Tuesday, July 26, 2011


"Pictures from your post-[alma mater] life are ok too! This would be a great way for your former classmates to see what you have been up to: weddings, babies, cool trips, etc."

--E-mail from the college I went to, soliciting photos for the 5-year reunion

Sociologists keep telling us that Americans have fewer social connections than ever before. But we still seem to love reunions: For school, for work, for camp, for family, for our ill-fated sojourn on the space shuttle. Of course, high school and college reunions are the throbbing heart of all of them. For me, my 5-year college reunion is in the fall. And I can't say that I want to go, due in part to my crippling propensity to compare myself to other people. But my early-20's discovery of asexuality makes reunions thornier still. If the last time I saw someone was over five years ago, then they probably don't know I'm asexual. In the past five years, I have not gotten married, had a good job, had a child, or traveled extensively. In my mind, many of the important things that I've done relate to asexuality...which I have vowed not to bring up for the first time in a group of people. (I've tried it in the past, but there always seems to be one ignorant person in the group who is super-loud about their disapproval, making it unusually difficult for anyone else in the group to accept what I'm saying.)

There always seems to be some new thing...


Anonymous said...

Don't you hate it when you can't talk about your accomplishments simply because of their own intrinsic nature?! I remember many years ago David Jay asking people (either on AVEN or his blog) if asexuality was resume-worthy. And this is David Jay we're talking about here!

As a fellow ace, I've had some of the same issues that you describe. I am extremely fortunate that I can talk about fellowships and international travel, but as soon as the conversation turns to marriage and offspring, my voice becomes silent -- *if* I don't know where people stand on queer issues. If I know they are queer-friendly, or queer themselves, I will bring up ace/queer issues, even if just on a theoretical basis. If I'm among friends (I did have a few of those in my graduating class ;-), then they know me and we've kept in touch, so I can express myself freely. (Or rather, I give myself permission to express myself freely.)

Hmmm, I'm not sure if this is actually making you feel any better. Sorry if it's not!

In any case, I can relate to the photograph dilemma. The photos from my fantastic time at Pride or at that queer activist conference are certainly not the ones I would send.

I think the key here will be to think outside the e-mailer's tiny box of suggestions.


Anonymous said...

Even with the slightly-different-circumstances, I so feel you on this one. I've been defriending people on FB left and right, largely because it makes no sense to me to feel I have to censor what I'm doing now (that I ENJOY doing now) to protect against my (perhaps wrong, perhaps not) sense that they will judge. Even with that, I feel the reunion (or social media reunion -- FB photos, etc) raises a constant stream of questions I seriously never ask otherwise. Namely: why aren't you married/ a parent/ settled into a nice house with a nice job and an-- aigggh teh suburbz kill me nao. This has gotten more intense for me since finishing college -- because I feel like all the timeposts that I previously had as markers are gone and the only ones remaining to me aren't things I want. (See the aforementioned marriage, etc.) I've been seriously thinking about getting a wedding scrapbook, or something similar, and DIY-ing it as *my* first year outside of college. Because I feel like the life I'm building and the memories I'm building are worth all the same fuss. They're just harder to acknowledge -- particularly in "pleasant" (read: uncomfortably foreign) company.

Ily said...

@Carsonspire: No worries, you're under no obligation to make me feel better ;) I don't feel all that bad about it, anyway...luckily, I can speak openly about asexual stuff with most of the school friends I've kept in touch with.

@missmarymax: What you say about lacking timeposts is SO SPOT-ON for me as well. (And it's true that Facebook is like a reunion all the time.) I've actually been thinking a lot lately about my need to mark time and how difficult it's been. The scrapbook sounds like a good idea! I keep a journal, but that's not really enough.

Bri said...

People love reunions? I thought people hated reunions! Every time I see them come up in fiction it seems like the main character is trying to avoid them.

I can understand the feeling though. I came from a somewhat prestigious high school where everyone was expected to go on to become very successful, and the fact that I haven't felt successful at all since then makes the prospect of going back and seeing everyone who is... undesirable.

As someone in a creative field at a non-creative college, the 'get a degree' time-post is also problematic because people expect me to come out "successful" when the demands of school have not actually given me any time to work on the things I want to base a career on. While I have things I've found personally rewarding like the relationships I've built and personal projects, they're not necessarily in the same currency of success everyone else seems to be using.

