Cleaning house on Saturday, I came across the video from my 20-year high school reunion. Blackford High School, San Jose, California, class of 1970. I shoved it into the VHS player (yes, I still have one) and settled in, mesmerized. The sound and picture were not good, but after all these years, it was fascinating. Look at those hairstyles, those clothes, and the facial hair on the guys. Look at how gorgeous I was with my big permed hair, contact lenses, stage makeup, and the sexy black velvet dress I used to wear for concerts. Where did that woman go?
As the cameraperson went from table to table, people answered a questionnaire about their lives. Most were married with children. Even those who were single had kids. Many referred to “having a family” instead of saying they had children. Only a few said they had no children. They said it almost apologetically. Randy, bless his heart, said, “I have no kids, but I still have a family.” Rosanne, a school principal, said, “No kids, but I have a darling dog, Molly.”
I cited my three stepchildren and two step-grandchildren. Gosh, my family plate appeared to be full, didn’t it? I also talked about my writing and music, but that part was fuzzy on the tape. Fred, my handsome new husband, sat beside me, sipping his wine. He may have been the oldest person in the room, just as I was probably the youngest at his reunions, except for the servers.
After a while, the video got boring. We had 375 students in our graduating class, and I didn’t recognize most of the people at the reunion. The people I was close to in high school did not attend. We were not the popular kids; we were the nerds before that word became popular.
I got to thinking about how times have changed. It’s not just the hairstyles and music. In the ‘70s, having children was the norm, but now one in five women never have children, either by choice or by circumstance. Those 1970 grads started their families early. At 38, quite a few were already parents to teenagers. One woman was a grandmother. Today’s 38-year-olds might not yet have started having children, and some will wonder if they ever will.
Birth control, although legal, was a lot trickier to get in the ‘70s, and the girls in my class who got pregnant before graduation disappeared in shame. Nearly everyone in my neighborhood was white and Catholic. Yes, things are different now.
At 38, most of us were peaking in our careers. Our families were blossoming, and we were still healthy and attractive—more attractive than we were in high school. Several, like me, had gone through heartbreak and were in the first blush of new love, but most were still enjoying their first marriages.
Only one person talked about hard times on the video. He said he was finally sober after many years of being an addict. God bless him. A half-dozen grads had died, mostly in Vietnam. But overall, we were doing well. I guess if we weren’t, we wouldn’t be there. I missed the 10-year reunion because I was in the middle of getting divorced and I couldn’t afford a ticket to the reunion.
I also had the video from the 25-year reunion, which I did not attend. A lot of people skipped that one. More were divorced. More admitted to not having kids. Several talked about their pets. One said she adopted a daughter. A prize went to the grad with the most children—five–but at 43, we weren’t likely to produce more babies. People talked about sons and daughters in the military and grandchildren on the way, but most of the emphasis was on their careers. These were some accomplished people. Or maybe it’s just that only the successful ones showed up.
The 50-year reunion is two years away. I imagine those grads who are still alive and able to get back to San Jose will be talking about grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Most will be retired. I will still be the one talking about her work because I’m not retired, I have no children, and the stepchildren are no longer part of my life, except for Facebook posts. I’ll still be the nerd.
Enough about me. I want to know about your reunion experiences. What is it like for people who graduated in the 80s, 90s, or 00s? Did you go? Did you feel left out because you didn’t have children, or did you find others in the same situation? Did you/would you stay home for fear you’ll feel bad among all the moms and dads?
Looking at those reunion tapes led me to thinking about what I have done with my life. When the camera focused on them, the grads summed up 20 or 25 years in a few sentences. What would you say?
Please share in the comments. I really want to know your thoughts on all of this.
14 thoughts on “Reunion Raises Questions About Babies”
Hi Sue, I went to the 10-year and 25-year reunions. I’m not very motivated to go, partly because Facebook has taken the mystique out of ‘I wonder how so and so is’ and ‘I wonder if so and so was as popular in real life, and as pretty (or snobby or mean) as she (or he) was in HS. I mean, most are on FB now. The thrill of meeting them in person after decades of not seeing them is gone. Second, I’ve gained weight. Though normally not prone to vanity, high school reunions bring it out in me. Third, the ones who truly care…well, I’m already in touch with them. So if I go, it’s essentially an evening with strangers. Our class had 325. I don’t know them, and they don’t know me. It’s just hard for me to get motivated to attend a HS reunion. Maybe I’ll change my attitude. This is just one I could go either way on.
I grew up in the 90s in a very small town. There were lots of teenage pregnancies, even though we did have a good sex-ed class back then. Yes, seeing everyone have kids (and then be busy with them) was hard, and I lost a lot of friends.
I got to travel and do many wonderful things as a child-free adult, which was great for me. I never looked down on them. Most seemed pretty happy with their choice.
To be honest, high school was not a big part of my life (definitely not the best part of my life!) because unlike other kids, I was on my own at 16 and already worried about working AND classes. It was a unique situation.
My 20-year is coming up, and I haven’t decided if I’ll go or not. I went to the 10 & the 15. It was fun to see people, and I could still pretend in my head that I might have kids. Now, I’m late 30s and newly divorced. Not so sure I really want to fake-smile through a room full of people I don’t even know anymore. I definitely don’t want to tell them the whole story.
