The Third Third

Assignment: College Reunion

College Reunion. Your 40th College Reunion. It’s an event you might lose sleep over. (But, then, these days, at this age, isn't almost everything?) Also an event women have made fortunes – or at least names for themselves – writing about. An event, I confess, I have gussied up for. (Damn. Yet another sentence ending in a preposition – and out there, i.e., posted, for everyone to see, everyone who went to college with me, anyway, everyone who is anyone who considers herself well-educated and, on the side, a closet grammar Nazi. *Mea culpa.*) Gussied up. Now, that’s something I didn’t learn in college. No blond highlights then, no waxed brows, no painted toenails. So that’s something you’ve got to say for my school – it taught us to engage in life-long learning: Learn to put on that makeup, girlfriend; learn to parent; learn to deal with sexism; learn how hard it is – if not impossible – to have it all. I didn’t used to go to Reunions. I was too busy, too pregnant, too far away, too essential to my children and husband or parents, or something. In fact, I was too insecure. And we were all too competitive. As in the math and Greek classes I had to drop 44 years ago as a freshman (we were still called “girls” and First Years were called “freshmen” then) because I didn’t understand a single thing either professor said, I was sure everyone else had figured it all out, whatever “it” was, while I was still feeling clueless and loathe to admit it. Work had fed my ego, but not filled my emotional void; children weren’t fueling my ambition. I would no more go to a class reunion with that L for Loser branded on my forehead than an eighth grader would go to The Dance with zits. But then we grew up. *I* grew up anyway, and could finally look beyond myself to see that others had, too. Had grown up, had been insecure, had enjoyed success, had endured failure, had something to share with me about where we were going in life if only because we had all come forth from this same cocoon 40 years ago this week. My progress was stunted somewhat by the media’s insistence on comparing us all to our remarkable classmate Hillary Rodham who was the nation’s First Lady at the time of our 25th Reunion when I was still carpool-organizer-in-chief. But then another five years passed, and another, and having Hillary among us became just another amazing experience we all had in common. When once I had considered my class Life’s Great Measuring Stick – and assumed I would never measure up – I grew to see it as a measure instead of our collective personal growth and to see my classmates as women friends important, if not essential, to my life both then and now. Together they reflect all the possibilities posed by our many different gifts and shared privilege; the ebb and flow of our ambitions and achievements; and our excitement at being on the cutting edge – of the 60’s, feminism, the civil rights movement, birth control, new morality, great rock, and now . . . positive aging. OK, that last is wishful thinking. But what I hope I learn this weekend is how we’re doing, how we children of the 60’s are doing staring 60 in the face -- and moving on -- and what we’re doing with all that potential our parents and professors always said we had. These peers will set the standard, I think, and I’m looking forward to learning what it might be. I’ll keep you posted from wet and windy Massachusetts.
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