Elizabeth Davies: Women take reunion attire very seriously

Elizabeth Davies

I may not know what I’ll be eating for dinner tonight, but I can tell you my exact weight, hairstyle and outfit choice for Aug. 7, 2010.

That’s the date of my husband’s 20th high school reunion and, as any self-respecting woman would tell you, that’s not the type of occasion that calls for a spur-of-the-moment wardrobe.

My husband, of course, will walk into the closet that very afternoon and pick out whichever shirt doesn’t need to be ironed. If a pair of matching pants happen to be clean — well, that’s just a bonus. 

Class reunions seem to be a pretty big deal for women. I know one girl who was planning her pregnancy around her 10-year reunion. She wanted to be pregnant enough for a cute baby bump, but not so pregnant that she had fat ankles and a waddle. That’s a pretty short window of time, so I hope for her sake that God cooperated.

Personally, I am still wrapping my mind around the idea that I could be married to someone who is old enough to go to a 20th high school reunion. That’s something grown-ups do! In all of the movies or on television, if people are going to a high school reunion, they are old. They have teenage kids at home (who notoriously get into trouble while Mom and Dad are away). The guys are balding and the women have “mom haircuts.” They make utter fools of themselves on the dance floor.

Surely, my husband and I don’t fit that bill. I’m bounding with energy (when the baby lets me sleep). I’m young, trendy and graceful (in that chasing-a-toddler-through-Wal-Mart sort of way).

Years ago, I promised myself that I would age gracefully. At the time, I took that to mean I would look like a supermodel well into my 50s. The fact that I did not look like a supermodel in my 20s was not taken into consideration.

Over time, I realized that aging gracefully has less to do with the number of lines on my face and more to do with honoring the work that put those lines there in the first place.

I’ve thought long and hard — the full 10 minutes it took me to shower — about why women care so deeply about the impression they make on that one reunion night. Perhaps it’s because that’s the way people will remember us until the 30th reunion. Maybe it’s because we still seek the acceptance of peers who perhaps weren’t so generous with their approval in our teen years. Or it could be that we just want to show everyone that we’re not the geeky, gawky kid we were in high school.

Never mind that most of the people who attend a reunion will not give a second thought to their former classmates for a good 10 years, until the next class reunion. And never mind that we should hardly need validation from near-strangers.

One of the best things about being in my 30s, I’ve found, is that I have stopped caring so much about what other people think. Of course, I don’t want to hear nasty, negative things about myself. But I have far more noble things on my plate than having coiffed hair and manicured nails.

If my nail has a chip, it’s probably because it got rammed between two Matchbox cars during a particularly rowdy race. If my hair is a bit tousled, that’s because a baby squeezed it in her tight little fist. That stain on my shirt? Airborne blueberries.

So while I might aim to look perfect for a fleeting few hours on that reunion night in August, I take an odd sort of pride in the mess I look like the rest of the time. The wrinkles, chips and stains are evidence of hard work, of a job well done.

And that looks better than any reunion dress ever will.

Elizabeth Davies writes for the Rockford Register Star in Rockford, Ill.