The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bop In and Whale Out

by Tricia Dower

For the next two weeks leading up to the anniversary of our very first blog, we will be writing about happy (or not) returns of happy (or not) days in our lives. You've got those same two weeks to enter our contest. Check out the rules highlighted in the masthead.

The first high school reunion I attended was my 25th. Grads who had never left the old home town were accustomed to seeing each other’s thickening waists and thinning hair but it was a shock to me. Aretha Franklin* was big as a linebacker! Diana Ross, on the other hand, looked terrific. She’d become a fitness instructor. We were given name tags that featured our yearbook graduation pictures so we could recognize each other. Most people picked me out right away because — not being a change for the sake of change kind of person — my hair looked the same minus the headband.

The dinner/dance was held in a big hall that was popular for Italian weddings: faux frescoes of Roman ruins mocked our deteriorating forty-something bodies. A band played the oldies as though they were channelling Guy Lombardo. Connie Francis opened the evening with a protracted grace. Once outrageously cheeky, she had been Born Again and was in touch with her solemn side.

A bunch of us “girls” were there without husbands or lovers. We commandeered a table and had a blast, as we used to say, catching up on each other’s lives. I sat next to Brenda Lee who once used empty juice cans to curl her big, beautiful hair. She turned up at the party with a pixie cut and minus one perfectly good uterus. Married for nearly twenty years to “a really great guy,” Brenda confided she was getting it on with someone else who didn’t like her having a period, so she’d gone and had a hysterectomy. Just like that. “I highly recommend it,” she said. (What if he hadn’t liked her arms or legs?)

At our table were a few members of the “Mean 17,” seventeen girls who had hung out together since grade school and given each other nicknames like Chubby Chubette, Hamhead, Foot, Noo-Noo, and Fuzz. They had authored our Dictionary of Cool, including Thanks a lot Charlie Chrysler, Heather hence, and Bop in and whale out. Feminists before it was fashionable, the Mean never allowed an invitation from a boy to trump a date they had made with each other. I wasn’t surprised most of them turned out just fine.

We did the Jitterbug, the Bop, the Stroll, the Hand Jive, and the Bunny Hop. Only guys attending sans wives had the courage to come up to our table and ask us to dance. Frankie Avalon — a boy I had wanted to marry in third grade on the basis of his being better than I was in arithmetic — was one of them. Nobody had told him open-necked shirts and gold chains were no longer in style. As we danced, he stared at me with glazed eyes, mumbling over and over, “Who loves you, Baby?”

“What’s with Frankie?” I asked Dusty Springfield, back at the table. She’d always known what was what with all of the guys. Some of the girls, too, come to think of it. She danced with Lesley Gore all night.

“He’s just stoned,” she said. “Frankie’s always stoned.”

I looked around for the boy I callously dumped when I went to college, hoping that after all these years I’d have the chance (and the grace) to apologize, but he didn’t show.

Cher said she had considered staying away because she and Sonny had gotten divorced. “Who hasn’t?” I said. Sonny and Cher had gone steady for most of high school. They broke up for a year during which someone else bagged Cher’s virginity. That was pretty hard for Sonny to take after he and Cher got back together, she said. They got married, anyway, and then they got divorced. And so it had gone for a lot of us.

We’d been exposed to the worldly air long enough for our bright, shiny surfaces to begin to tarnish. We had stopped studying history as though it were over. I liked us a lot.

*Names have been changed to extend my life.

Photo Top: The way I looked in high school. Inset: Doing the stroll — I loved the stroll! — with Gabe Rosko (voted “Best Looking” in our class) and Karen Kavet. (She was my best friend the last two years of school, although I wasn’t hers. Funny how that happens.) Gabe and Karen are their real names.


Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

And Gabe's still the looker!

Fun piece, Tricia. It almost, almost, makes me want to go one of my high school reunions.

Tue Apr 10, 10:48:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Anne C. said...

Gabe Shmabe. What about Tricia?

Tue Apr 10, 11:39:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Trust you to zero in on Gabe, Tibbetts! I shall have to run more pics of gorgeous guys for you. Thanks, Anne. Thank you both for reading.

Tue Apr 10, 08:13:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

I haven't been to a reunion yet, either. Though I suspect there will be plenty of opportunity in the future to get to one. Yours sounds like fun, maybe I'll go to your next one instead ;)

Tue Apr 10, 08:45:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

You'll have to bring a walker to my next one, Tamara. Gives new meaning to the Stroll, eh?

Tue Apr 10, 09:41:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

Really????? She actually said that? Wowo, that was some night. You're a high schooll sweetheart, Tricia, love that pic!

Wed Apr 11, 12:52:00 am GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tricia, you must have be on the 'in crowd.' I've only gone to one of my own high school reunions - two of Randalls - they felt angular and sad. Loved the use of names :) and the writing as always.

Diane Smith
The Maple Room

Wed Apr 11, 03:33:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Jen. Thanks, Diane. The last reunion I went to was sad, Diane. This one was much more fun to write about.

Wed Apr 11, 03:51:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Larry said...


"We had stopped studying history as though it were over. "

What a marvelous, bittersweet treat to savor.


Thu Apr 12, 12:10:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Tricia Dower's beauty goes without saying, anne! But now that we're on the subject, holy cuteness! It's like you grew up in a world that I thought only existed on tv. You look like a cast member of "Happy Days"- the pretty girl that breaks Ritche's heart. Tricia, have you read foxfire by Joyce Carol Oates? It's like a dark side of that fifties girly-girl culture? It's very pulpy and fun.

Thu Apr 12, 12:13:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Hi, Larry! Thanks.

No, Andrew, I haven't read Foxfire. I'll have to get a copy. Yes, "Happy Days" did exist on the surface, at least. Soda shops have been replaced by electronic games arcades. There's one a few blocks from us, teeming with teens after school and well into the evening.

Thu Apr 12, 03:48:00 pm GMT-4  

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