Emerald Girl said...

If you don't want to go to the reunion, don't go, and don't feel bad about it. I always thought reunions were stupid, because if you wanted to keep in touch with people you knew in high school/college, you would presumably have their phone numbers or email addresses or at least friend them on facebook. I don't intend to go to my reunions, because most of the people I knew in high school were obnoxious, and it's not looking like I'm going to be particularly popular in college either. I could only imagine going if I do something really spectacular in the next ten years and want to brag about it to the kids who were mean to me, but that doesn't seem so likely either. There's nothing wrong with choosing to spend that time with friends/family/people you actually like rather than random ex-classmates.

Ily said...

@Bri: Ooh yeah, reunions are a trusty plot device...good way to get a bunch of totally disparate people together :) If everyone hated them though, why would they exist? Although maybe they're one of those things that people feel obligated to attend and then hate silently.

@Emerald Girl: I tend to agree with you...While there are people going who I'd want to see, I'd rather save the money and use it to visit friends some other time. As for high school, I didn't even get an invite for the first reunion! I'm not sure if it didn't happen or if they couldn't find me. That said, if I went to a high school reunion it would just be a bunch of strangers.

Fellmama said...

You should come, if only to see me and Superquail!

Seriously, though, I'm dreading it in some ways. My only "accomplishment" in five years is my heterosexual relationship--big fucking deal, right? And frankly I'd rather be single than show the Irishman off as if I'd bought the damn prize pig at the fair. (Incidentally, if my aunt asks one more time when I'm getting engaged, I'm joining a convent.)

On the other hand, I haven't seen a lot of people in person for years, and I'm really looking forward to a good knit'n'drink with them. So . . .

Anonymous said...

@missmarymax: I really like your idea of a DIY scrapbook of your first year out of college. You should do it!


Missitar said...

(This is Lauren, from SF.)

I don't think you're the only one who compares yourself to other people -- I do it all the time, and I think all my newly-graduated college friends do too. We're all trying to make our own post-college choices look exciting and act like we're 100% satisfied with them ("Yeah, I thought it would be good to live at home for a while, just relax a little and save up some money"; "Yes, I love grad school!"), and meanwhile, we're looking at one another's choices and worrying that they're better or more exciting or more mature than our own. The people who are on career tracks are worried they've committed too soon to something they're not sure they'll enjoy; the people without careers are worrying that they will never be able to accomplish anything; and the people who are "traveling the world" are just delaying their existential crisis until they get back home.

. . . Or at least, that's what I tell myself to keep from feeling incredibly jealous and underachieving whenever I look at my facebook news feed. Now that I get to go abroad to teach, I guess I've joined their impressive-seeming ranks, but I can't help but feel that everyone else is getting more done (or having more fun!) than I am. :P

(Another thing I do to try to comfort myself is look at biographies of famous people, and see that almost all of them had multi-year stretches where they were jobless, living on friend's couch, working a job they hated, trying and failing to write a novel, going to school and then flunking out, etc . . . .)

Reunions seem like they could be really weird and stressful, especially when they occur so soon after college. Five years really isn't a very long time! But I hope you do whatever it is that gives you the most satisfaction.

Ily said...

@Fellmama: I want to see you of course! But I might have to do it under different auspices. If you've managed to keep in touch with school friends, I think that's an achievement, too...it may not seem like a big deal, but not everyone manages to do it.

@Lauren: Oh yeah, for sure...I think comparisons are something that so many people struggle with. Someone once said, "Don't compare your insides with someone else's outsides". Maybe it sounds corny but I think it's really important to remember...that often you're just comparing yourself to the image that someone is portraying. Although this is definitely one of those places where my gut reactions haven't yet caught up with the stuff I know intellectually.

Carolyn said...

It's true, everyone is battling with some self-doubt and no matter where you are in life there will always be people "better" or "worse" off than you are. We're all constantly at a crossroads choosing whether to accept other people's ideals as our own (and feeling bad if we don't have success in these ideals) or doing what we think will make us as individuals happy (and risking feeling that others think less of us). Really the only choice is the second one, because either way people are always going to be judging you from the outside. At least if you do what makes you happy you can be happy while being judged by others instead of unhappy while being judged by others. So start walking down that road.