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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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I went to a school meeting at my sixties. Happy to see old school mates. With most of them…after 1/2 hours it was enough…
The once I was friends with at the time, we are still in contact.
Even with my kindergarden friend, neighbour and classmate Viktor who lives in Canada.
I would not attend another come together.


I went to my 50th reunion five years ago, our class is planning one this summer. It was fun. I must say women looked much better than the men.
My class was huge, graduated in San Francisco. We were so happy that we grew up in a very diverse, excepting environment. Wasn’t easy at the time, but very grateful now.


I have been to many high school reunions. The first one I broke out in hives 2 hours before the event. Luckily they subsided before I got there.
In high school I was not very popular with the boys but had a great group of long time girlfriends.

The reunion was for 12 years. We were all around 30 then. We all got together in our old groups of course. Part way through the night I went to the washroom. I was ‘confronted’ by another class mate. She was very aggressive and brought up a boy we both had crushes on that I went out with after highschool. I just brushed it off. Then as I was leaving the room she said…’I see you are still in the IN group’. What? ‘You and those girls always thought you were better than the rest of us!’ OMG!

All of my friends and I had a couple of things in common…we had known each other since elementary school, we were all poorer kids and we were all insecure!! I went back to the table and told the rest. Their mouths fell open! and all turned into big smiles! We all sat a little taller that night! We had finally received the recognition each of us had always craved… we were cool and didn’t even know it!! We were no longer the ugly ducklings we thought we were! Best reunion I ever attended!

We all became quite successful in our fields, some had married very successful men. Those of us left still keep in touch! We are all around 73 now.


This summer will be my husband’s 50th reunion. Which has gotten me to think of mine coming in 2 short years. It makes my gut clench!!! Yet – I’ve decided to explore certain areas of my life I have neglected up until this point. Think daily walks, changing up what I eat, finding MY style and challenging myself to have explored all those (as well as a few more) areas within the next two years. I may or may not attend. The point is I will celebrate my 50 years since high school graduation by setting myself up for the next 2+ decades!


Great thinking. You will find the older you get the younger you feel. Old insecurities fade away. Confidence grows. You don’t care so much about things that aren’t that important. Go to that reunion feeling good and looking good. You will be a more confident person the day after. I am 73 and inside I still feel 35!

Fran Braga Meininger

I love this so much, Laura. You have a great point of view.
Thanks for sharing it with me.

I only have a few months, but I like the idea of using this to motivate me to do what is good for me.
Best Wishes,


After attending the 40th class reunion I vowed never to go to another. I am just awkward at these events and the mean girls are still the mean girls. I had one who said I couldn’t be retired if all I did was home school my children. Little did she know that the earning power of that “career” choice was huge as two kids went on to earn academic scholarships that fully paid for undergraduate, masters and one PhD. I consider that one of my greatest accomplishments because they turned out to be independent thinkers, scholars and good citizens.


I also went to my 40th five years ago and nothing really changed except our looks aging. There were still the clicks, jocks, cheerleaders, song leaders, it was sad. I had hope everyone would have matured. Idk if it’s cause I lived in Orange County California and they’ll never change? Now I received the invite for the 45th and I really don’t think I’ll go. At the 40th I tried reaching out to old friends and it was very difficult to carry a conversation. I also was one of the few that moved out of the state… I just wanted to reconnect and reminisce and possibly make new friends with people I didn’t know or have classes with.


My response to girls/women who are still mean….’Ah, I see you are still one of the mean girls. That’s a shame.” Then I walk away. They either have a mean retort or stand there speechless. Mostly speechless. Lol


When I attended my 20th, it was students only. It was a total reliving of high school days. The mean girls/guys from high school were still mean. One guy inherited his job as the owner of a large grocery store in town and several of our co-graduates worked for him. He gave a speech and told very inappropriate jokes…then he’d point to one of his employees in the crowd and say “That was a joke…laugh if you want a job on Monday morning.” The whole evening went like that with the formerly mean crowd giving speeches to badmouth the others. I don’t make a habit of being rude or mean, but when I saw Mr. Grocery Store standing up by the stage after the speeches as if he was holding court, I went up to him and said…”it’s funny how some people have totally changed and how others have not changed one bit. You, for example, haven’t changed one bit! You’re as big an ass NOW as you were back in high school.” He started out thinking I was going to tell him how important he was, and was totally shocked that someone from my “caste” had spoken up to him. As awful as that sounds, that was when I suddenly realized those people’s attitudes no longer held any control over me, and my self talk has been much more positive since then..

I attended my mother’s 60th reunion with her, and was SHOCKED to see her classmates had retained their high school persona and enjoyed reliving the good old days treating “underlings” cruely…60 years later.

I never plan to go out of my way to see those people again.

Fran Braga Meininger

Congratulations on choosing what was right for you and your family. You must be incredibly proud, and for good reason.

Thank you for your comment, Sandy.

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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