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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 just recd my 50th reunion invitation. I went to an all girls Catholic high school. I went to my 10th in 1983, no one had changed. Skipped my 20th, I had gained too much weight, was 130 lbs in high school. We had another reunion 10 yrs ago. Went to that one and everyone was friendly. But to this day I feel like an outsider and have carried that throughout my life. I did well in a tough, entertainment career, but never many $$. In high school I was friends with girls on my block. There were like 7 of us all close in age and all but 2 of us went to public schools. When I got to a local public university, I felt accepted, finally, with such a diverse student population. I am curious about seeing people at our 50th, but live in a different city and state. It would be cost prohibitive to fly, try to rent a car. I’d never stay in a hotel alone and I have no relatives left to stay with in the area. Still, that invitation brought back many insecurities that I didn’t feel as deeply at the time. I was never treated badly by my classmates, just ignored………for 4 years. Why did I not fit in? No regrets in skipping the reunion.


I recently attended my 50th class reunion just a week ago. My class members were warm and friendly.I guess when you realize how blessed you are to be alive after cov19 everyone enjoyed each other friendship and talked about grandkids and bucket lists. I’m from Ohio home of very friendly folk.


Thank you for a timely article! I also graduated in 1973! We have a group of 10 that have stayed in close touch, having reunions of our own every 5 years, or so. AND, bi-weekly Zoom calls! (that started, of course, due to Covid and stayed – we were planning a reunion for June 2020, so that didn’t happen – this June coming up is the replacement reunion for that one!)
We all went to the 10th HS reunion and 17th (our school’s 25th yr); for the 30th reunion, we sent a “rep” and had our own! We are spread out across the country, so it was easier to meet closer to where most of us live now!
Some of us won’t care what we wear, how fit we are, or what colour our hair is. Others, like me, are already thinking what to pack, planning the plane ride, booking a sub (I still teach!), booking the facial, eyebrows, planning to swim, as much as possible, etc.etc!
Some are married, some are not, some on the second, some have kids/grandkids, some don’t, some are retired, some aren’t – just the same, we will pick up the chats where we last left off and party like it was 1973!😊🎉

Fran Braga Meininger

Thank you for your comment, Sheryl,
I related to your thoughts more than you know. And your last line, made me laugh out loud! Thanks for that.
Best Wishes,


I can’t wait. I went to a small country school. We have alumni banquets instead of class reunions. But each 10 year anniversary class is recognized. So for me it will be 50.
I love talking to “kids” who graduated before me and after me, and who were In the same clubs and sports I was. It helps make it an enjoyable evening.
PS when I say small, there were less than 30 in my graduating class, and less than 20 in the preceding year.


My 50th Class Reunion is this summer and I haven’t decided whether I will attend. The only time I see some of my classmates is attending a funeral of another classmate. It’s very sad at the number of classmates we have lost in recent years. So these get togethers are bitter/sweet. Losing one classmate and seeing several others. I’m still unsure whether I will attend.
I enjoyed reading all of the articles.

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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