Thank you for your blog. I needed to find this today. My husband is 15 years older than me with two sons from his previous marriage. When we got married six years ago (and I was 31), I was sure I did not want kids. Suffice to say my feelings on that have sinve waivered. I struggle with accepting my situation, mainly because I feel so invisible when with other women and alone in my fears of what my future will be like with an older husband and no kids. Because his kids were middle/high school when we met and married, I have a very minimal relationship with them. I also never considered the memories we won’t make with his extended family as everyone grows older and becomes less focused on getting together as all of the kids grow up and have their own lives.
So a reunion? HELL NO!
Ah, The Life, thank you for sharing this. I should note that although I ordered the video for the 25-year reunion, I did not attend. I decided I did not need the stress. I had a great time watching it at home in my PJs.
My school doesn’t have regular reunions (we do it differently in NZ), but they did have one, around the time I was going through pregnancy loss or IVF or in the first year or so after knowing I’d never have children. I didn’t go. I couldn’t face it. And I’d have had to travel, and so was pleased to use that as an excuse to opt out.
I graduated in the 90s. At the 5-year mark, most were either just out of college and leading exciting career lives or snug in a marriage, having babies. I was married to my first husband and still attending community college. We had to pull together the $20 we needed to attend. I did not enjoy that reunion.
The 10- and 15-year reunions were greatly focused on kids. How many, how old, how tired everyone was. I had a new husband, but he wasn’t able to attend either event. I made my job sound better than what it was. I took great pains to look my very best (in a casual, effortless way of course). The committee made a booklet with updates on everyone’s life. I shared that I was still hoping to have children and I gushed about my pets. (doing an internal cringe remembering that).
I missed the 20 and I wasn’t all that disappointed that a family wedding kept me away. I had gained weight, just suffered a blow to our marriage, my business was barely surviving. The only travel I had done was crossing the state line to get a good steak dinner.
I recently enjoyed attending my 25th. I was a little nervous about going. I’m such a different person now, and it’s hard to revise people who knew you in a completely different way. My husband, again, couldn’t attend, but my marriage is great so I didn’t give his absence another thought. I’ve been taking care of myself so I looked and felt my best. I opted to just wear my favorite outfit that I’ve had for years and I was 100% at ease. (Although I was pleased that I had a “good hair day” that day.) My business is amazing and I really love my friends and my life.
I found that most people didn’t talk about “children.” They talked about family. A little about their children but also how our parents were doing and reminiscing about growing up with our older siblings and how their lives turned out. Most people didn’t talk about “careers” or “travels”. At least not in a show-off way. It was more about sharing experiences, and connections, and even remembering our high school part-time jobs.
I’m not close to anyone in my graduating class. Many of them have stayed in touch. But I’m still glad to have gone to revisit the past and to know that my precious memories – good and bad – are still intact. And more blessed to realize that I have other people on this earth to share them. I still “belong” to these people and I always will. There’s a comfort in that for me.
Anon, thanks for this beautiful comment. I guess the moral is that if we wait it out, people will stop being obsessed with their children and we’ll be able to enjoy getting together again.
Your story is my fear so I’ve chosen to never go to any of my reunions. I’m happily married to a man 20 years older than myself. We have been together for 15 years. He has three children and we have four grandchildren. Although I love my husband dearly, many people think he’s my dad, so that can be embarrassing, not to mention the shame and sadness that comes with having no children of my own when that is all I wanted in life. However, I have gone to one of my husband’s reunions. I think it is different when the coin is flipped. He is proud to have me as his wife and well…he also has children. I just knew based on his class reunion how mine would go. Life is hard enough when you feel everyone is judging you from every different angle at every given moment. I certainly don’t want to put myself in a room full of people who are really only there to judge one another. I’ll pass. Today is hard enough on its own.
C, I so agree with you on all of this. My husband’s reunions were actually fun. Great food, great music, and I had no personal stake in it. Fred could talk about his kids and grandkids, and everybody was happy.
I did not attend my 20-year reunion, literally a month after I lost my long-awaited baby and my ex leaving soon afterwards….. darkest time of my life. Do I regret it? Hell no. I see these assholes on FB, and most look like smug bastards….
I know. They do, don’t they? I’m so sorry about your losses, Anon.
Reunion #45 is coming up. I avoid these things like the unholy plague.
I wasn’t able to attend my 20th due to an illness but did attend a couple of dear friends’ 20th reunion as their “date” a year later. I had a fantastic time reconnecting with their class (both guy friends went to the same high school as myself, and I did theater with a number of their classmates). I did have the moment with one of their classmates. He asked “Are you married?” I said “No, but I have a long term boyfriend.” The follow-up: “Oh, do you have kids then?” To which I also answered “No.” His response was the dreaded “I’m sorry.” I usually brush this off but told him not to be sorry, that I have a good job and good friends/ family for which I am grateful. To be honest, I laughed about this with my guy friends later, and they agreed that he was an ass. Both are enlightened gentlemen who can’t believe the rude stuff that people say.