If I can spare just one person the horror of attending a school reunion then my job here will be done. Believe you me, if you are even remotely tempted to attend one, then read on and save yourself some deep emotional scarring.
My own brush with madness occurred several years ago when I first returned to my home town after living and working away for a number of years. In my defence, I don't make a habit of dwelling on the past. Frankly, I had no glory years. And, if they were the best years then I may as well just end it here. However, this particular reunion started to feel almost fated when one of the first people I bumped into on my return was an old school friend, who insisted that I attend the reunion which by amazing coincidence was that weekend.
Fired up by a strange sense of nostalgia and misguided feelings of bonhomie for friends of yesteryear, I embarked upon what can best be described as a period of folly. The clue of what was to come should have been apparent in the fact that I had never seen any of these old friends since the day I walked out of the school gates twenty years earlier. I was in a strange place however and in no position to see what was under my very nose.
Thankfully, enough years have since passed that I can almost laugh at the experience. Almost, but not quite. When the organisers misheard me as I said my name, producing a name badge which wasn't mine, I should have probably seen it as a sign that the night was doomed. But no - I took the badge, wrong name and all, and wore it with the creeping sense of shame that not only did nobody remember me, they didn't even notice that I was actually an imposter operating under a false identity.
On nights like this, alcohol is truly your only friend but even that small kindness eluded me. Either the gin was watered down or, my stress levels were so high they were blocking my central nervous system from the numbing effects of the bucket of gin I drank that night. Conseqently I had nothing to protect me from the full horror of watching people old enough to know better gyrating to the worst possible songs from the golden years. I give you Abba, The Village People and the entire soundtrack of Grease. Need I go on?
The women were frenetic and loud, behaving as if they didn't get out much and wanted to drain as much 'fun' as was humanly possible from the experience. The men, whilst quieter and mostly propping up the bar, hadn't fared so well lookswise. I began to doubt my own sense of youth as I gazed upon their sparse, shiny heads and fat beer bellies.
Chatting to what were essentially complete strangers, who inhabited worlds that were as alien to me as Jupiter, I made several unsuccessful bids to escape. Each time I was shepherded back by the hyper, scarily enthusiastic organisers, who had dedicated two years of their lives to organising this event of a life time.
Finally, slumped in the back of a taxi I made it out to freedom, where I spent the rest of the weekend wrestling with the notion of putting my head in the gas oven. I believe there is another reunion organised for next year but, sadly, I'm pretty sure I'm out of the country.