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The Dreaded High School Reunion and the 5 Things I Discovered Preparing for Mine

By Fran Braga Meininger March 18, 2023 Lifestyle

I graduated in 1973 from a small Catholic high school. I was young for my age, ill prepared to be rubbing elbows with girls who drove Jaguars and brand new Camaros to school, had streets named after their fathers and felt little to no use for me, a country girl, from a middle class family who lived one town over, in Sonoma, a Podunk town that held none of the cache of the famous Napa Valley where the school was located.

The “save the date” card for my 50th high school reunion arrived recently, and I began to ruminate, first about going at all, which I decided I would, then about the plethora of insecurities over what to wear, what to say and how to finally fit in.

But in doing so, I’ve made some discoveries that just might ring true for those sharing this benchmark. So, I thought I’d offer them up.

Deeply Rooted Insecurity Can Last Decades

I honestly expected to be beyond this by now, that fight or flight response to the mere mention of the cool girls’ names.

It’s true, they were less than welcoming and inclusive. Their judgmental glances were not my imagination, and there’s a very good chance they were indeed laughing at me as I walked by. But that was decades ago. How can it still matter?

A brief inquiry into that stage of life confirms, our experiences in middle adolescence, ages 14 – 17, contribute prominently to our self-image. At that age, we are beginning to test our independence, develop our individuality and react to the rumblings of sexual attraction – risky and life-altering activities, fraught with perplexing social norms and complex dynamics.

It’s an exciting time, but when things don’t go right, when that cute guy asks someone else to Homecoming or when you lose the vote for the School Council, it leaves a mark. One that can be borne for a very long time.

Even if it’s deeply embedded in the recesses of our memory, and it’s been ages since we thought about it, the thought of coming face to face with those from whom we desperately and unsuccessfully sought approval can bring emotional angst rushing to the surface.

Yes, I’m a fully grown, accomplished and secure woman – most of the time. But that impressionable young girl is still in there, too, and she remembers.

Pretty Much Everyone Feels the Same Shiver of Insecurity to Some Degree

I’ve been in touch with several of my classmates and have admitted my growing trepidation, only to be reassured they are sharing the same experience.

Like me, they’ve been spending far too much time consulting the critic in the bathroom mirror, searching the internet for Cryofacials, weight loss supplements and magic undergarments to smooth out the bumps and rolls that weren’t there 50 years ago.

My guess is no one is immune to the discomfort of being held to some arbitrary standard of professional success, financial worth and the super human resistance to the decline of normal aging, real or imagined.

It’s Hard to Give Myself Credit for Turning Out Okay

After countless stern warnings that pride was not only socially unacceptable, but qualified as a sin of deadly proportion, I struggle to present myself as accomplished.

I’m proud of my strides to become a better writer and to be published regularly, but I still see myself as a fledgling, albeit teetering on the edge of the nest, poised to fly.

I’ve not launched. I do have a GoodReads page, but haven’t won the Pushcart. I have bylines, but no book deal. And frankly, a content creator feels somewhat like the second cousin to the published author. So, it’s difficult to decide how to reintroduce myself to those who will ask over their second glass of rose, “So what are you doing these days?”

How Ironic – No One Really Cares

The comforting revelation is no one cares. We’re all too jumbled up in our own experience of aging, our lost youth, and facing the reality of being five decades out of high school to be hyper critical. It’s hard to worry about someone else when you’re temporarily self-absorbed.

Old Memories and the Connection to Those Who Share Them Can Be a Lovely Way to Spend an Evening

It’s only one night. Yes, I’m nervous, but the occasion does hold the potential to be a delightful evening spent reminiscing with those for whom I hold fond memories, to see some familiar faces and share in their life story.

And best of all, to ultimately and ceremoniously close the book on a chapter written long ago but held precious for all time.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you recently celebrated a high school reunion? Or is yours pending? What thoughts have gone through your mind in anticipation of the event? If you’ve already been through it, what advice can you give us?

