuine welcome, and really seems to delight in rekindling old friendships. Is just, well, surprisingly (and unsettlingly) nice. Has somehow morphed from cider drinking, hickey bearing, thundering witch from hell you spent six years of your life slightly terrified of, into Rachel Bloody Allen.

She shows you Fiachra, and Siofra, and Saoirse on her Facebook page without a trace of herself, and has turned veggie and non-drinking to boot. She greets you with an open, completely unaffected gaze, which makes you wonder whether she has genuinely forgotten about the time she took it upon herself to announce to the entire class that Michael Byrne had in fact dumped you because you were ‘frigid’.

The Dark Horse

There’s nothing particularly remarkable about this one. She blends right in, kinda like she did in school. She’s friendly and agreeable, but heads home without you really noticing her at all… until you find out a few hours later that she is married to the Sheikh of Dubai’s cousin, and owns half of Dublin 4.

Oh, and that unremarkable looking bloke you saw hanging around outside whom you idly assumed to be her husband? Well, actually, that’s her driver.

The One Who Makes the Rest of Us Feel Inadequate

She hasn’t aged. She appears to have half of South Africa’s mineral deposits attached to her left hand. And she has somehow managed to squeeze out four picture perfect kids, before squeezing herself back into those ridiculously tight skinny jeans (you start to wonder about your own sexuality as you find yourself idly gazing at her backside, wondering why gravity has somehow chosen her behind to steadfastly ignore).

She lectures part-time having conveniently reached the top of her game ahead of spitting out the kids, and ‘consults’ on a regular basis for exorbitant fees. All this, in between dropping the kids to soccer and chairing the local PTA. Oh, and her husband is a paediatric surgeon who just happens to bear more than a striking resemblance to Derek Sheppard.

In short, you all instantly want to hate her. But you can’t. Because she’s just too bloody nice.

The Cling-on

She’s just that wee bit too happy to be there. Remembers just that little bit too much about everyone and is bordering on over-familiar. Doesn’t seem to have spread her wings a huge amount these past 20 years, and keeps repeating the suggestion that next time ‘we don’t all leave it so long’. She doesn’t appear to get the whole concept of reunion – that it only happens once a decade. And, not the first time, you breathe a sigh of relief that you’re not on Facebook, and remain essentially untraceable for anyone seeking out ‘old friends’.

And me? Which category do I fit into? I guess I’m the one who spends too much of her time writing about life instead of living it. Who’s definitely not the Swan, who probably thought she’d end up the Ballbreaker, but instead really just ended up the Unlikely Earth Mother (without enough ‘Earth’ to me at all).

Claire Micks is an occasional writer. Read her columns for here.

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