How to Survive a High School Reunion

Ian Rosales Casocot
4 min readAug 26, 2023

First, before you go to the reunion — especially if it’s for your thirtieth year — take time to scan your old yearbook. Take a look at the faces of former classmates, and most of all, take a look at the names. Study them. Because you’re past your mid-forties now, and memory has lately been playing tricks on you. You will not remember everyone’s names, and the faces have definitely changed. Consider the yearbook quick-scan a preparation for the barrage of faces greeting you.

“Do you remember me?” a beautiful, familiar-looking woman greeted me when I entered Brooke’s Place, which was hosting my high school reunion welcome party.

“Of course I do,” I said. Because I really did.

“Then what’s my name?”

Ladies and gentlemen, I forgot Lovely Villaflores’ name — although we were pretty chummy in high school. [In my defense, I have the memory of a gold fish: names of people I haven’t seen in six months I cannot at all recall, and not because I’m a terrible person. It’s just the way my brain is.]

Second, don’t be conscious about having gained weight. Strut your stuff, and project the utmost of looking good — because everyone has gained weight anyway, but they are all still looking lovely. The good thing is, no one in a reunion really does the Filipino hello of “Nanambok lagi ka.” Which is a surprising thing. At the reunion, only one person ever commented on my weight by patting my belly — and I replied by squeezing his equally generous belly back.

Third, don’t be afraid to load up at the open bar. Cocktails loosen your nerves and make you sociable. It helps cut down on the uncertainty of having to bridge social relationships with people you haven’t seen in ages — and often the only thing you have in common is a shared school both of you graduated from together. But the alcohol makes you giddy; the alcohol makes you love everyone, and your hugs become generous; the alcohol loosens the memories of all the shenanigans you used to do together when you were young and largely an agent of chaos in the world.

Fourth, soak up on class lore before you get to the reunion — and that way, you will win all the prizes for the trivia questions that are bound to be part of the program. What was the name of the school secretary? Who stole the cassette tape of one group before an inter-class dance competition? How did you terrorize that poor substitute teacher? Alas, none of these became trivia questions, but this one did:

What is the title of your graduation song?

No one remembered the title of our graduation song. Daunted by everyone’s amnesia, the host who was grilling us with all the questions, gave us clues:

“It’s composed of two words.”

“‘I Believe‘?” we replied.

“No. The first word is ‘My.’”

“‘My Way‘?”

“Dear God, who would use ‘My Way‘ as a graduation song? ‘And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain…’ Whaaat? The second word has two syllables!”

We had no idea.

It turned out, it was something called My Tribute. And everyone was like, “Huh?”

You will not remember your graduation song thirty years later.

Fifth, take it all easy. It’s your thirtieth year after high school graduation, and you are surrounded by old friends who know your secrets and who knew you when you were a sweaty little brat prone to mischief. That recall of your old selves is such a divine social leveler. In a high school reunion, no one “cares” [and I mean this in a positive sense] if you’re an award-winning writer or a very rich businessman or a mayor or a successful scientist or an important banker or a respected physician — you’re still that kid from high school everyone teases. And it is such a delight to find out that the Class Goat who made class history for flunking classes left and right is now a food maven in Vegas. Talk about having an arc! So be free on reunion night. Take all the grace in and enjoy yourself. Dance. Dance like no one’s watching. Dance the lambada, like you used to do in your JS Prom. Sway to Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love.” Do the country line dance to Billie Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart.” Sing your heart out to Madonna.

And lastly, be grateful. Be grateful to the organizers who have done a great job at an often thankless task of gathering old classmates for a reunion. Be grateful that you’re still around after all these years, and that you have all these people around you who are still your friends by the default of youth and memory and shared camaraderie.

You think of old classmates that have gone — the late Jacqueline Piñero-Torres, our valedictorian, most of all — and you realize you being in this reunion is a tribute to her and the others. You are saying, “You are missed.” You are saying, “I’m here to celebrate you.” You are saying, “Thank you for all the memories.”



Ian Rosales Casocot

Interpreter of hamsters. Author of Beautiful Accidents: Stories and Heartbreak & Magic: Stories of Fantasy and Horror