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Rita Cowper Whitehead

I recently planned my 50th year high school reunion. I went to a very diverse all girls, Catholic school. I found the ladies to be very down to earth, and happy to relive their high school memories with each other. It seemed as though the ones who had been more quiet, were the first to respond with joy about the reunion, and some of the more popular girls didn’t attend. I think we are all likable people just looking to share our high school experiences.


I too just received an invitation to my 50 year reunion. There were 33 graduates in my class and 19 of them still live in the county where we graduated. I see some of them from time to time but there are certainly some I don’t ever care to see again. I will not be attending.


You should go…you might be very pleasantly surprised! Read my above comment.

Fran Braga Meininger

Thanks, Shay. I have decided to go. There are some people I would like to see again.


I would like to tell you at the age of 77 I have lost all my high school insecurities…but I have not!

Fran Braga Meininger

Thank you for making me smile, Rosemary. We are all in this boat together, I guess.
All my best to you.


I attended my first high school reunion four years ago, my fiftieth. Up to that point, I had many of the same feelings you described about attending, but this reunion felt different. I had finally gotten to the place in life that I was comfortable with myself – both the positive and the negative. I was excited to attend ….. and I had a blast. It was fun to reconnect with classmates. Some I did not recognize at first and others looked amazingly the same, just older. Their stories are what I found fascinating. I even connected with a classmate I had barely known all those years ago and today he and I are partners in life. You never know.

I wish you a wonderful experience!!

Fran Braga Meininger

What a fabulous story! Thanks for sharing it, Bev.


I too just received my 50 yr reunion invite from an all girls Catholic high school. I’m in AZ, and the reunion is in PA. I’m on the fence about attending, since I never attended prior reunions – and even worse – I never married. What will I do when everyone shows pics of their kids and grandkids? I will likely be the only one in the room that has this huge void in my life. I’m wondering if it will just make me feel worse that I turned out to be an “old maid” (although I’m told I look 10 yrs younger than my age). There were 600 in my graduating class – so who knows how many will turn out. I’m considering attending the brunch only, even though there is much more to the reunion. If i decide to go, I’ll take deep breaths before I walk in the room!


I hope you go to the reunion. You’ll probably really enjoy it and walk away feeling wonderful


I went to my 50th last summer~large Catholic high school. We are all in the same
journey as you.
If you still have some friends from the past that are going, make some plans to
gather with them outside of the reunion activities, you’ll be glad you did. It takes someone to be the initiator and plan ahead~start today. You’ll be surprised by the positive responses.


Hmm. Maybe not. Out of my group of 7 of us who were friends in high school, only two of us has had children. The others chose not to have them, early on. At one time this was considered to be unacceptable, but is much less so now. Most of us, those who have open minds, can see the benefits of this. Go, if you chose to, and don’t let anyone make you less because of this. Who cares what they think of you? These people are no longer in your life for a reason. You’ve moved on.

Fran Braga Meininger

I agree, Lori. I decided as a teenage, that I didn’t want children. It was difficult to defend that decision as a young woman in the mid 70’s. I took a lot of flack from family and others, but eventually the times changed and it was more common.

It was the right decision for me and I’ve never regretted it.

Fran Braga Meininger

Carol, Thank you for your candor. I do understand, but I think the ladies who responded to your comment are very right. You’ve chosen differently and undoubtedly there are benefits and advantages to that decision.

It’s hard not to compare yourself to what other’s are presenting as who they are now, but as I said in the article, we are all in the midst of finding our way in this stage of life.

If attending some, but not all, of the festivities sounds more appealing to you, then by all means, do whatever makes you comfortable.

I wish you the best.


I have been to about 5 reunions. I have never been to one where anyone showed photos of their kids. I am not married. No one asked or cared except an old crush who had not aged well. Each reunion was wonderful! So much fun seeing oid friends from school. You will be surprised at the number of people you thought didn’t know you existed come up to say hello and say nice things to you.
Go Girl!

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The Author

Fran Braga Meininger writes personal narratives about the years beyond youth, a time in a woman’s life that can be vibrant, fulfilling, and wonderful, despite – or perhaps because of – all that comes with age. She lives in northern California where she hikes, bikes and lives life in big bites. You can visit her website at

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