By Rabbi Rachel Esserman
I didn’t go. I also didn’t go to any of my prior high school reunions so this really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me well. My reasons for not going? I am not nostalgic about my teenager years and have no desire to talk to people I haven’t seen in 50 years. I had some excellent teachers in high school, so the academic part of that time was fine. But I had only one real friend in high school (actually we became friends in junior high) with whom I’ve kept in contact throughout the years. I never spent much time thinking about the fact that I didn’t go to any prior reunion, so you might wonder why I’m thinking about it now. The answer is easy: Facebook.
The high school friend I mentioned is the person who enticed me to join Facebook. She was planning to share information about her life on Facebook, rather than writing e-mails, so I figured if I wanted to still keep in touch this was the way to do it. For some reason, she began searching for people that went to high school with us and became Facebook friends with many of them. Some of those people sent me Facebook friend requests and it felt rude not to accept. I can’t say I’m real friends with any of them, even those who live in this area. None of us have suggested getting together for coffee or otherwise meeting in person. Please note that I haven’t made any offers in that direction, either, so we all are to blame. I did see one at the funeral of a mutual non-high school friend, but since I was officiating, even if we’d wanted to chat, that wasn’t the time or place.
Facebook greatly changed how much I knew about the recent reunion. In the past, it was easy to ignore them: I received an invitation in the mail and sent it to the circular filing cabinet (AKA the garbage can). One reason that was easy is because the big draw of the event was “all the beer you can drink.” Since I don’t like beer and find talking to people who are drunk boring, that didn’t make me eager to attend.
This time, though, I received a Facebook posting and updates about the reunion and how excited people were about it. The posts listed names and showed photos of people I don’t remember. Actually, I wasn’t surprised: I’ve had the embarrassment of being contacted on Facebook by someone who is a friend of a mutual friend and who remembered me from high school. What was embarrassing about that? I have no idea who the person is.
One name on the list of those attending did bring up a memory: he and two others who were members with me in the National Honor Society made antisemitic comments at one point during our last year of school. I don’t remember what they said, but I do remember it was one of the few times in my life I actually had a good comeback, something along the lines of, “If I want to say something bad about you, it wouldn’t be about your religion.” One of them later apologized to me and I’ve always respected him for that. But I later learned from my one friend that she was the target of antisemitic comments, mostly along the general line of why was she friends with the Jew.
I admit that I probably was not an easy person to like in high school. I was focused on academics and had little traditional school spirit: I never went to any sporting events. I also never understood the social customs of my peers and tended to do my own thing. I can remember one conversation with my friend during which she was telling me I had to do something a particular way (I wish I could remember what the subject was, but it’s gone) and I kept asking why because it made no sense to me. Actually, I’ve had the same thing happen in other times and places since made-up customs (like not wearing white after Labor Day) feel irrelevant to my life. That’s one reason I love The Reporter staff: they are willing to put up with my idiosyncrasies and don’t mind if my ideas are.... um, well, let’s be polite and just say, unusual.
I recognize that all those from my high school with whom I’m Facebook friends are good people: I can tell that from their posts. Most seem to lead meaningful, enriching lives. I just didn’t have the desire to spend an evening attempting to have conversations with people who are basically strangers. From the Facebook photos and notes that were posted after the reunion, it looks like they had a good time. I’m glad that they did, but I still don’t regret not attending.