So I went to The Usual Place, where I was confronted by a whole bunch of fifty-ish people with bad hair, being loud. It was a class reunion of some sort.
I was fascinated. And scared.
I think everybody there graduated in about 1977, because all the women had some version of 1977 Hair. The men were either bald with goatees or mulleted with goatees. Everybody had thick Texas accents (another clue; by 1987, when I graduated, *nobody* had an accent, even the ropers) and was smoking insanely long, thin cigarettes and drinking weird martinis with, like, chocolate in them.
I had planned to sit and read Gaudy Night and eat too much, but I ended up getting my order to go and having an irresponsible amount of Talisker while I waited. It wasn't the smell of Stetson that got to me, but the looks on their faces.
Dorothy Sayers said in that very book (and here I'm paraphrasing) that the young, when reunited with their classmates, talk soberly about life and its responsibilities. The old go to bed wondering if they've worn as badly as their contemporaries. The middle-aged are the loud ones, because they're trying to recapture their youth and keep fear at bay.
Every person who walked through the door scanned the crowd of people standing at the bar, perhaps hoping to see somebody who wasn't cruel to them in high school. They all greeted each other with the same hearty handshake for the men, high-pitched squealing for the women. Everyone looked brittle and hopeful and a little bit frightened, as if they were afraid that time hadn't changed who they were at fifteen, and that people there would see through the house, the kids, the car, the job, and shut them up in the 2010 equivalent of a locker again.
A few weeks ago, a woman I'd idolized in high school put up a post on Facebook, that reanimator of teenaged angst, about how weird it was to have people friending her who were nasty to her when we all went to Littleton High. Given that she was about the smartest, most stylish, most cutting-edge person I'd met up to that point, I was amazed that anyone could have bullied her or been nasty. Just before that, another pal of mine had written about his own high-school reunion, "I couldn't have gotten drunk if I'd tried; my nerves were too frazzled."
I don't think most of us ever really age past fourteen or sixteen or eighteen. I'm lucky; I don't remember much of those years (anxiety and depression have a benefit!), so I just regressed to being an eight-year-old boy. Bugs are way cool, poop is hilarious, and if you say "Bloody Mary" enough times into a mirror, a headless bartender will appear and take your order.
I really hope, when I'm fifty-five, that I have something other to talk about than having visited every Harrah's (is that the name?) casino in the world, except for the one in Saint Louis. I hope my hair isn't the same as it is now, though it wouldn't be so bad to have my 1987 flattop. I hope like hell that I'm never in a room with people who smelled like they did in high school--with one notable exception--and who haven't really done much since then.
It would really suck to be mulleted and smell like bad, sweet roper cologne. Though me with a bright-red goatee would be okay. It would save on tweezing.