Relentless Effort: How to Ace Your School Reunion
Okay, so your school reunion rolls around and you haven’t cured leprosy, been on Big Brother, become or dated a Victoria’s Secret model, kicked a winning goal in a professional league, or spent the last 10 years sculpting your body like Ravishing Rick Rude – what do you do?
Now, a school reunion is not a competition, but here are 10 keys to acing your school reunion and winning the night. It is crucial to follow every single one of these steps, as each builds on the other. It requires discipline and commitment. Now that you have the recipe for success, don’t stuff it up.
Rule 1: Arrive Late
Arriving early is a rookie mistake. It means you will be stuck talking with somebody you either (a) don’t remember or (b) nobody liked then or now. These are the only two types of people who arrive early to a school reunion. If you are the first person to arrive at your school reunion – hate to break it to you – but you are one or both types of people listed above.
Arriving late enables you to make an entrance with impact. You have the advantage of surveying the location and choosing who to approach and who to avoid. It is also likely people will have had a little to drink and may call out your name on your arrival – always a good start.
Rule 2: Say You’re Not Coming
Send an RSVP saying that you are unable to attend. Let it be known on Facebook and group emails that a bunch of commitments have made it impossible for you to attend.
It’s important that these commitments strike the right balance between being important enough that you have to miss your school reunion, but also non-critical enough that you won’t be judged negatively for getting our of them to come. Theatre tickets: not good enough to miss the reunion in the first place. Having to work back late on the Penski File: good to miss, good to back out of. Staffing a soup kitchen for the homeless: initially good, but then bad when you cancel to attend the reunion. Jail: no good either way.
Once replying that you’re unable to attend, make all necessary arrangements to ensure you get there. Even if people never liked you, they will be surprised that you made it. If they don’t call out your name for arriving late, they’ll definitely do it if they thought you weren’t coming.
Rule 3: Don’t Come Drunk
Some people say the only way they can face a school reunion is with a skinful of booze. While I have some sympathy for such people, they are obviously losers who did not achieve enough at school and need drink to cover their inadequacies. Too judgey? Sure. But you know I’m right.
It is vitally important to be in full command of your senses at the start of the reunion:
- Firstly, you do not want to get stuck next to a nerd, a drainer or a knob.
- Second, nobody is going to remember you well if you lurch from one old classmate to the next, saying: “I freakin love you man” or “Did I ever tell you what I really thought of you?”.
- Third: you’re over 30, it’s not cool to have homies anymore – what else are you going to do, bring a hip-flask of Malibu? Come on.
- Fourth: if you’re going to embellish your life a little, you do not want to be so drunk you lose track of your “narrative”.
None of these are not good outcomes.
School reunions are a swirling mess of old allegiances, clashing ambitions, deep-seated hatreds. They’re a lot like cock-fights. As Ron Burgundy would say, keep “your head on a swivel, and that’s what you gotta do when you find yourself in a vicious cock fight.” Just remember: MRP – Make Ron Proud. Write MRP on your hand. If you can’t remember what it means, time to leave.
Rule 4: Don’t Come in a Suit
Nothing screams “try-hard” more than showing up to your school reunion in your suit or work uniform. Unless you are an astronaut, a professional athlete or a superhero.
Come in smart casual clothes. If you have Friday casual day at work, wear that. Or what you’d wear to a nice date. Don’t come in ultra-casual – t-shirt, trackies or shorts – everyone will think you’re a slob.
Wearing smart casual says one of three things: (a) I have a funky new-industry job that you don’t understand; (b) I have a highly formal and important job and I just can’t wait until Friday evening rolls around and I can get out of those stifling work clothes; or (c) I am a consultant and do a lot of work in cafes.
Rule 5: Revert to Old Groupings
If somebody was a dork when you were at school, they would only have gotten worse since. Sure, you hear about nerds who became IT billionaires, but they’re not coming to school reunions. They’re off buying islands and inventing new clouds, or tablets or some other thing that you use but assume works by magic. Thanks Poindexter. So, don’t start cross-pollinating with people from other groups, it will only end badly.
The Breakfast Club crew wrote to Mr Vernon: “You see us how you want to see us: in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found is that each of us is: a brain; and an athlete; and a basket case; and a princess; and a criminal”.
This is largely crap. We were all just one of those, not all. Everyone understands this. Unless they are “a brain”, which is just a nice term for nerd. The brain will try to escape their nerd-dom and claim to be something else. Push back. Hard.
So, if you’re not a nerd, take the discussion off-line with old mates. No matter how long it has been since you all spoke, you will all see the value in coming as a bloc. You will hold the numbers of the floor. Natural human behaviour will mean that others will want to join your wolf pack.
Rule 6: Apologise for Nothing
School was dog-eat-dog. Rushing hormones mixed with under-developed brains meant lunchtimes could descend into verbal or physical bloodsports. Everyone knew the rules.
Being held accountable now for what you might have said or done at school is like trying to compare cricketers from different eras. Or judging the views of bygone eras based on the values of today. Such exercises are overly simplistic and force you into unfair comparisons.
So if someone tries to bail you up about what you said or did to them at school, apologise for nothing.
Does this bit sound a little defensive? Yep. But I have a lot to not apologise for.
Rule 7: Perfect the Brag Question
Nobody likes a tool who bangs on about their own success. At the same time, this reunion will only last a few hours and there won’t be another one for a decade. You have a short window to let people know the true extent of your awesomeness.
That’s quite the quandary.
Enter the Brag Question.
You can’t be accused of banging on about your own success – of being self-obsessed – if you’re asking questions of others. So, pick an achievement in your mind and ask another person a related question.
- “So where are you living?”
- “Been on any good holidays lately?”
- “Does your role involve much business strategy?”
All innocent questions. All wonderful launchpads.
Rule 8: Check Your Audience
This is a trap for young players. People’s appearance changes significantly over time. If you are going to recount an embarrassing story about an old classmate, it is important to do two things.
One: ensure you clearly remember who was the subject of the story. Ensure that person is not among the group of people to whom you are now relating the story.
This is the voice of experience.
Rule 9: Exit Strategy
Sometimes, no matter how awesome you are, school reunions can suck. Poor turnouts, sub-standard catering, inadequate bar – a range of factors can detract from the school reunion.
The worst-case scenario is turning up and being surrounded by drainers without an old mate in sight.
It is critical to have a well planned exit strategy. How are you going to leave with good grace? What is going to be legitimate excuse?
If you’re married, can your partner call you with stomach cramps? If you have an important job, is it legitimate for a workmate to ring with an emergency? If you have kids, could one get their hand stuck in a drain?
Whatever you decide, plan your exit strategy and execute it with commitment, if needed.
Rule 10: Keep Your Options Open
Are you still concerned that you won’t be able to ace your reunion? Do you think you don’t have enough awesomeness to win the day? Do you doubt your ability to implement rules one through nine?
You are leaving too much to chance. A reunion is a highly dangerous environment. My strong recommendation is to not attend.
You’ve already sowed the seed with your RSVP saying that you’re unable to attend.
So don’t go. Spend that night doing something you really enjoy. For me, that’s eating steak and watching sport, but choose your poison.
It all matters little. There’ll be another reunion in another 10 years anyway.