When I was in high school, I usually walked home with my friend Karen, who was taking creative writing as an elective. She was working on a novel.
“It’s about four girls who are best friends, and then one of them gets AIDS and dies,” she said.
At the time, it struck me as both melodramatic (I was pretty sure Karen’s experience of AIDS, like mine, was limited to watching And the Band Played On in health class) and genius.
|Googling '80s YA book covers is actually really getting me in the mood to write. It's Pavlovian.|
A lot of the bad-novels-in-my-head are variations on Karen’s theme. Not the AIDS part, necessarily, but the best friends and how they turn out. I’m a little bit obsessed with the idea, and I’m not sure why. Maybe because part of me is perpetually a high school student, waiting anxiously to see what my adult life will look like.
|Four friends! What will happen to them??|
More recently, I actually started writing—in the most casual, noncommittal way—vignettes from a novel I called Turning Out. Again, four female high school friends, now grown up and facing their twentieth reunion. One of them was mysteriously missing, and another became obsessed with finding her. Or something. I imagined that the missing one had maybe been an alcoholic for a while and then some sort of ascetic for a while, but didn’t really have the answers any more than her more boring friends.
|Don't do drugs!|
Because this is true.
On Saturday, I went to my actual twenty-year high school reunion. The disjunction between what I would have imagined thirty-eight looked and felt like in 1995 and what it actually looks and feels like is pretty much indescribable, but if you’re old enough to feel old, you get it.
Seven or eight years ago, I went to a casual, unofficial reunion that was basically beer pong at the Neptunian Women’s Club. Any fantasies I’d had about all the popular kids coming up to me and demanding to know what I’d made of my life were quickly shattered. I spent most of the night yelling over the bad music so I could talk to Kristy, the member of my high school group with whom I’d had the least in common.
|Has someone taken Jessica's place as "most popular girl"?|
So when they lowered the price from $100 to $10, I decided I would Go For Bonnie. As in middle school and high school, though, she was much more at ease talking to people from all social groups, and I just sort of hung around like a sidekick. I felt mildly frustrated: No, I’m totally comfortable in my skin! I’m not an awkward hanger-on!
|Novels about BFF drama were right up my proto-lesbian alley.|
I don’t think Monica and I have ever had a full conversation in our lives, but sure, let’s catch up.
Mostly, though, there wasn’t much to be angsty about. I had a nice conversation with Stuart Sellers’ wife and a woman named Lianne about legal billing. In the same way that you might end up in a conversation about legal billing with some nice strangers at a party.
I observed, for the zillionth time, that people from Manhattan Beach don’t get fat. In fact, as Bonnie noticed too, our fellow cheerleader Sarah appeared to have spent every day of her life since 1995 doing yoga or playing beach volleyball, except for maybe the day she spent getting a perfect haircut.
|If Blubber had gone to Costa, she'd be a yoga teacher now.|
My big takeaway from the evening was: Huh. Well, that was a bunch of people in a room.
|I think this is a book about someone searching for her birthmom, so I guess I should reread it. It seems to also be the story of women with Brooke Shields eyebrows.|
I was willing to believe that Gina B. didn’t remember me as pathetic and that if we had lunch together, I’d probably think she was a lovely and genuine person.
But I’m not about to find out. I left after about an hour and a half, bought a fast food churro and drove home to my real life-in-progress.